Are you breastfeeding and have no idea whether you’re eating too many or even not enough calories?
Counting calories isn’t always as bad as it seems. For the breastfeeding mom, consuming sufficient calories for you and your baby will be essential at some point. The human body needs calories to survive and thrive.
We’ll break down the science of calorie consumption and give you the lowdown on how many calories you need while breastfeeding. We’ll also discuss the best places to get your calories, ensuring you feel satisfied and can offer your best to your baby.
- Breastfeeding moms need an additional 450 to 500 kcals daily, resulting in approximately 2,500 kcals a day.
- Empty calories come from foods and drinks high in sugar, like baked goods, fast food, and soda, providing few nutrients.
- Nutrient-dense foods for breastfeeding moms include complex carbohydrates, iron-rich foods, proteins, and hydration sources.
- Breastfeeding can help with post-pregnancy weight loss, but focus on proper nourishment for your baby and maintaining a healthy diet.
How Many Calories Do I Need When Breastfeeding?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicate that the total number of calories you need daily depends on several factors (1). These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Height and weight.
- Physical activity.
- A desire to gain, lose, or maintain current weight.
According to the guidelines, maintaining caloric balance in women aged 19 to 50 requires a daily calorie intake as follows. Keep in mind that as we age and our metabolism slows, we require fewer calories overall:
- Women who lead a sedentary lifestyle: 1,800 to 2,000 kcals.
- Moderately active women: 2,000 to 2,200 kcals.
- Active women: 2,200 to 2,400 kcals.
Breastfeeding Women Need More Though
How to keep count? The USDA DRI calculator is a good place to start. It works out the daily nutrient recommendations as provided by the Dietary Reference Intakes.
Foods That Contain Empty Calories
Calories aren’t just calories, and there are such things as empty calories. We have foods that carry too many calories and provide few vitamins, fiber, minerals, and phytochemicals (3).
Here are some examples:
- Foods that contain a lot of sugar or sugar substitutes, like syrups, baked goods, and frozen desserts such as ice cream.
- Breakfast foods, such as cereals and bars.
- Fast foods, like french fries, pizzas, and onion rings.
- Condiments, such as mayonnaise.
Some drinks also fall into the empty-calories category. Sodas, energy drinks, juices, and alcoholic drinks are but a few of the empty-calorie drinks.
Calorie labeling in restaurant menus has created a greater level of self-awareness. You can now know how many calories are in the foods you order (4).
Nutrient-Dense Foods for Breastfeeding Moms
Since these foods contain healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, they will keep your energy levels up for longer. They will also be passed on to your baby and help them grow (5).
Examples of nutrient-dense foods include:
1. Complex Carbohydrates
Whole-wheat bread, brown rice, beans, oatmeal, fruits, and vegetables are good examples of complex carbs that take time to digest. Refined food products spike your energy levels temporarily before leaving you sluggish. Complex carbs, on the other hand, release energy slowly over a longer period.
Complex carbohydrates contain Vitamin B12, which will be passed to your baby through breast milk. Vitamin B12 supports the growth of your baby’s nervous system.
2. Iron-Rich Foods
Think lean beef, poultry, white beans, spinach, lentils, and lima beans. One of the symptoms of iron deficiency is fatigue. These iron-rich foods will help your baby grow while keeping your energy levels up.
Load up on white meat, eggs, peanut butter, fish, beans, and nuts. Vegetarians and vegans can replace meat with tofu and legumes, as well as certain grains, seeds, and nuts. These excellent sources of protein enhance growth.
Looking for a snack? How about reaching for yogurt or cheese? The calcium will be passed on to your baby and help promote the growth of strong bones.
You can also drink low-fat milk. It contains Vitamin D, some of which will be passed along to your little one.
Will Breastfeeding Help Me Lose Weight?
Even though we need to consume more calories to produce milk, most of us are concerned about post-pregnancy weight. Women who breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their baby’s life use around 650 calories daily doing so.
You will burn calories without necessarily feeling it. That said, weight loss will also depend on your physical activity. The amount of weight gained during pregnancy is also a determining factor.
It is more important for you to concentrate on eating right and providing proper nourishment for your baby. And keep in mind if you’re consuming 1,000 extra calories per day because breastfeeding makes you so hungry, breastfeeding isn’t really going to help you lose weight. So relax, and focus on your little one. There will be time later for shedding that weight.