Will breastfeeding melt away the baby weight?

Everyone tells me “if you want to lose that baby weight, breastfeed.”  So, it sounds like a win-win: baby gets good nutrition and you lose weight.  And while I have been breast feeding for the first two months, I haven’t done so exclusively nor will I be continuing much now that I’m returning to work.  What I wondered then was a) is it true and b) what if you aren’t breastfeeding exclusively? I can tell you that during the early weeks when I was breast feeding a lot, that the weight did seem to slide off faster….was it all in my head? Those first few weeks after baby was here is partially a haze due to sleep deprivation.

Surprisingly, a search on PubMed doesn’t reveal too many studies on the topic.  One published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition caught my eye though.  This was from a group in Denmark who conducted a study of over 26,000 women (Baker JT et al., 2008).  They conducted interviews at 6 and 18 months post-delivery and inquired about their breastfeeding patterns (e.g. frequency) and also other measures of weight (kilograms, BMI).  What the researchers learned was that breastfeeding frequency was negatively correlated with post-pregnancy weight retention.  In other words, the more you breast fed, the more weight you lost.  If you look at the results though, they really isn’t that dramatic a difference between breastfeeding groups (e.g. very little BF, frequent BF, exclusive BF).

When I look at the charts (normal weight = A, 6mo post-preg on left/18mo post preg on right), the most telling sign of weight retention after pregnancy seems to be how much weight you gained during your pregnancy, which makes sense:  if you gained a lot of weight, it’s going to take you longer to lose it – breastfeeding or not.

Bottom line – breastfeeding shows a statistical relationship with post-pregnancy weight loss, but not really sure if it shows much of a meaningful one…is 0.5 kg or 1.1 pound a big difference to you?  It’s beneficial to baby (I’m certainly not going to overlook that), but breastfeeding is probably not going to cure all your weight loss dreams.  Back to the gym I guess.

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