Weight loss and breastfeeding

Breastfeeding fact: breastfeeding helps you burn calories because it takes calories to make calories. We need on average an extra 300-500 calories per day in our diet because our bodies need approximately 20 calories to make an ounce of breast milk. Not everyone will lose weight while breastfeeding. It depends on and how many calories they take in and how their body uses those calories related to their individual milk production. Food choices, hydration, activity levels, and genetics also all play a role on weight loss while breastfeeding

Weight loss and breastfeeding

Breastfeeding fact: breastfeeding helps you burn calories because it takes calories to make calories. We need on average an extra 300-500 calories per day in our diet because our bodies need approximately 20 calories to make an ounce of breast milk. Not everyone will lose weight while breastfeeding. It depends on and how many calories they take in and how their body uses those calories related to their individual milk production. Food choices, hydration, activity levels, and genetics also all play a role on weight loss while breastfeeding

Perspectives on breastfeeding

PERSPECTIVE

“My hospital nurse told me to feed baby every 2 hours with 15mL and my pediatrician told me to feed baby every 3 hours with 30mL.”

“My IBCLC told me there is a tongue tie but the ENT said there wasn’t one.”

“One consultant told me to use a nipple shield as lo as needed. The other said get off as quick as possible”

“They said don’t let baby feed more than 10 minutes per side, but my baby won’t stay latched that long.”

I hear this all the time in my practice and it can be confusing for families. Why did I get different advice from different people? Perspective. Doulas, midwives, pediatricians, even lactation consultants all come from their own training, education, clinical practice and personal experience. When in doubt, the best person to get lactation advice from is an IBCLC. They have had to go through extensive training and mentoring to become certified in the study of human lactation. But remember: even lactation consultants come from different perspectives.

A hospital based IBCLC typically only works with babies in the first 2-4 days after birth and may see dozens of babies in a week, getting only a short amount of time with each family. A private practice IBCLC may have more time to spend with you but experience and expertise may vary. An IBCLC who is also a nurse will approach breastfeeding differently than one who is also a feeding therapist or who started out as a mother who struggled to breastfeed and became passionate to help others going through what she went through. My best advice is find some one who listens to you, educates on why they want you to do something, and supports you in your journey. Because you have a unique perspective, too.

Lauren Archer, Love of a Little One doula, takes a picture of my midwife and newborn
This is the same image from Lauren’s perspective

Do I need to drink milk to make breast milk?

Humans by design are predisposed to be lactose intolerant. The only reasons Westerners (mostly) lost this intolerance was due to centuries of eating cheese and having their bodies evolve to adapt to consuming it. Lactose is the number one sugar in breast milk. It’s broken down by an enzyme called lactase which is supposed to disappear in early childhood, right around the time we would naturally wean. Asian cultures are predominantly lactose intolerant because their cultures have had cuisine sans cheese and cow’s milk for millennia (think traditional Japanese, Chinese, and Korean dishes. No cheese. No cow’s milk.) Yet in Western cultures it’s occasionally encouraged to drink milk to make milk. There is no scientific evidence to back this up. You do not need to drink cow’s milk or eat dairy in large quantities to make breast milk. You do need to stay hydrated, eat quality foods, and routinely empty the breast.

Whats that smell?

SWEATY AND STICKY

Do you feel hot, sticky, sweaty, sopping wet and a little stinky? Welcome to motherhood. It does get better. There is an actual biological point to leaking from every pore and that weird stench that accompanies it.

Not all of our senses are developed at birth. It would overwhelm our littles too much to go from a dark, wet environment to such a bright, crazy world to actually have every sense developed like ours. Their vision isn’t great and they have no depth perception. But they have a fully developed sense of smell. They have been getting to know your odors since their womb days. Your amniotic fluid was constantly changing in its scent based on what you ate and drank and your unique hormone combination. All that leaking you’re doing postpartum has a similar scent which serves to orient your baby back to you. Your body odors are familiar to your baby and it makes them feel safe and secure that they are with their birth person and not someone else. Your leaking smells also stimulate their hunger, which is why baby may constantly root when on your body even if they aren’t hungry. Did you know that the breast secretes an oil from those little bumps on your areolas that smells just like amniotic fluid? This helps baby locate dinner when they are ready to eat. Showering is normal, but avoiding the use of scented products can actually be very helpful and calming for your baby. While you may find your body odor unbecoming, know that to your baby it makes you feel like home.

Caffeine and Breast Milk

Caffeine is safe to take while breastfeeding in moderation (up to 300mg per day). Only about 1.5% actually enters breast milk. Caffeine enters your bloodstream about 15 minutes. It peaks in your blood within 60 minutes and has a half-life of 3-5 hours. The half-life is the time it takes for your body to eliminate half of the drug. The remaining caffeine can stay in your body for a long time. The half-life of caffeine is about 97.5 hours in a newborn, 14 hours in a 3-5 month old baby and 3-5 hours in a baby older than 6 months. Because caffeine takes much longer to clear out of a young baby’s system it is possible that high caffeine intake can make a baby irritable. If baby is sensitive to the caffeine now, they may not be when they’re older. Cut caffeine now and try again in a few months.

So if you drink a cup of coffee with 100mg of caffeine at 7am, you’ll have 50mg of caffeine in your bloodstream at 10am. Your baby would get 1.5mg of caffeine.

Every baby is different in how they react to caffeine. If you drank coffee while pregnant, your baby had an IV of caffeine (called the umbilical cord) and is already used to having it in their blood stream. If you didn’t drink coffee or switched to decaf, your baby may have a more noticeable reaction when you drink coffee. When drinking coffee after birth, go low and slow. There’s nothing you can do to decrease caffeine in your system except time. Start with a very small cup first thing in the morning and see how your baby reacts. Drinking your morning cup of coffee while your breastfeeding gives you the most time for the caffeine to peak and start decreasing before your next feeding.