Similar to how breastfeeding moms need to maintain their daily water intake, we need to be mindful of our calorie intake as well. This means us mamas need to eat more because we’re eating for two (yes, even at postpartum).
Recommended additional caloric intake
Generally, it is recommended that women (not pregnant and not breastfeeding) consume 1,800 to 2,000 calories daily. However, if you’ve just given birth and decided to breastfeed, you will need to add 400 to 500 calories more to that daily diet in order to meet nutritional needs. As you’re a nursing mom, making your new daily calorie intake goal between 2,200 to 2,500 calories helps to boost lactation substantially.
There’s no specific or strict diet to keep up with your caloric intake, but make sure to consume all the healthy calories and add diversity to your nutrition plan. Eat according to your hunger cues. It’s best that you focus on having a balanced and nutritious diet which should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and healthy fats.
Are there foods you should avoid while nursing?
The CDC doesn’t prohibit breastfeeding moms to totally avoid certain foods but only to limit consumption.
Seafood: It contains some mercury and if consumed too often can be harmful to the brain and nervous system. As such, it can be passed to the newborn when breastfeeding.
Caffeine: Though caffeine doesn’t have harmful effects to the newborn being breastfed, they break down the caffeine slowly which can lead to irritability or impact their sleeping patterns. Don’t worry too much mama! You can still have your morning joe but don’t consume too much of it throughout the day.
Breastfeeding also burns calories
You might be worried about gaining weight due to the need to add calories, but here’s the thing, you’re also burning calories as you make the milk and breastfeed which is between 200 to 500 calories (PER DAY!). That’s the reason you need to add to your caloric intake as recommended. Plus, you’re probably eating a well-balanced diet (not junk food) so the thought of weight gain is out of the window.
What happens if you cut down on your calories while breastfeeding?
If you decrease your caloric intake by more than 25%, it can affect your milk supply. Malnutrition is commonplace in poorer populations of the third world because new mothers are not able to get the nutrients needed to healthily produce breast milk. Don’t put yourself into a nutrient deficit by starving your body of what it needs to lactate. Your body is working so much to produce breast milk, you should show it appreciation by taking care of your health through eating to achieve your lactation and dietary goals.
One thing to remember, every breastfeeding mom will differ significantly as to how many calories they should add. Factors such as age, body mass index, activity level, and if you’re exclusively breastfeeding or doing a combination of breastfeeding and formula feeding will play a role.
If you’re unsure how many calories to add, USDA’s MyPlate Plan can help you determine that. Or you consult a dietician and they’ll also provide you with a meal plan.
Make sure you eat today, mom!