Extended Breastfeeding & Weight Loss

Many new mothers want to lose weight after having their baby. It is healthy to gain around 25 to 35 pounds during the pregnancy, yet not all of that weight comes off when a woman gives birth. For some women, the pregnancy weight is hard to lose even a year to two years after having the baby. Extended breastfeeding is a feeding method that has interesting implications on a mother's weight loss.

Definition of Extended Breastfeeding

Extended breastfeeding involves breastfeeding a baby over the age of one year. While this concept is controversial to many Americans, La Leche League International states that it is actually considered normal in many countries. Many women throughout the world breastfeed their babies until the age of two or older. Extended breastfeeding is not the same as when a mother breastfeeds a new baby, however, as toddlers who are breastfed generally eat solid foods throughout the day in addition to being breastfed a few times a day, and during the night.

Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding

While some doctors tell nursing mothers that they need to wean their babies off of the breast at the age of one, there are actually numerous health benefits associated with extended breastfeeding. Kelly Bonyata, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, states that babies who are breastfed past one year get sick less often and experience fewer allergies. She states on her website that nursing toddlers can also increase their cognitive learning abilities and provide benefits to the mother like protection from diabetes and certain cancers.

Weight Loss Rate and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding burns extra calories, which can help fuel weight loss. According to La Leche League International, nursing mothers tend to lose around 1.3 to 1.6 pounds a month for the first four to six months of the baby's life, without any additional dieting or exercising. Weight loss can slow as the baby gets older and extended breastfeeding begins, however, simply because the woman is not breastfeeding as often anymore.

Diet While Breastfeeding

Mothers who are nursing, whether a young baby or a toddler, should not use crash diets or very low-calorie diets, since it takes extra calories to produce breast milk. La Leche League International states that women can diet and still breastfeed as long as they eat a minimum of 1,500 calories a day. Eating between 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day and including different food groups such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and proteins like meats or beans can help an extended-breastfeeding mother lose weight.

Exercise for Nursing Women

Despite the myth that exercising reduces a woman's milk supply, breastfeeding women can exercise and continue to nurse their toddlers. La Leche League International states that there is no evidence to prove that exercise reduces milk supply. Women who breastfeed their toddlers and want to lose weight can try doing cardiovascular exercises like cycling, swimming or jogging for 30 minutes, five days a week.