One of the most common conversations among breastfeeding moms is calories. We all want to maintain our supply and there is nothing more stressful than seeing your supply dwindle when you *think* you are doing everything you can possibly do to boost it. I remember pumping for 20 minutes and crying after seeing an ounce!
We take Fenugreek, mother’s milk tea, eat oatmeal, make lactation cookies, drink beer. You name it, we will do it if it means we can continue nursing our babies. I personally have a goal to exclusively nurse for a year with both of my kids. I was successful with my daughter and have just wrapped up with my son.
Not everyone can breastfeed. Breastfeeding can be hard. It can be stressful and painful. It makes you hungry and elevates your cravings. It takes the statement “hormones out of whack” to a new level. Head first into the chocolate bowl anyone?
While it is all these things, we know that it is the best source of nutrition for our babies. My mom didn’t breastfeed. I was the first to breastfeed in my entire family. Everyone kept saying “it’s ok to not do it.” Of course it is, but for me, it was important and necessary to push through all of the “i just want to give up” moments.
I think we all have or have had those moments which is why I want to simplify the nutrition side of things for moms, especially moms who are nursing.
We have enough stress as it is to be stressed over what to eat and how many calories to consume while being up half the night nursing. Seriously, I hope every mom who has ever thought about her supply dwindling or losing fat while nursing reads this and downloads my free support handbook.
There is tons of information out there about nutrition for nursing moms but it is not all the best, meaning it is not all that accurate.
So, how many extra calories do we need to consume while breastfeeding?
While we all want nothing more than to keep breastfeeding our babies, the focus on the calories is a misconception. A big one. One that leaves many moms confused, upset, defeated, and frustrated. I have coached hundreds of moms who want to lose fat but feel helpless because they are breastfeeding and feel they cannot do both.
Absolutely not true. Sure fat loss may not be on your mind as a new mom or a mom juggling an infant and a toddler but it can happen. It won’t be fast but you can absolutely get moving forward while breastfeeding.
There is a common myth out there that we all need at least 1800 calories to keep our supply up while breastfeeding. But no one talks about what those calories consist of, normally it’s just stated to eat “healthy foods.”
While it is absolutely essential to eat “healthy,” breastfeeding nutrition consists of so much more mainly because of our hormones (that’s a whole different blog but just know that what you eat absolutely affects your hormones).
Healthy could be the food guide pyramid and who follows that anymore?
We know that our milk supply is based on two key macronutrients: fat and protein. Of course carbohydrates are important but they are not the determining factor in boosting your supply. Cleaner sources of carbohydrates such as oats and potatoes are important but they are not directly related to your supply. So you do not need sandwiches and cereals all day while nursing.
But I am burning calories while breastfeeding….
Of course. But it is not enough to eat “whatever” and eating carbohydrates all day long will only keep insulin high. Not good for a postpartum mom who’s hormones are already adjusting.
Quality nutrition matters for you and your fat loss goals as well as for your baby. Yes, you can have fat loss goals while nursing. Again, it is possible to do both and be successful.
So how do I know what to eat?
I don’t know about you, but I personally do not have the time or energy to count calories. No thanks.
I prefer the calorie free solution: lose fat, maintain or boost your supply without plugging food into an app and weighing my food. This is my go to and I highly recommend all moms ditch the calorie counters as well.
No one talks about the fact that caloric needs are based on the individual and the “magic 1800” may or may not do the trick.
Let me explain…
A blanket statement of 1800 calories is just that. A blanket statement that might not be the right number for you. You may need more and you might need less. Your daily consumption of food is about more than just nursing:
- are you exercising?
- how much lean muscle do you have?
- have you been a dieter and your metabolism is sluggish?
- do you have PCOS?
- how much are you drinking? (hydration is a HUGE factor for supply)
- so many considerations that go beyond a number.
If fat loss if your goal, you must look beyond the calories. I have worked with hundreds of breastfeeding moms who are confused about what to eat and are stressed because they want to lose fat and cannot get results for fear of decreasing their supply. Understandably so as most will say: “just make sure you are eating enough carbohydrates.” So moms are eating cereal for breakfast and a sandwich at lunch wondering why they cannot lose fat. Those could be considered “healthy” foods right?
This is not to say that carbohydrates are evil or bad. No such thing as a “bad” food. But if you are a breastfeeding mom and want to lose fat and keep your supply, look beyond the calories.
Eat to manage your insatiable hunger (hello protein and fat!).
Eat foods that gives you energy.
Eat foods that don’t trigger cravings.
Eat foods that don’t trigger blood sugar spikes and leave you crashing at 2pm.
The most important thing you as a nursing mom can do is be the detective and learn your fat loss formula without stressing on the “number.” Your fat loss formula is 100% yours meaning it makes you feel good and is getting you the results you desire. It’s not about the number and it is certainly not about a strict meal plan.
Still confused? I have created a FREE Breastfeeding guide for moms where I go into more detail about what to tweak for your fat loss goals and your supply. I go into what is actually happening with your hormones and how to eat so you can reach your goals and still nurse your baby. In this handbook I give you tools (including this chart below) to get to the place we all want to be: losing fat, balanced hunger, energy and cravings with a steady milk supply.
You can download the entire free handbook here.
I hope that helps uncover why you need to throw the “1800 calorie rule” out the window. In part two of this series I am going to cover exercise for the nursing mama. Stay tuned 🙂