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Average Weight Loss After Giving Birth

By Brooke Peyman ; Updated July 18, 2017

Getting rid of excess weight after childbirth is a common concern for pregnant and post-partum mothers. Post-pregnancy weight management begins before birth, and continues throughout motherhood. The best strategies for losing weight are those that place your health and that of your baby on the front burner.

Weight Loss Basics

Weight management at any time in life is a matter of balancing your energy expenditure with your energy consumption. When you expend more than you eat, you will lose weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, an additional expenditure of 3500 calories will result in one pound of fat lost. If you create a deficit of 500 calories per day, you will lose one pound per week. This can easily be done by increasing your daily activity by 250 calories and reducing your intake by 250. (reference 3)


Healthy eating means choosing foods that provide the nutrients your body needs to function properly. When you reduce your caloric intake, take care to eliminate foods that provide the least nutritional value. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG, you should steer clear of sugary drinks and other foods that are high in sugar and fat. ACOG recommends eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as outlined by the USDA's "My Plate" campaign. They also recommend reducing your portion sizes of all foods. (reference 1)


Daily exercise will increase your energy expenditure and help you lose weight. But physical activity offers many health benefits beyond weight loss. The American College of Sports Medicine notes that exercise performed during and after pregnancy can reduce the risk to both you and your baby of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. (reference 2) ACOG recommends a gradual return to light exercise during the first two weeks post-partum, with a full return to pre-pregnancy levels after six weeks. (reference 5) For weight loss, the CDC recommends a minimum of 250 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise plus two full-body weight training sessions per week. (reference 3)

Breastfeeding and Weight Loss

Breastfeeding can contribute significantly to your caloric deficit and help speed your rate of weight loss. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, reports that the energy value of exclusive breastfeeding ranges from 2500 to 3000 kilojoules per day, the equivalent of 500 to 750 calories. (reference 4) Even without reducing your caloric intake or increasing your physical activity level, breastfeeding alone could help you lose one to one-and-a-half pounds per week. For optimal health of mother and baby, the FAO recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of your baby's life. (reference 4)


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