Last Updated 28/02/2022

Are you a lactating mum that wants to lose weight on a Nigerian diet?

Great! Because this post gives you all the answer and tips to help you get the post baby body of your dreams!

And if you are not sure about breastfeeding, do read to end, as I will also discuss the benefits of breast feeding and add a bonus Nigerian 5-day meal plan and activity plan.

Let’s get to it... 

Breastfeeding and weight loss

We are all aware that pregnancy can significantly change our body composition and weight.

But what about breastfeeding?

Lactating and weight loss in Nigeria

Well, we mostly agree that “breast is best” because of the many benefits of breastfeeding.

However, I am sure you are dying to know what it will do to your weight.

Will it be a friend or a foe to our desire to snap back in shape after delivery?

Sure, but the answer will come in two parts. Firstly, yes breastfeeding is weight loss friendly.

Breastmilk production is reported to burn an average of 500 calories a day.

Depending on the type of food, 500 calories may be a small meal or a large snack.

And here comes the second part, weight loss after pregnancy does not boil down to breast feeding alone.

A lot of things will affect this like, your weight pre-pregnancy, how much weight you gained while pregnant, your current eating habits, your level of physical activity and if you have any medical condition.

Let’s examine these points closely...

Pre-pregnancy weight

It will not come as a surprise that people who are slim and slender pre-pregnancy, tend to return to their pre-pregnancy weight and shape quicker after delivery.

Working towards a healthy weight (if you are not there) should form part of pre-pregnancy goals. This will make post-pregnancy weight loss a bit easier. 

Weight gained while pregnant

There is the common saying; “eating for two”. We feel like we have the license to eat any and everything that we crave.

Do not be deceived by this. Healthy eating should not stop because we are pregnant. I am not preaching any restrictive or crazy diet.

But good old natural unprocessed foods that are nutrient dense and balanced. These will provide optimal nourishments for you and your growing baby as well as allow you to maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy. 

Eating habits

It is never too late to cultivate a healthy eating habit. This should be part of your routine. I emphasise the word habit here, because it should be second nature, you do it without much thought (just like brushing your teeth every day).

Because breastfeeding and the post-natal period will come with its challenges. For example, sleep deprivation and the body’s need for more energy for milk production can skyrocket your hunger to another level.

 If you’ve not adopted a healthy eating habit, you may find yourself eating all manner of unhealthy foods by the bucket and this will not help your weight loss.

Physical activity

Again, it will not come as a surprise that the more active you are the more calories you will burn.

I am not talking about only intense exercise here. In-fact, everyday activities like walking, carrying shopping, cleaning e.t.c can burn more calories overall than a session of workout.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid diseases, amongst others may make it harder to lose weight after delivery.

You should work closely with your doctor to optimise the medical management and combine that with healthy eating habits and physical activities.

Practical steps to help lose weight while breastfeeding

So, what practical steps should you take to make sure you are losing weight while breastfeeding?

Firstly, remember that everyone will lose weight at a different pace. Do not put any pressure on yourself, enjoy motherhood, but be consistent in following these processes. 

1. Plan and be realistic:

Pre-contemplating certain scenarios and making peace with their outcomes, is a powerful tool.

Simply being realistic that your body will change following pregnancy and delivery can take away un-necessary stress and pressure from you.

In planning, write out what you would like to do or achieve daily. Yet be flexible and forgiving to yourself if you were not able to tick everything on your list. 

2. Eating healthy

Do not over restrict or starve yourself while breastfeeding.

This can affect your milk supply and negatively impact on your baby’s growth and development. Instead eat well-balanced and nutrient rich foods.

Plan your snacks too, have well balance and unprocessed snacks around, so when the feelings come you do not reach for junk foods.

Do not forget your supplements, especially calcium and vitamin D for bone health.

