How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?

Last Updated On: 

December 19, 2017

What’s the first thing you or any other pregnant woman that’s just recently given birth to her baby want to do right away? What’s the one burning urge all mothers share postpartum? That’s right, dropping some (or all) that pregnancy weight put on when eating for two!

a young mother is breastfeeding her baby at home

Unfortunately though, that’s much easier said than done for most mothers. Sure, you may have the dedication and willpower to stick to an exercise regimen and stay consistent with a diet plan to make it happen, and if you manage to do that then it’s all hats off to you for your achievement!

But, with all the responsibilities you’ll have towards your baby after birth and for the next few years, you may find that you’re struggling to stay consistent with all of this and just aren’t able to get yourself to shed those extra pounds no matter what you do.

Don’t forget that your body is still fairly fragile shortly after you give birth and you may not physically be able to get much exercise even if you wanted to with all your heart.

Many experts recommend that during the first 2 months after you deliver, you only focus on rest and try to keep demanding physical activity to an absolute minimum. After all, what your body just went through wasn’t easy at all, and you need to care for it after all this stress it endured.

So, even if you were devoted enough to stick to an exercise regimen after giving birth in order to lose those extra pounds, you’re likely to be advised against doing that.

Moving forward, and as far as eating is related for most mothers that don’t get much of a helping hand, it’s not like they’re able to take all the time in the world to prepare healthy meals beforehand and store them in the refrigerator/freezer for the days to come.

Little baby takes up most of their time and, in any free time the mother does get, she just wants to grab whatever is easiest to put together and eat, and relax for a bit before the next round of responsibilities rears its head.

So, if this sounds anything like you and your day to day schedule and are looking to lose most (or all) of that pregnancy weight you put on, you should focus on the stuff and activities that burn a significant amount of calories while you’re taking care of your baby at the same time – most important of which is breastfeeding.

Which brings us to the question of: “How many calories does breastfeeding burn?”. Let’s have a look.

How Many Calories Do You Burn While Breastfeeding

If you struggle to stay consistent with an exercise regimen after giving birth, you’re in for a treat after learning that breastfeeding and weight loss go hand in hand together, as breastfeeding burns anywhere from 300 calories to 700 calories per day!

The number that appears to be true for most breastfeeding mothers out there is somewhere in between these two extremes, about 500 calories burned a day.

These numbers are given as an estimated figure for mothers that produce between 25 ounces and 32 ounces of breast milk during a period of 24 hours.

If you’re breastfeeding twins on a daily basis, you’re going to be burning more calories than a mother breastfeeding just one baby, so that’s also something for you to keep in mind.

You know what they say, twins are double the “trouble” – the physical demand on your part is now doubled because you’re dealing with two babies instead of just one, and the milk being produced in your body and transferred to baby is now doubled as well.

Think of all of this as nature taking its course, both when you’re pregnant and after you’ve given birth. During pregnancy, your body naturally needs to stack the excess pounds to take care of both your developing baby and yourself as well.

After pregnancy, meanwhile, your body does not need these extra pounds anymore and naturally offers you ways to get rid of them, most important of which is by burning a lot of calories through breastfeeding.

Also keep in mind that the more exclusively you breastfeed your baby, the more calories you’ll be burning during a 24 hour period. The more sessions you feed your baby formula milk with instead of breastfeeding them, the less calories you’ll be burning during a 24 hour period.

Why Does Breastfeeding Burn A Significant Amount Of Calories?

Interested in learning about what exactly makes breastfeeding burn all these extra calories? The following list will let you in on all the simplified biology you’ll need to learn about this correlation.

Milk Supply: When your milk supply is up, that’s a good thing and you should want to keep it that way. On the other hand and when it’s not going so good, you should strive to increase it.

Why? Simple.

The more milk supply you have going on, the harder your body is at work producing this breast milk, and the more calories you’re burning as a result.

Energy Expenditure: The entire act of breastfeeding in and of itself is a fest of burning calories, and it all adds up when you’re doing it 8+ times a day, once every 1.5 to 3 hours.

When you’re holding your baby in your arms for 20 to 45 minutes at once to keep them upright and help them maintain a proper latch, that’s energy being expended and calories being burned.

The flow of milk from you to your baby through your breast is also energy being expended and calories being burned.

Pumping & Storing: If you pump breast milk and store in bottles to feed baby later on then don’t feel left out, you’re still burning a lot of calories too.

Plus, all the extra activities you engage in during pumping that you miss out on when direct breastfeeding (such as measuring breast milk, storing them in bottles or storage bags, re-organizing everything so you make space for these bottles or bags in the refrigerator or freezer, washing and sterilizing both breast pump and bottles alike between uses, etc ..) burn calories as well and all add up at the end of the day.

