The relationship between breastfeeding and weight loss is an interesting saga. It’s a long-winded tale of “if you exclusively breastfeed your child, you’ll be sure to lose your weight by 12 months postpartum.”
However, that’s not always the case for everyone. The reason may have to do with how you produce breast milk. Some women produce milk in plenty for their little ones so they are able to nurse AND store milk. Some women produce just enough to feed their babies but eventually have to supplement. Some women have to exclusively pump because of difficulty with breastfeeding (due to plenty of reasons). And some women aren't able (or choose not to) breastfeed or pump at all.
While there is a lot of advice floating around, it’s hard to figure out which advice is the most applicable to you. But if you're breastfeeding and not losing weight, it could be that are experiencing hypoplasia/insufficient glandular tissue (IGT). According to this article in the American Journal of Perinatology, if you have IGT, your body may have trouble producing adequate breast milk.
How exactly does this relate to weight loss?
For the most part, if you don't have trouble producing breast milk, and you choose to breastfeed or pump, your body will regulate weight loss and eventually return to a desired weight within 1 year postpartum.
However, some scientific studies suggest there is a relationship between prolactin (a hormone that stimulates the production of breast milk postpartum) and adipose (fat) tissue metabolism, which ultimately leads to weight loss.
Some women hang onto fat in order to produce breast milk, especially if producing milk is more difficult for their bodies. Some experts believe that "women who do not lactate [in greater amounts] may have greater difficulty mobilizing fat accumulated during pregnancy, resulting in greater retained gestational weight gain.”
For those women who aren't able to produce significant amounts of breast milk, weight loss can actually happen when the nursing cycle ends, rather than during the breastfeeding process. For those women, weaning signals to the body that you no longer need to produce breast milk -- and store the associated fat.
We know, weight loss postpartum is a struggle. But try not to let it influence your desire to breastfeed...or not. Do whatever is best for you. And know that even if you DO breastfeed or pump, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose the weight as fast as everyone says.