Lactating women have very little control over the postpartum changes in body composition. The majority of women will lose one or two pounds right away following childbirth. In addition to the weight loss, the woman’s body composition also changes. The tissues and cells that were nourished during the pregnancy are now using the protein stores as fuel, so they begin to rapidly decline in size. As a result, women tend to appear larger in the mirror after childbirth than before. Many have commented that their old, sagging figure is better than their new, plump figure.
Postpartum changes in body composition
- Most women will see small, positive changes in body composition after nursing. The amount lost in the water weight, and the increase in lean muscle mass will make the postpartum body composition changes less significant. However, the increase in fat mass is likely to continue for several months. A study comparing low versus high-fat milk formulas found that women who were given larger amounts of formula lost more body fat, but it took them longer to regain it.
- Women tend to struggle with how much weight to lose, because their body composition has already been altered by breastfeeding. To begin with, they will lose water weight, which is equivalent to about three to four pounds, as well as muscle and fat mass. Water alone is not the only element contributing to the change in total body composition. Your diet will also affect this change. Therefore, you will need to keep track of your nutrition during your postpartum period, and watch your progress closely.
- Another postpartum change that you may notice is that your breasts swell. This is due to the fact that the breast milk ducts are still open and the mammary gland is producing milk. In many cases, a woman will notice that her nipples are tender, or that the milk they produce tastes unpleasant. The swelling typically goes away after a few weeks, but it can take up to two months. In some women, the breast tissue continues to grow, making the breasts appear larger. Women who have reduced milk production may also notice a pendulum effect in which the breasts become smaller at one point and then they increase in size.
- The final postpartum weight change is the amount of body fat that a woman has gained during the postpartum period. This change is usually the result of nursing and is usually not permanent. Even if a woman has reduced milk production, she will usually maintain some body fat, especially in her hips, thighs and buttocks. If she has increased her muscular mass, she may be carrying even more body fat at the same time.
To keep track of your postpartum changes in body composition, keep a written log of everything you do for at least two weeks. Make notes on where you were, what you ate and how much movement you got. Use these notes to find out what specific actions helped or hurt you. A good strategy for keeping track of your progress is to use (open) notebook paper so that you can write in a public place where others can see your work.