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How to lose the “baby weight”
Q: What’s the best way to lose weight after pregnancy? I was hoping breastfeeding would speed up my weight loss. However, I’m still 20 pounds over my prepregnancy weight.
A: While breastfeeding burns on average 500 extra calories a day, many women find themselves eating at least that many extra calories to compensate for the increased hunger that goes along with nursing. Even after pregnancy, the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories that your consume.

Keep in mind that losing weight takes time. It took nine months to gain those extra pounds and will likely take a similar amount of time to lose the extra weight. A reasonable goal for your weight loss while breastfeeding is one pound a week. Your breast milk supply and composition should be unaffected by this rate of weight loss.

To try to “tip the scale in your favor” you’ll likely need to adjust your diet and activities. Being active, whether this means long walks or participating in an exercise class, is a healthy way to burn additional calories each day. Exercise also has the added benefits of perking up your mood, improving your muscle tone and boosting your energy and overall health.

You should also look at your diet to see how many calories you’re eating a day. It’s natural to reach for quick “pick-me-ups” when you’re exhausted from breastfeeding, juggling a new baby and other obligations. Are you still eating a balanced diet, emphasizing fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, low-fat dairy products and whole-grain breads and cereals? Think about ways to add nutrient-dense foods to your diet such as yogurt with fresh fruit or vegetables and bean dip, rather than reaching for high calorie, low-nutrient foods like cookies and potato chips. And pay attention to what you drink. Water should be an essential part of your diet, whereas fruit juices and sodas may add unnecessary calories.

Some research has shown that new moms are more likely to lose weight when they’re part of a group. Organizations such as Weight Watchers have helped a number of my patients. Joining a postpartum exercise class is another fun way to improve your health. Many classes even encourage you to bring your baby in the first few months after pregnancy.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist