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What you should know about how much to eat to support lactation
Know your highest calorie needs while breastfeeding
Simple snack and meal ideas to help you meet your calorie needs
Producing breast milk (and caring for the baby) takes a lot of energy! Therefore, it is not uncommon to feel hungrier while breastfeeding. Eating enough nutritious foods will help you and your baby meet your nutritional and calorie needs.
How many calories do I need while breastfeeding?
When you exclusively breastfeed, your body uses up to 500 calories a day to produce breast milk.4For this reason, previous recommendations have been to eat an additional 450 to 500 calories above pre-pregnancy levels to meet lactation needs.1
The New Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 have updated their recommendations for caloric needs while breastfeeding. The new DGAs are in a slight calorie deficit to support smooth postpartum weight loss.3The new recommendations are to consume an additional 330 calories in the first 6 months after birth and an additional 400 calories at 6 months.3
To lose weight safely and slowly after childbirth, about 330 to 400 of the 500 calories your body needs to breastfeed come from nutrient-dense foods you add to your meals and snacks, while the last third of the calories (about 100 to 170) can come from it caused by weight gain during pregnancy (stored fat).2,3
Keep in mind that the 400-calorie recommendation at 6 months postpartum assumes you've lost some weight and want to keep it off.4
If weight loss isn't a priority, you can add up to 500 calories to your diet each day. Remember that calorie needs are extremely individual and are affected by activity level, frequency of breastfeeding (whether you breastfeed exclusively or also formulate), and the number of babies you breastfeed.2,5
For more information, see:What to eat while breastfeeding
Still confused about how much to eat while breastfeeding? Contact our team of nutritionists and lactation consultants for free! They're here to help on our free live chat, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. m. at 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) and Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. m. at 2 p.m. (Easter time).chat now!
weight loss while breastfeeding
Weight loss after childbirth is something many mothers think about. Eating enough to support lactation is important and does not have to interfere with the gradual weight recovery prior to pregnancy.
The first one to two months after birth are extremely important in order to build up a good supply of breast milk.6It's important not to make big changes to your diet or add unnecessary stress when trying to lose weight until you've established your supply. Stress can really have a negative impact on your milk production.7,8
When you're ready, taking a gentle, gradual approach to losing weight is most effective. In fact, eating too few calories can affect your breast milk supply. Aim to consume at least 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day, depending on your individual needs.9,14Less than that, and it can also be more difficult to get all the nutrients your body needs while breastfeeding.
For more information, see:Diet Plan: Proper nutrition while breastfeeding
exercise while breastfeeding
Exercise is a great way to burn extra calories to help you with your consistent weight loss goals.
Keep in mind that some studies have found that exercise alone may not lead to weight loss as reliably as exercise combined with diet changes.12This is likely because exercise increases appetite, leading people to eat a little more to offset calorie burn.
Be sure to get your doctor's approval before starting any new exercise routine.
Exercise after childbirth: don't overdo it
Postpartum exercise tips when time is short
What happens when you stop breastfeeding so often?
Whether it's introducing formula or your child is starting solid food, there will come a time when you will breastfeed less often. At this point, the energy required for milk production decreases and, consequently, your calorie needs decrease.
Make sure to listen to your body and watch your child grow and develop. Adjust your diet as needed to maintain adequate intake and continue to maintain or lose weight.
Until then, it's important to stick to your healthy eating habits. Your food choices can help optimize the nutritional composition of your milk. As a general rule, eat when you're hungry (and at regular intervals), favor healthy, nutrient-dense options, and stop when you're full.
Tips for a healthy diet while breastfeeding
Eat and drink regularly throughout the day.
Eating regularly ensures you're consuming enough calories and prevents you from becoming overly hungry, which can lead to overeating.
Keep your home filled with easy-to-reach meals and snacks, especially things you can eat with one hand (your other hand might be constantly busy with your little one).
Quick and Easy Snack Ideas:
Sliced veggies with hummus or guacamole
Nut butter on whole grain toast or crackers
Mixture of nuts and dried fruits
Cheese slices with fruit or wholemeal bread
For more information, see:Healthy and easy postpartum snacks
Fill your diet with nutrient rich foods
Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, healthy oils/fats, low-fat dairy or milk alternatives, low-mercury fish, and lean meats.
What you eat not only nourishes you, it also affects the micro- and macronutrient composition of your breast milk.fifteenChoosing nutrient-dense foods at every meal and snack helps ensure you and your baby are getting what they need!
High Quality Dietary Fats: Good for you and your baby
Meal plan: How to eat more fruits and vegetables
Add calories to your daily diet in a healthy way
You need about 330 to 400 extra calories a day, but always adjust your hunger and satiety signals to eat the right amount for you. It's always good to eat more when you're hungry.
Here are some snacking ideas to help you hit that calorie goal:
1/3 cup trail mix with 1 cup unsweetened yogurt
1 sweet potato with ½ cup black beans, ¼ avocado and salsa, and served with 1 to 2 cups green slaw with 1 tablespoon dressing
1 cup roasted vegetables (try carrots, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, or a combination) topped with 1 tablespoon pine nuts
3 ounces salmon and 1/3 cup brown rice or quinoa
A peanut butter (or other nut butter) and banana sandwich made with 1 banana, 1 tablespoon nut butter, and 2 slices of 100% whole wheat bread
1 ounce almonds, 1 cup cow's milk or milk alternative, sliced raw veggies with ¼ cup hummus
Turkey sandwich with 60g roast turkey or turkey breast, 30g cheese and two slices of 100% whole wheat bread
Quickly calculate calories to keep your total intake under control, but don't go crazy!
Here's a quick calorie worksheet:
An ounce of protein (poultry, meat, fish) = 35-75 calories depending on fat content(Video) Best foods after delivery | Postpartum foods | Best foods for Breastfeeding mothers
One cup of fat-free or low-fat dairy or dairy alternatives = 90 calories
A cup of cooked vegetables = 50 calories
A cup of raw vegetables = 25 calories
A small piece of fruit or 1 cup of berries or melon = 60 calories
One slice of bread, 1/3 cup rice or beans, ½ cup pasta = 80 calories
Talk to your doctor about taking a prenatal or postnatal vitamin
Consider taking a prenatal or postnatal vitamin or lactation supplement while breastfeeding to ensure you are meeting your daily nutritional needs of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients.
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
If you have concerns about your weight or diet while breastfeeding, talk to your doctor. Please note that our calorie recommendations are general guidelines and you may need to eat more or less depending on your specific situation.
We know that parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusions, and we want to support you on your nurturing journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of certified lactation consultants and infant and maternal nutritionists, and they're all moms, which means they've been there and seen it. They are here to help on our free live chat platform, Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm. m. at 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) and Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. m. at 2 p.m. (Easter time).Chat now!
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For more information on this topic, see the following articles:
8 tips for a simple, quick and healthy kitchen
Picky Eaters: Impressive taste while breastfeeding
How to deal with low breast milk production
An additional 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day is recommended for well-nourished breastfeeding mothers, compared with the amount they were consuming before pregnancy (approximately 2,000 to 2,800 kcal per day for breastfeeding women verses 1,600 to 2,400 kcal per day for moderately active, non-pregnant women who ...How often should a breastfeeding mom eat? ›
Many breastfeeding moms feel extra hungry, which makes sense: Your body is working nonstop to produce breast milk for your growing baby. Eating several small meals per day, with healthy snacks in between, is a good way to keep your hunger in check and your energy levels high.Should I eat a lot while breastfeeding? ›
Do I need extra calories when breastfeeding? Breastfeeding mums need around 500 more calories a day than non-breastfeeding mums,5 but every woman is different, and your energy needs will change during your breastfeeding journey.How do I know if I am eating enough while breastfeeding? ›
Signs of Poor Nutrition Postpartum
You may not be getting enough to eat as a new mom if you find yourself experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms: Feeling sluggish, lack of energy, and chronically fatigued. Recurring headaches. Lethargy.
You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby, and your baby will not become spoiled or demanding if you feed them whenever they're hungry or need comfort.Why is my breastfeeding mom always hungry? ›
Breastfeeding makes you hungry.
In the first 3 to 12 months postpartum, your body burns between 300-500 calories a day producing breast milk – definitely enough to make you hungry.
Include protein foods 2-3 times per day such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts and seeds. Eat three servings of vegetables, including dark green and yellow vegetables per day. Eat two servings of fruit per day. Include whole grains such as whole wheat breads, pasta, cereal and oatmeal in your daily diet.What not to eat when breastfeeding? ›
- Fish high in mercury. ...
- Some herbal supplements. ...
- Alcohol. ...
- Caffeine. ...
- Highly processed foods.
A slow, gradual weight loss of 1 pound per week or 4 pounds per month is a safe goal for breastfeeding moms who wish to lose weight. Women who eat less than 1,800 calories per day may reduce the amount of milk their bodies make. Stress, anxiety and fatigue also can decrease milk production.What happens if you don t eat enough calories while breastfeeding? ›
Restricting calories too much, especially during the first few months of breastfeeding, may decrease your milk supply and much-needed energy levels. Fortunately, breastfeeding alone has been shown to promote weight loss, especially when continued for 6 months or longer.
When you are nursing a baby, your body needs extra calories to make breast milk. Reducing the amount of food you eat, whether on purpose or by accident, can affect your breast-milk production, make nursing more difficult and derail your breast-feeding efforts entirely.How quickly can a baby drain a breast? ›
It may only take your baby about 5 to 10 minutes to empty each breast and get all the milk they need; however, this is different for everyone.How long does it take for breasts to refill with milk? ›
The first few days: Your breast milk coming in
Around day three after your baby's birth, your breast milk 'comes in' and your breasts may start to feel noticeably firmer and fuller.
Breastmilk oversupply, or overproducing breastmilk, is defined simply as producing more milk than one's baby needs. Since all mamas and babies are different, there is no set measurement to help diagnose breastmilk oversupply.Is breastfeeding for 3 months good enough? ›
Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest that mothers across the globe exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months of life. This means no other food or drink besides breast milk for the first half year of a baby's life.When can you stop feeding baby every 3 hours? ›
Newborn: every 2 to 3 hours. At 2 months: every 3 to 4 hours. At 4 to 6 months: every 4 to 5 hours. At 6+ months: every 4 to 5 hours.
However, there are several things you can do to safely support weight loss while breastfeeding.
- Go lower-carb. ...
- Exercise safely. ...
- Stay hydrated. ...
- Don't skip meals. ...
- Eat more frequently. ...
- Rest when you can.
Your body produces more prolactin (the hormone that promotes milk production) when you breastfeed at night, so night feedings help to keep up milk production. As well, mothers vary in the amount of milk they can store in their breasts, so for many women night feedings are essential to meeting their babies' needs.What do breastfeeding moms crave? ›
Sweets and fatty foods are the mostly craved items by mothers in general during breastfeeding which is related to changes in brain activity due to the baby's need for milk. Certain foods may cause a chemical reaction in the body that increases one's desire for them.Which drinks increase breast milk? ›
Here are some flavorful options to keep your breast milk and mood flowing!
- Water. ...
- Infused Water. ...
- Seltzer. ...
- Herbal Tea. ...
- Almond Milk. ...
- Fruit Juice. ...
- Vegetable Juice. ...
- Green papaya. Yup, not just any papaya. ...
- Avocado. This superfood is great for many things, and breastfeeding is one of them. ...
- Strawberries. ...
- Bananas. ...
- Sapodilla (chiku) ...
- Blueberries. ...
- Rockmelon. ...
