Home Postpartum 8 Hidden Reasons You’re Gaining Weight While Breastfeeding

8 Hidden Reasons You’re Gaining Weight While Breastfeeding

by Briana Marie
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Breastfeeding is often regarded as a natural method of losing weight after pregnancy. However, many new mothers may find themselves experiencing the opposite effect – gaining weight while breastfeeding.

As a matter of fact, this was exactly my experience after giving birth to my second child.

I know firsthand that unexpected weight gain can be extremely frustrating and confusing. And I know many new moms are left wondering, Does breastfeeding actually make you gain weight? or Is it normal to gain weight while breastfeeding?

These were questions that I asked my own doctor as I constantly stacked on the weight while breastfeeding.

Eventually, I figured things out through a combination of working with my doctor and doing my own research.

And now I want to share my findings with other moms going through the same.

So let’s explore the hidden reasons behind weight gain while breastfeeding and shed light on some common concerns related to this topic.

Let’s get to it.

mom breastfeeding her baby
Photo Credit: Jardson-fotoadoismacapa from Getty Images via Canva.com

*Post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure can be viewed here.

*This article is not to intended to be professional medical advice and is based on personal experiences and research only. Always consult with a physician regarding your concerns.

Reason #1

Calorie Intake and Appetite Changes

While breastfeeding, your body requires additional calories to produce milk, which may lead to an increased appetite. This can inadvertently cause you to consume more calories than necessary, leading to weight gain.

It is important to listen to your body’s hunger cues and make healthy food choices to meet your nutritional needs.

Going back to my personal experience, this was actually the first thing my doctor pointed out to me. And although I hadn’t noticed it, I was definitely eating more which I attributed to the stress of losing my grandmother a week before giving birth to my daughter.

I was so preoccupied with grief and my daily duties that I didn’t really pay much attention to what I was eating and how often I was eating. I was kind of just on autopilot. So it totally makes sense that I was just eating way too many calories each day.

One thing I found that helped me, was to prepare a weekly menu. I’d map out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks the week before. I’d buy only the groceries I needed to prep each meal, allowing me to manage my diet better without much thought throughout the day.

Reason #2

Hormonal Fluctuations

Breastfeeding triggers the release of hormones like prolactin and oxytocin, which can affect your metabolism and potentially contribute to weight gain. Hormonal imbalances may also cause some women to retain water and experience bloating, leading to a temporary increase in weight.

Although my doctor did not confirm this, I personally believe getting back on my birth control shot at my 6-week appointment further contributed to my weight gain while breastfeeding.

I think my hormones were just all out of whack and then adding in the birth control simply exacerbated the issue.

Again, my doctor did not confirm this to be the case for me. (Although, she did mention that fluctuating hormones were likely impacting my appetite and metabolism). However, after doing some research and talking with other women who were on the shot, I definitely feel that played a role in my weight gain.

Reason #3

Emotional Eating and Stress

Being a new mother can be overwhelming, and emotional stress can often lead to cravings and overeating.

Remember how I mentioned my grandmother dying and how I started eating more around that time? Yep. This was definitely a factor. Then add on the stress of having a newborn and a toddler at home. Yikes.

Emotional eating as a coping mechanism can contribute to weight gain. Being mindful of your emotions and finding healthier ways to manage stress, such as exercise or self-care, can help in avoiding this pitfall.

Reason #4

Lack of Sleep

Sleep deprivation is a common challenge for new moms. Insufficient sleep can impact your metabolism, disrupt hormonal balance, and increase cravings for sugary or high-calorie foods.

This can lead to weight gain over time. Prioritizing rest and seeking support from loved ones can alleviate this issue.

Feel free to check out our tips to get better sleep if you are struggling in this area.

Reason #5

Imbalanced Nutritional Intake

A well-balanced diet is crucial while breastfeeding, as certain nutrients are necessary for both you and your baby. If your diet lacks essential vitamins, minerals, or macronutrients, your body may hold onto excess weight.

Make sure you consult a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to ensure you are receiving adequate nutrition. This is important for both you and your baby.

Reason #6

Ineffective Exercise Routine

While exercise is beneficial for overall health and weight management, engaging in a workout routine that does not align with your postpartum needs might hinder weight loss or contribute to weight gain.

I highly recommend consulting with a postnatal fitness specialist to design an exercise plan tailored to your body’s current condition.

You should also incorporate gentle workouts such as walking, swimming, or riding a stationary bike throughout the day.

You can get creative with how you choose to get your body moving to burn off some calories, but working with a professional can be extremely beneficial as you tailor a workout plan.

Reason #7

Medications and Their Side Effects

Certain medications, such as some birth control methods (you can revisit my note above) or medications prescribed for various postpartum issues, can have side effects that lead to weight gain.

As I mentioned previously, I got back on my birth control shot at my 6-week postpartum checkup and I truly believe that contributed to my weight gain.

Consult with your healthcare provider to discuss any potential side effects that might be contributing to your weight gain. Even if it feels silly to bring it up, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

Reason #8

Individual Body Composition

Every person’s body responds differently to breastfeeding. Some women naturally gain weight while breastfeeding due to genetic predisposition, individual metabolic rates, or other physiological factors.

Accepting and embracing these differences is essential for maintaining a positive body image during this period.

We all have different experiences throughout this journey, and one of the most important things is to stay away from the comparison game.

infographic- reasons you may be gaining weight while breastfeeding

Wrapping Up

Gaining weight while breastfeeding can be frustrating, but it is crucial to understand that it is not uncommon.

This is actually why I wanted to weave my personal experience into this article. To help you see that you’re certainly not alone.

I dropped weight quickly while breastfeeding my oldest daughter. But my experience was totally different with the second. It was very confusing!

But it gave me the opportunity to learn more about my body and how to best serve it during these changes. Hopefully, by sharing what I’ve learned, you’ll be able to better navigate changes with your own postpartum body.

By paying attention to your calorie intake, managing stress, prioritizing sleep, and maintaining a balanced diet, you can minimize the chances of unnecessary weight gain.

Remember, consulting with healthcare professionals, such as lactation consultants, nutritionists, your primary care physician, OB/GYN, and fitness specialists, can provide personalized advice and support throughout your breastfeeding journey.

Ultimately, focusing on your overall health and well-being as a happy and nourished mother will positively impact both yourself and your little one.

Did you experience weight gain while breastfeeding? Did you experience the opposite? Feel free to share in the comments!


  • Briana Marie

    Briana Marie is a mental health and financial literacy advocate, and founder of Major League Mommy. In her spare time, Briana enjoys yoga, travel, and spending time with her Husband and two daughters.

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