How Breastfeeding Affects Your Food Cravings

by Mishal Ali Zafar

Food cravings aren't a foreign concept, no matter who you are but especially if you're a woman. When you get your period you may crave a certain food once a month, and when you get pregnant you may start craving foods you never liked. And just like your period or pregnancy, breastfeeding can come with it’s cravings, too. With the roller coaster of hormonal changes you go through as a woman, it’s important to know how breastfeeding affects your food cravings, because priorities.

I know there is some correlation, or at least there was for me. For example, I hate water. I know it’s weird, but I just hate the taste of it. When I started breastfeeding my daughter, however, that changed. Every time she would latch on, I had an immense craving for ice cold water specifically, not juice or soda or even the flavored water I drank in lieu of my disgust for the plain stuff. My craving for cold water was so intense I made my husband put a mini fridge, stocked with water bottles, in my bedroom so I would have a bottle of water handy every time I nursed. When I stopped breastfeeding, my cold water craving vanished.

If you're having cravings like I did while nursing, know that you're not alone. According to a 2012 study from the Journal of Holistic Nursing, many breastfeeding moms reported food cravings after pregnancy and throughout their breastfeeding journey. As far as thirst is concerned, a 1995 study done by the University of Durham found that when a baby suckles, nerve impulses send a message to the brain which stimulate thirst as well as oxytocin release. Although there is only anecdotal evidence and no scientific data to support the correlation between food cravings and breastfeeding, according to Women To Women, there is research that links hormonal changes to hunger and satiety.

Breastfeeding moms need more food than usual. Kristin Gourley, an internationally board-certified lactation consultant from Lactation Link, tells Romper that studies suggest about 300 to 500 calories are burned each day through breastfeeding one infant. The recommendation is that you satisfy your increased hunger with nutrient-rich food, both for your baby's development and so you'll have the energy you need to care for your kid and, equally important, yourself. According to La Leche League International, breastfeeding moms should eat a nutritious diet full of veggies, fruits, grains, proteins, and healthy fats.

As long as you are eating a balanced diet and giving your body what it needs, you don't need to worry about letting yourself have the foods you crave (and sometimes those are the same foods — god bless peanut butter). While there may not be any science behind breastfeeding cravings, there are plenty of moms who will happily tell you otherwise. Listen to your body — it knows what it's doing.