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After having a baby, weight loss is often a concern for a new mother. Dieting and breastfeeding can be compatible, but you need to be careful about the diet method you choose. Using herbs to lose weight can be an effective way to drop the pounds, but they might not be the best option for a woman who is nursing a baby. Understanding the concerns and dangers regarding diet herbs and breastfeeding can help you make an informed decision about how to lose weight safely.
Breastfeeding and Dieting
The basic guideline for dieting while breastfeeding is to stick to slow and steady weight loss of only about one to 1 1/2 pounds per week. Breastfeeding mothers should wait until the baby has reached 2 months old to start dieting and should start slowly by reducing caloric intake gradually. Keep in mind that a nursing mother needs at least 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day to keep up her milk supply.
Herbal Weight Loss
Herbal weight loss involves using a herb or mixture of herbs to suppress the appetite or boost weight loss. Like all herbal products, herbal weight loss products are not tested for safety or efficiency by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before entering the market. Before using any herbal product while breastfeeding, you should talk to your doctor about the potential dangers.
Milk Supply Issues
One of the biggest concerns for a breastfeeding mother regarding herbal weight loss products is the possible effect on milk supply. Some of these products cause rapid weight loss that can reduce the amount of milk your breasts make. In addition, certain specific herbs, such as sage, cause milk supply to decrease. If your weight loss product contains one of these herbs, it can directly affect milk production.
Stimulants in Herbal Products
Many herbal weight loss products contain stimulants, which can be unhealthy for a nursing baby. While ephedra, also known as ma huang, has been banned in herbal supplements since 2004, it may still be present in imported products 1. Ephedra can cause heart problems in susceptible individuals. This could be dangerous for mother and baby because ephedra can be transmitted through breast milk. Other stimulants that are common in herbal weight loss products, such as guarana, yerba mate, ginseng and kola nut, can affect sleeping and eating patterns in the infant.
In addition to the potential impact on milk supply and the possible presence of stimulants in herbal weight loss products, there are some other concerns about some of the ingredients in these products. Products that contain chitosan could potentially cause an allergic reaction in some mothers or their babies. Hydroxycitric acid can affect steroid hormone producton in the baby. Other ingredients that may cause harm to the breastfeeding infant include chromium picolinate, St. John’s wort, bladderwrack and kelp.
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