Breastfeeding or pumping: which is better for weight loss?
It’s a question that a lot of women ask as they near the end of their 3rd trimester.
We all know that breast milk is the best food for your baby, but does it matter how they get it?
Will one method really help you lose weight more than the other? That’s what we’ll find out!
When people find out you are pregnant, they (usually women) feel the need to tell you that breastfeeding is the best way to lose the baby weight. It certainly helps!
But how does it work? How much will you actually be losing?
How quickly will the weight come off?
The weight loss will not happen overnight (at first) but once it does, look out! Does it matter if you breastfeed or pump when it comes to weight loss?
Keep reading for the answer.
Breastfeeding or Pumping: Which is Better for Weight Loss?
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How many calories do need when breastfeeding?
Before we can talk about the number of calories you burn when breastfeeding or pumping, I think we need to get into how many calories you need to be taking in.
Here’s the kicker, though: there isn’t really a specific number, because everyone’s caloric needs are different right out the door.
A highly active woman needs more calories than her sedentary counterpart, for example. The best thing you can do is talk to your doctor to find out your exact number, but a good rule of thumb is to add 300-500 calories to your baseline pre-pregnancy calorie needs.
Related: Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding vs Pumping
How many calories do I burn breastfeeding and pumping?
This is the ultimate question isn’t it? You might have heard that the average calories burned is anywhere between 300 to 500 a day. That seems like kind of a wide range of calories, right?
It can be the difference between having another slice of pizza or not. That is a big deal (at least for me, but I can’t be alone in this).
So how do you really know what you are burning? Let’s look at the difference in calories burned between breastfeeding and exclusively pumping.
By exclusively pumping, you can measure exactly what you are producing, so you can you can accurately count your caloric output. Then you will know how much extra you need to take in (avoiding the vague numbers). But how?
First, you have to know that each ounce of breastmilk has 20 calories. So, by doing some simple math (none of this common core stuff) you can accurately determine how many calories you are losing or need to replenish.
However, you want to look at it.
So, if you are pumping 30 ounces a day (you need a stock in the freezer!) you are using an additional 600 calories. That is a lot!
It is no wonder all new moms or moms-to-be always hear that you lose the weight quicker when breastfeeding!
But what if you are not pumping at all and are exclusively breastfeeding? Not to worry, I got you covered, you’re not left in the dark. You won’t be getting as accurate of a number, but you can get an idea of what you are burning.
Weigh your baby before a feeding, and then weigh him after. You don’t have to lay your newborn on the cold, hard scale.
First, weigh yourself, and then grab your baby and weigh him while holding him.
Now subtract the difference (I once had to do this with my cat, don’t ask).
Repeat once you have filled his belly.
You can get a general idea of how much you are producing (keep track for a day), then figure out how many calories you are burning from breastfeeding.
The number will be anywhere from 300-850. Yep, that’s a huge discrepancy, but it just depends on a lot of factors.
Related: Nurse in privacy while shielding your baby from everyday radiation
Can I Diet While Breastfeeding?
Another common question that I see new moms asking: can I diet when I’m breastfeeding? Well, that depends on what you mean by “dieting.”
If you’re talking about making healthier choices (cottage cheese instead of cookies, for example), eating balanced nutrition, and just cutting back on the junk, absolutely! You can not only diet, but you’re encouraged to do so.
If you’re talking about starting a new fad diet (and there is a new one every day), taking weight-loss supplements, or starving yourself, then no.
Even those fad diets that sound good in theory (like eating like a caveman or eating only raw foods) can be dangerous. Your needs are different while breastfeeding and cutting out entire food groups can throw your body totally off whack.
The same goes for those trendy “detox diets.” Please, please, please: do not detox during breastfeeding without talking to your doctor in great detail about your plans to do so.
I’ve seen some sites say, “you can even do our detox while breastfeeding” and it makes me want to shout.
These diets drastically limit not just your caloric intake but your overall nutrition. Your body isn’t a coffee maker, it doesn’t need to be descaled with vinegar to clean it out, especially when you’re breastfeeding and supporting a new little life.
Unless you have a serious medical condition, your kidneys, liver, and other organs “detox” your system just fine on their own.
Why am I starving all the time?!
Here is a fun little story of hope. I knew a mom who at one point was pumping 50 ounces a day. That is equal to 1,000 calories a day! She was always hungry (no wonder!) so if she were just to go by what the recommendations are…she would have remained hungry!
Luckily she was aware of this fun little way to track, so she was able to replenish her body with good foods, and replace the calories lost. After all, it is about feeding your baby.
When it boils down to it, there really is no difference between breastfeeding and pumping when it comes to weight loss. Unless you’re pumping gallons of extra milk a day, it pretty much evens out.
You have the added extra benefit of knowing just about exactly what you are burning by pumping, but like I said, you can estimate it even if you are exclusively breastfeeding. And if you are doing both, then just pump for a day and see how much you are producing.
Do you have any other questions about breastfeeding or pumping and which helps you lose weight faster? Feel free to ask below, or to share your experiences!
18 thoughts on “Breastfeeding or Pumping: Which is Better for Weight Loss?”
I only been pumping for a month and I lost ten pounds already. But pumping is really exhausting and takes a lot out of me. Maybe I need to eat more calories. Thanks for this article.
Unfortunately for me, breastfeeding means I can’t lose a pound! I have to wait until after I wean.
I breast my daughter for a very short time. But, I’ve heard women say they lost weight faster while breastfeeding. Thanks for sharing the Pros and Cons
Since I have no kids, I have neither experience to share, but I was wondering something. I swear I read that when you breastfeed, some chemical-hormone reaction takes place that also helps speed up metabolism. Did you ever hear something like that?
I always heard that breastfeeding was great for weightloss! I’m pretty clueless myself thigh since I bottle fed 😉
Very interesting post indeed! I can honestly say that I never considered which would be more effective for weight loss. I would assume that exclusively breastfeeding would burn more calories since a baby will be able to get more than a pump! Lol.
Losing the baby wight was super hard for me! But then I am someone that has always struggled with my weight. I enjoyed breastfeeding my three babies! Though ver various reasons they all breastfeed for different lengths of time.
This is a great post. It allows people to look at the two different options. Honestly, neither one worked better for me. Still trying to lose the weight 8 years later!
Great blog. Breastfeeding is great for when who can and choose to.
What great information you have here! I used a combination of breast feeding and pumping and I lost quite a bit. Too bad some of it came back. 😉
Interesting post! Breastfeeding my babies was great at helping me lose that weight too.
I wasn’t able to breast feed. But, I remember my sister EBF and she lost a lot of weight by the time she got to her third child.
I think it’s great if people can lose a couple pounds – wish it would have worked with me as I am still trying to lose 12 years later! LOL
Interesting post. Breastfeeding is great for more than baby’s nutrition, I see!
I could never pump – I had the worst luck and experiences with pumping. It just did not work for me – but exclusive breastfeeding – awesome!! Just being a human filling machine was a bit rough sometimes ☺
This is funny because I was just thinking about this. What will I do when Noah weans? I’ll have to start watching what I eat! Or pump 😉
Interesting perspective, I will send this to my sisters who are parents and see what they think 🙂
Breastfeeding was great for weight loss for me. I never really pumped much. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years already!