Can I diet if I'm breastfeeding?

Q: Is it safe to diet while I'm breastfeeding?

A: It all depends on your definition of diet. If you mean a plan that eliminates carbs, cuts out dairy, or requires pills to limit fat absorption or boost metabolism, the answer is no. Your baby needs all these vital nutrients, and the only way for her to get them is via your breast milk. But it is safe to stick to low-fat, balanced meals with plenty of whole grains, fruits and veggies, and lean protein (in sensible portions) while you're breastfeeding, as long as you don't cut calories too much. You should strive for between 1,800 and 2,000 calories a day, which provides the energy necessary to nurse and care for your new baby. It's also important not to try to lose weight in the first four weeks after giving birth, when your milk supply is still being established. And remember, most moms shed a bunch of pounds right after their baby's born anyway -- a mix of the baby herself, amniotic fluid, extra body fluid, etc. It's also a good idea to exercise moderately after your doctor gives you the all-clear. Taking a half-hour walk with the baby most afternoons or popping in a workout DVD while the baby naps will help you lose more weight than just dieting alone.

Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.