Hydration with water is paramount, both to aid weight loss and optimise milk production. 

diet for breastfeeding mothers to lose weight

Here is a sample 5-day Nigerian meal plan and activity plan for lactating mothers who want to lose weight:

Day

Breakfast 

Lunch

Dinner

Snack

Activity

1

Moi-moi, Egg
& Pap

Jollof rice, roasted peppers & fish

Swallow, egusi & beef

Paw-paw slices / natural yoghurt

45 min walk

2

Sardine salad & baked potato 

Gizdodo 

Jollof rice, roasted peppers & fish

Air fried popcorn / peanut butter

5 x 20 pelvic tilt 

3

Roasted yam & egg stew

Chicken salad & corn 

Swallow, gbegiri & beef 

Spicy goat (asun) & cucumber slices

5 x 20 glute bridge 

4

Oat meal & chopped fresh fruits

Gbegiri & boiled eggs 

Yam, catfish pepper soup 

Groundnut & banana

5 x 15 dead bug

5

Avocado on toast & egg

Swallow, ogbono & chicken 

Beans porridge & dry fish 

Ube & Corn 

3 x 50 jumping jacks

NB: Have a mix of healthy fast, proteins & carbs. Go for natural and unprocessed / minimally processed foods. And build up of the activities.

3. Exercise

I am a strong advocate for this. So far it has been signed off by your doctor. It does not matter what you are doing, just keep moving and gradually build up on this.

The more you do, the more energetic you will feel. Listen to your body and do what you can.

Exercise releases feel good and pain killer hormones, which is a bonus for your mental health and emotional wellbeing.

4. Sleep:

This is a tricky one. You just have to come to terms with the fact that you will be sleep deprived.

At least for the first few months till the baby develops some routine. Sleep deprivation can increase various hormones that in turn increase hunger feelings.

So, this is something you should be mindful of. Initially, babies sleep a lot! (It may not feel that way).

So, try and take a nap when they are sleeping too. Trust me, those short naps are super refreshing. 

5. Stress and emotions Management 

Early parenthood can be stressful and there will be a lot of changes in the home.

Stress is the enemy of weight loss because it causes an increase in a hormone called cortisol (this causes weight gain) and unhealthy stress induced eating behaviours.

Behaviours like skipping meals, eating junk foods, overeating, mistaking thirst or boredom for hunger and so on. This is something to be mindful of. Have pre-thought out plans of how to combat them.

Deep breathing exercise, meditation, listening to music, going for a walk, getting a hug or a massage, and expressing gratitude are all effective stress management strategies. And there are many more.

6. Get help

Utilise every single help you have including from your spouse, family, and friends. This may be to cook, clean the house, run errands, or look after older children.  

Also, recognise when you may need professional help. This may be a midwife / a wet nurse if you are struggling with breastfeeding.

A fitness coach to help you attain your weight loss goals. Or a doctor if you are low in mood, not bonding or getting enjoyment from your baby. The problem may be post-natal depression and the quicker it is addressed the better. 

Benefits of breastfeeding:

Lastly, why should you even breast feed?

Some mothers may already know what they would choose, but in case you are on the fence here are some benefits.

  • To baby:  Breastmilk has the perfect proportions of nutrients for baby. It contains immune cells that helps baby fight infections and reduce the need for hospital visits. It reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and childhood conditions like eczema and asthma. The benefits and protections last into childhood and adulthood. 
  • To mothers:  Breastfeeding leads to production of various hormones including oxytocin. This will cause the womb to contract and get smaller. This reduces bleeding after birth and can help the waistline appear slimner (as the womb is less bulky).

Breastfeeding is super convenient, because it is free, readily available, at the right temperature without the need to wash or prepare bottles.

It promotes emotional bonding between mother and baby and reduces the risk of post-natal depression. It reduces the woman’s risk of breast, ovarian and womb cancer. 

The other side of the coin

Although the benefits of breastfeeding abound, I am aware that not every woman wants to or can breastfeed.

Whatever the decision, I believe that every woman should be supported and empowered in their choices.

Remember that any amount of breast milk has protective effect. It should not be an all or nothing affair, so far your baby is loved and fed. 

The bottom line

As we have seen, it is possible to lose weight while breast feeding. It should be done at a steady pace, without undue pressure on one’s self.

The emphasis is not simply on diet alone. Instead, mindfulness, stress management, sleep optimisation and increased physical activities should form part of the entire package.

Above all, trust the process, enjoy the tender moments, and stay consistent. 

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