How Can I Tell How Many Calories I’m Burning While Pumping?

Calculating how much calories you’re burning while pumping breast milk into bottles is much easier than calculating calories burned during direct breastfeeding, thanks to the much easier ability to measure how much breast milk you’ve pumped so far.

Assuming you’re pumping into high quality bottles or storage bags that have accurate measuring marks on them, all you have to do from there on is some simple math.

For every ounce of breast milk you pump, you burn an average of 20 calories.

So, supposing you pump 25 ounces of breast milk tomorrow to feed baby from at a later date, you’ll have burned around 500 calories (25 ounces * 20 calories burned per ounce = 500 calories).

But, that’s not where the math stops! There’s more calories burned than that when you’re pumping, actually.

Following with our example above, you then take the 500 calories burned and divide them by 0.8 to account for energy your body expends actually producing this milk in the first place, leaving us with a total figure of 625 calories burned all in all.

Not too bad if you ask me! 🙂

The only problem with breast pumping is that many mothers find it hard to produce the same amounts of milk for their pumping machines that they produce for their babies when directly breastfeeding, which will ultimately mean that you’re burning less calories than you potentially could be.

How Can I Tell How Many Calories I’m Burning While Exclusively Directly Breastfeeding?

When exclusively directly breastfeeding your baby, it may be tricky for some mothers to find out how much calories they’re burning in total from breastfeeding, because you don’t have any measuring marks like the ones on breast milk storage bags and bottles to help you determine how much milk baby has consumed in each sitting.

The good news is, though, that it doesn’t have to be tricky at all and there’s a ridiculously simple workaround for this.

All you have to do is put your baby on a scale and record their weight before and after every breastfeeding session. The difference in weight will be the amount of milk they’ve consumed through you.

To determine how many calories you’ve burned throughout a 24 hour period of direct breastfeeding, here’s a list of steps for you to follow.

1) Record your baby’s before and after weight for each and every one of their feeding sessions for the day.

2) Add up all the differences to determine how much milk your baby has consumed through you during this 24 hour period.

3) Take the total amount of ounces your baby has consumed through you during this 24 hour period (let’s say for example’s sake it’s 20 ounces), multiple it by 20 and then divide the number you get by 0.8. This will be the total number of calories you’ve burned for the day while exclusively directly breastfeeding.

Will I Lose All My Pregnancy Weight With Breastfeeding Alone?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is no.

No matter how you look at it and how frequently you breastfeed your baby, this act alone will not be enough for you to lose ALL the extra weight you’ve packed on during pregnancy – but it sure can be a great way to get your postpartum weight loss journey kick-started and on the right track!

Many mothers are led to believe that the sole act of breastfeeding stokes the metabolic fire in the body, turns on every fat fighting mechanism there is and works some sort of magic to melt the excess pounds away, but that’s as far from reality as it can get.

All there is to it is that breastfeeding helps you burn more calories throughout the day because of all the physical demands involved in this act, which in turn helps you lose weight if you manage to maintain the established caloric deficit.

This means that if you’re burning around 400 to 500 calories a day from breastfeeding but making up for this caloric deficit by eating an excess 400 to 500 calories, your weight loss will stall because there’s no deficit anymore.

And trust me, it’s very easy for anyone to eat an excess of 400 to 500 calories a day from food when they’re not tracking their intake and calculating calories consumed – been there, done that!

So, while breastfeeding is an excellent addition to your weight loss toolkit after birth, it won’t be the be-all, end-all method that will get you your pre-pregnancy scale numbers back.

For this reason, we definitely advise you to continue taking advantage of what breastfeeding has to offer both you and your baby, but follow a decent diet plan and exercise regimen at the same time for maximal results.

Finally, if you’re doing all of the above and are finding it difficult to lose those annoying pounds, it might be best for you to talk to your doctor, because for all you know there may be hormonal imbalances preventing you from losing weight even when you’re doing everything else right.

An Important Note About Caloric Deficits And Milk Supply

Since we’ve now covered everything you need to know about how many calories you burn in a day’s time while breastfeeding your baby, there’s a very important correlation between caloric deficits and milk supply you should also be aware of.

The less calories you take in during a 24 hour period and the larger your caloric deficit is as a result during that time frame, the lower your milk supply is going to be.

This is important for you to know since having a low milk supply will make it almost impossible for you to meet your baby’s nutritional needs through breastfeeding alone, meaning you’ll have to supplement with formula in the sessions you’re not able to supply breast milk.

So, now that you know exactly how much calories breastfeeding in and of itself burns in a 24 hour time frame, strive to not go overboard with your diet and limiting food too much so that you don’t end up with a huge caloric deficit that prevents you from properly breastfeeding your child.

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