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Getting Back in Shape Without Losing Your Milk Supply

You’re ready to start taking care of yourself after having a baby, but you’re afraid of decreasing your milk supply. What can you do to prevent your milk from dropping, and what steps should you take if it does? Here are a few tips:

Don’t start until your supply is well-established

Don’t make any changes in your eating or exercise habits until you have a well-established, predictable milk supply coming in. Also, make sure that you have plenty of back-up bottles of pumped milk, just in case.

Baby steps

If you’re making a decision to get back in shape after birth from a place of control rather than a place of self-care, you’re going to want to do things in an extreme way. This is counter-productive for both your adherence and also your supply.

Start slow and be patient. Keep in mind that making small, feasible changes will not only make it easier for your brain to adapt to new habits, but will prohibit your body from being shocked and your supply tanking. Add workouts in slowly, one week at a time. Start with low intensity and build up to higher intensity as your body gets used to the changes. It took me 5 weeks to work up to a full schedule of workouts again, and another 3 or 4 to get back to the intensity level I was used to.

If your supply begins to go down after you begin working out, take a few days break before trying again.

Aim high

I’m getting away from calorie counting not only in my own life but with my clients. However, I think it’s a good idea to sit down once and add up about how much you’re eating on a daily basis. Make sure it is enough to be within about 50-100 calories of your maintenance (you can find that here) but still under it. This will insure that you are eating enough to keep up milk supply while also signaling to your body that you’re not starving and can let go of the fat reserves on your body. Once you have this number, plan out your daily meals with it in mind. (Use the number as a guideline, but don’t make yourself anxious and crazy trying to hit it, just eat until you’re satisfied/full.)

Understand what hunger/under-eating can look like

When most people think of hunger, they think of growling stomachs. But hunger and low blood sugar can also look like cravings and obsessing over food. This happens quite a bit when you’re nursing, because you’re burning so many more calories than normal. You may not realize that you’re under-eating because you’re eating like you always have.

Don’t take cravings as a sign that you’re weak or don’t have willpower, that’s not the case. Cravings are your body’s way of signaling to you that it needs more than what you are giving it, and usually the cravings are for fast energy like sugar and white carbs. If you recognize that your body is just trying to get more fuel, you can stop the cravings by increasing the amount of food you are eating at your main meals, or having a planned snack at the time you generally go looking for food.

Increase protein, fat, and fiber

If your supply does begin to dip, you will need to increase the amount of calories you are taking in to help it recover. To do this, increase the amount of protein, healthy fat, and fiber you’re eating. This can look like adding diced chicken to your veggie omelet, adding a serving of almonds, or adding an extra serving of veggies to your dinner. Continue adding the additional food in slowly until your supply begins to recover.

Be patient

While I’ve had a few clients whose milk supplies suffered the first week of beginning workouts and healthier eating, not one of them experienced a permanent loss, and all of them recovered their supply within a week.  If you can hang in there, supplement with your backup pumped milk, use the above tips to increase your supply again, and make any future changes slowly, you can recover your supply and continue to exercise and eat nutritiously.

Keep in mind that you might have trouble with slow weight loss during this time period of nursing, but that doesn’t negate the positive effects of exercise and healthy eating. You will be feeling your best as well as providing essential nutrients to your baby. Instead of thinking of exercise and healthy eating as a means to weight loss, think of it as self-care. When you think of it this way, you’ll make decisions based on what’s best for you and baby rather than punishing yourself for the sake of weight loss.

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  1. Sam

    January 18th, 2017 at 3:25 am


    Thank you so much for the email and the article. I feel very supported in my decision to lose weight and get in shape. I needed that!

  2. Emily

    April 21st, 2017 at 9:20 am

    I started out post pregnancy not worrying about calories, but then I didn’t lose any weight – at all! So I dropped my calories some, still nothing. Then more. Then more. Now I am down to 1200 calories a day, 14 months PP and still breastfeeding and still weigh the same as I did 2 weeks after delivery. It is mostly in my midsection, too, making me feel really awful about myself. I was fit before and during pregnancy and still work out around 5 days a week with a personal trainer one of those days and I feel so stuck and frustrated. Your calorie counter (minus 15%) would have me eating nearly 800 calories MORE per day than I currently am – which is terrifying to me, as I fear it will only make me gain MORE weight! I’ve even had all my TSH etc tested (all normal) so I just can’t figure out what I am getting wrong.

  3. Deanna Schober

    April 21st, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Hey Emily, you might not be doing anything wrong. There are a lot of tweaks and things you could try but it sounds like your body just really holds onto fat when you are nursing. If it were me, I’d try increasing calories slowly until you get close to that range (careful to listen to your hunger and not force yourself to eat) and see what happens. My guess is the worst that would happen is nothing, and at best your body sees a good amount of energy coming in regularly and begins to release the fat reserves it has stored. Happens to my clients all the time, I don’t have one nursing mom on less than 2000 calories a day currently.

  4. Malory Neyedly

    April 23rd, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    I am really struggling with weight loss and I am sure I am not eating enough calories a day . By you calculator it says maintenance calories is 2106 and gave me another number of 2600 calories. So I am confused on which one I should be doing . What would a day of those meals look like at that much calories. I have had milk supply issues so I also take domperadoin. Any suggestions would be awesome

  5. Deanna Schober

    April 26th, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Maintenance calories is what you need to maintain your weight without breastfeeding. The calculator adds 500 if you’re breastfeeding, so that’s the number you should subtract 15% from. Check here for what I ate when I was eating for BFing:

  6. Daisy

    July 8th, 2017 at 5:38 am

    Hi I am in my 21st week and have already gained 12kgs… im super confused as I waa very lean and very fit… my eating is probably 70% healthy and im exercising min 4 days a week… sometimes weights sometimes walks… im scared im going to gain SO much this pregnancy.. but dont know what to do 🙁 im sticking to the recommended calories of 2100/2200 a day.. thank u

  7. Deanna Schober

    July 11th, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Don’t sweat it, your body is doing it’s thing and what it think it needs to do to protect/grow your baby. You might have needed more fat than other women since you were very lean.

  8. Jamie

    October 4th, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Hi – Thank you for this website. I have a couple of questions about your calculator. First, could you define light vs. moderate exercise? I jog 3 times per week and walk most others (leisurely, since I have a toddler and infant in tow), and have a desk job. I chose light but I’m not sure if it should be moderate instead? Also, I first put in my pre-pregnancy weight since of course that’s my goal, but I’m wondering if I should be using my breastfeeding weight instead, then subtracting 15%? I’ve been stuck at about 20 lbs past pregnancy weight since around 6 weeks pp and my son is now 4 months old. Thanks!

  9. Deanna Schober

    October 4th, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Hi Jamie, yes use your current weight and subtract 15% for the most accurate number. I almost always go with light exercise especially if you’re spending most of the day sitting. Good luck!

  10. Veronica Mitchell

    August 2nd, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    I am forever a health conscious human being. When I had my firstborn, I went back to the gym a2 weeks postpartum. It was a bad idea because I was breastfeeding and my supply was not established yet. I was feeling sore almost always and I had a very hard time correcting my mistake. Thanks for sharing this. I remembered my past and now, I know better.

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