How Much Should I Eat If I'm Breastfeeding? Lactation Consultants Weigh In

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Between changing diapers, feeding, and squeezing in as many naps as possible, new moms may not find much time for themselves, especially time to have complete, balanced, nutritious meals. It's really important for moms to be nourished and healthy, especially breastfeeding moms who are the primary source of nutrition for their babies.  Sometimes breastfeeding moms may feel hungrier or less hungry than usual, so they may wonder, "How much should I eat if I'm breastfeeding?"

With the numerous responsibilities new moms face, they may put the importance of their diets on the back burner, while concentrating solely on the needs of their new baby. It can be hard for them to get in to the groove of maintaining a balanced diet.  

Kristin Gourley, Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), from Lactation Link, tells Romper that studies suggest about 300 to 500 calories are burned each day through breastfeeding one infant. "Calorie intake of 1500 to 2200 calories per day has been linked with weight loss in breastfeeding women, without decreasing milk supply," Gourley says. This means that breastfeeding moms can eat up to 2200 calories and still lose weight.

"Of course, nothing is true for everyone and some moms need to eat more or less to maintain or lose weight, and some moms don't lose weight well until after weaning," she says. Gourley likes to tell moms to eat to satisfy hunger, especially in the first few months after birth, which she notes can be difficult due to yo-yo dieting, the abundance of treats, and the various opinions on food culture, which can cloud your sense of hunger.

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Lactation consultant, Tera Hamann, BSN, RN, IBCLC tells Romper that often the problem of not getting enough calories is more about logistics of being trapped under an attached baby.

"I always encourage a stash of healthy, shelf-stable food to keep near the spot the usually nurse, with a water bottle or drink of choice — dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, fruit. Or keep some snacks prepped & ready in the fridge to grab on their way to sit and nurse," Hamann suggests.

Breastfeeding moms should carve time out of their busy days to make sure they are getting enough nourishment, and keep healthy, nutritious options at hand, so they can thrive and smile along with their babies.