Yes! You can enjoy pizza while breastfeeding. Just pay attention to cues from your baby to make sure they're not sensitive to dairy. It's generally recommended that you can eat whatever you like unless you notice a clear reaction in your baby to a particular food you ate.Should you snack while breastfeeding? ›
With all you have on your plate as a breastfeeding parent, you may find yourself snacking or grazing more throughout the day — and that's totally fine. Padding your diet with extra snacks can be a healthy way to reach your extra calorie requirements.Can I eat peanut butter while breastfeeding? ›
Peanuts and breastfeeding
Unless you're allergic to peanuts, there's no evidence to suggest you should avoid them (or any peanut based foods like peanut butter) while breastfeeding. If you're worried about it, or concerned about your baby developing a food allergy, speak to your doctor or health visitor.
Breastfeeding. It takes about 500 extra calories a day to make breast milk. You get those extra calories from the foods that you eat every day and the fat that is already stored in your body. Using up those fat stores helps you to lose weight gained in pregnancy faster.Is it harder to lose weight while breastfeeding? ›
The reasons why some women may have a harder time losing their baby weight while breastfeeding can be diverse. For one, breastfeeding tends to increase hunger. Studies show that some women eat more and move less while nursing — compensating for the extra calorie burn of breastfeeding ( 17 ).Does drinking water increase breast milk? ›
Drink more water. Breastmilk includes lots of water, so it can be a struggle to increase your breast milk production if you aren't well hydrated. In addition to drinking regular water, you may want to consider some lactation tea.Can I eat 1200 calories a day while breastfeeding? ›
While nursing, you should not consume less than 1500-1800 calories per day, and most women should stay at the high end of this range.How many calories should I eat if I am breastfeeding and want to lose weight? ›
What are the recommended guidelines for weight loss? Breastfeeding mothers should consume at least 1800 calories a day and can safely lose around 1 lb/week (La Leche League, 2010; Lauwers & Swisher, 2015). Aim to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables while minimizing empty carbohydrates and junk food.Do you lose more weight after 6 months breastfeeding? ›
Women who breastfed exclusively for at least 3 months had a 1.3-pound (0.59 kg) (95% CI: 0.2,2.5 pounds, p<0.05) greater weight loss at 6 months postpartum, relative to those who did not breastfed or breastfed non-exclusively.
Genetic background, climate, diseases, feeding, year and season of calving have been reported to affect milk production, lactation length and dry period [2, 3]. Breed, age, stage of lactation, parity and milking frequency also influence performance production [2, 3].Can you do one meal a day while breastfeeding? ›
I would definitely stay away from it, even if your breastfeeding child is older. The 5:2 diet, where you eat 500 to 600 calories on two days per week is a diet that will likely decrease your milk supply over time, since eating less than 1500 calories per day has been shown to decrease milk supply.How much weight do you retain while breastfeeding? ›
Your body will generally hold on to an extra 5-10 pounds above your pre-pregnancy weight, until several weeks after weaning and this is to protect your ability to produce milk, in case of illnesses or famine/severe calorie restriction, which is often seen in fad diets.How many Oz should a breastfeeding mom drink? ›
A Word From Verywell
How much water you need to drink while breastfeeding varies per individual. You may need more than the recommended 128 ounces a day—especially in hot weather or if you are more active than the average person. Check your urine color to determine if you are drinking the right amount of water for you.
Eat at least 1500-1800 calories per day
While nursing, you should not consume less than 1500-1800 calories per day, and most women should stay at the high end of this range. Some mothers will require much more than this, but studies show that going below this number may put supply at risk.
To maintain your milk supply and your own health, if you're exclusively breastfeeding, you need to get about 300 to 500 calories per day more than what you needed to keep your pre-pregnancy weight. The best diet for a nursing woman is simply a normal, healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits, veggies, and whole grains.How long does it take to breastfeed 4 oz? ›
When your baby nurses again, you will get another surge of the make milk hormone, prolactin. As your baby gets older they may shorten how long a feeding lasts. Some babies will get 60 to 150 ml (2 – 5 ounces) in five minutes time. However, some babies continue to take 20 to 40 minutes per feeding.What happens if I don't drink enough water while breastfeeding? ›
Symptoms of dehydration while breastfeeding
Decreased milk production. Fatigue. Muscles cramps. Headaches.