Many new mums are keen to get back into shape, but it isn’t always possible or advisable to start a weight-loss programme straight away, especially for those who are breast-feeding.
Breast-feeding mothers have increased nutritional needs, since they must meet their own requirements in addition to providing a comprehensive nutrient supply for the baby. The extra fat laid down during pregnancy is designed to provide some of the mother’s energy needs while lactating, but it will still be necessary to eat more than before becoming pregnant. This is rarely a problem, and many women report a voracious appetite at this time.
Your diet should provide a good supply of micronutrients, since many will be passed directly into the milk and not to you. The requirements for many micronutrients are increased at this time, some very considerably. For example, requirements for Vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorus and zinc are increased by more than 50%.
• No calorie restriction until breast-feeding ceases.
• Monitor your weight regularly to avoid weight gain.
• Plan to lose weight gradually. Aiming to return to pre-pregnancy weight by the time your baby is one is a reasonable goal.
Before returning to exercise, it is essential that you’ve been given full medical clearance by your GP. The time scale will vary depending on the type of delivery. The uterus takes time to shrink back to normal. The majority of this process happens during the first 10 days, but the remaining shrinkage continues slowly and for some time. Gentle exercises such as swimming and walking could be introduced initially as a gradual return to exercise. But swimming should be avoided for the first 4-6 weeks due to the risk of infection of the perineum.
Listen to your body in these early stages and follow the pace it dictates. Exercise intensity should remain low if breast-feeding, as the lactic acid produced will make milk unpalatable for your baby. If you have any untoward or uncomfortable symptoms, stop exercising and see your doctor as soon as possible.
If breast-feeding, you should feed baby first, as exercising will stimulate milk flow. It may be necessary, for that reason, to reduce chest and arm work. A supportive bra will be needed