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Can breastfeeding help moms slim down?

I literally yelped when I came across an article in the New York Times this morning. The piece tackles an issue that my mom-friends and I have been talking about for years: whether breastfeeding can speed up a mom's return to her pre-pregnancy body. I've never looked into the literature, and it turns out research findings have been mixed. As reported in the piece, a large Dutch study found that the more a mom breastfed, the less weight she retained six months after delivery, while a small study from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center showed that non-lactating women actually lost more body fat than breastfeeding moms after six months.

I still suspect, based both on personal experience and observation of other moms on the playgrounds, that the calorie burning associated with breastfeeding is beneficial to a mom's waistline. And I don't think it's a bad thing to tout possible weight loss as yet another reason to nurse. As Marsha Walker, a lactation specialist, comments in the piece:

Ms. Walker thinks breast-feeding mothers shouldn’t feel guilty for loving the calorie burn. “We deserve it,” she said. “She ought to get into those skinny jeans after 9 months of pregnancy and 20 hours of labor. That’s what I tell mothers. Go for it.”

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