The ultimate breastfeeding meal plan for weight loss puts together three different methods to getting great results. It is designed to take the stress out of breastfeeding, allow you to focus on your family and maximise the time until you get your pre-baby body back.
The Breastfeeding Diet
You’re not finished eating for two quite yet. Here’s how to get the right nutrition to provide your baby with a healthy liquid lunch (and breakfast, and dinner, and snacks … )
Tired of avoiding sushi, deli sandwiches and cheese plates? Then you’ll be happy to hear that you’ll have more menu choices while breastfeeding than you did during pregnancy.
That said, you’ll still be aiming for plenty of nutrient-dense foods and steering clear of less healthy ones. The good news: Lots of your favorites are back on the menu.
How many calories do you need when you’re breastfeeding?
Your body generally burns around 300 to 500 extra calories a day while you’re breastfeeding depending on whether you’re nursing exclusively or not. If you are, it’s typically up to 450 to 500.
So while you don’t need to be hyper-vigilant about counting calories and consuming more, definitely keep your extra nutritional needs while nursing in mind. If you stayed within your doctor’s recommended weight gain during pregnancy, you shouldn’t have to take in any more or less than that, but check with your practitioner if you’re not sure.
What to eat when you’re breastfeeding
The basic fat-protein-carb combo of human milk isn’t directly dependent on what foods and drinks you put into your body. Even women who aren’t well-fed can feed their babies well since the body will tap into its own nutrient stores to fuel milk production.
Just because you can make milk on a less-than-adequate diet doesn’t mean you should. The goal when you’re nursing should never be to deplete your body’s store of nutrients. That’s too risky for your short- and long-term health, and it will short-change you on much-needed energy as well as potentially interfere with your milk supply.
Eating well when you’re nursing means getting a variety of nutritious foods. And since a varied diet changes the taste and smell of your milk, it will expose your baby to many different flavors too (so the carrots or salsa you’re eating today may have your baby reaching for those foods in the future).
Here’s what to aim to consume each day to ensure you’re getting what you need:
- Protein-filled foods. Aim for a minimum of three servings daily, which can include eggs, yogurt, nut butter, cheese, meat, lentils, beans, tofu, etc.
- Whole grains. You’ll want three or more servings of fiber-filled complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, brown rice and barley per day to keep you energized.
- Vegetables and fruits. Load up on four to five servings daily, especially those leafy green and yellow veggies.
- High-fat foods. You should aim to eat as much as you did during pregnancy. Avocados, low-mercury fish, nuts and seeds contain good-for-you fats and belong in your diet.
You’ll also need to keep particular nutrients in mind, including:
- Calcium. You need between 1,000 and 1,500 mg — and getting enough is especially important since breastfeeding draws from your calcium reserves. Good sources include cheese, yogurt and milk as well as collard greens, sardines, tofu and chia seeds.
- Iron. Try to get in one or more servings of an iron-rich food each day, like beef, chicken, eggs, beans or fortified cereal.
- Vitamin C. Fruits and veggies like bell peppers, citrus, broccoli and berries come loaded with this important antioxidant.
- Omega-3s. Plan on eating two to three servings of foods with omega-3 fatty acids a week to promote baby’s brain growth. That’s at least 8 ounces a week of low-mercury fish like wild salmon and sardines; you can also get omega-3s in DHA-enriched eggs.
- Choline. Your daily needs actually increase post-pregnancy from 450 to 550 mg. Getting this critical nutrient while breastfeeding supports your little one’s cognitive functioning.
And even now that baby’s here, continue taking your prenatal vitamin daily while breastfeeding to cover your bases.
HOW TO MAKE A MEAL PLAN FOR WEIGHT LOSS WHILE BREASTFEEDING
There are some key factors that will ensure you create a successful meal plan for breastfeeding and weight loss, so your milk supply won’t go south. Here are the factors to follow:
Never reduce calories dramatically. Instead, reduce empty calories
This means that you want to replace foods, rather than eliminate snacks and meals. For example, if you normally crave sugar and sweets in the late afternoon, rather than having your usual cookie, grab a delicious Milk Dust Bar that tastes like dessert, yet fills your body with hand-picked nutrients for breastfeeding mamas. If you love dessert at night, try making an oreo lactation shake, so you can replace the normally empty calorie meal with a protein shake full of milk-boosting herbs, vitamins and minerals to nourish your body instead.
Focus on protein and fiber at every meal and snack
Protein and fiber together ensure that you will feel full and satisfied. By ensuring you have a protein, veggie and/or fruit at every snack and meal, you will be filling your body with nutrient-dense calories that also fill up your stomach. Protein and fiber are really important to combatting the intense hunger that can be really difficult while breastfeeding.
Take advantage of one-handed meals:
Don’t do a lot of cooking while breastfeeding and caring for a new baby. Get frozen vegetables, make lots of smoothies, use our healthy lactation bars, and batch cook your proteins. If your meals are too complicated, and require a lot of prep, cooking and cleaning, the meal plan will feel too overwhelming to stick too.
EASY FOODS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR BREASTFEEDING MEAL PLAN
There are many, healthy foods you want to include in your breastfeeding meal plan, but not all of them are easy to prepare and eat while trying to lose weight and nursing. This is a great checklist of foods that are super quick and easy to prepare, as well as extremely nourishing for milk supply.
- Apples, oranges and grapes (these are easy fruits to pack and take on the go too!)
- Milk Dust Bars (amazing for the diaper bag, hospital bag and the car!)
- Deli Turkey (easy to wrap in high-fiber wraps, lettuce or on cucumber slices!)
- Sweet potatoes (easy to cook in microwave)
- Milk Dust Protein (quick and easy to shake up in a shaker bottle or blend in smoothie)
- Instant oatmeal (for overnight oats, or quick oats in the morning)
- Pre-washed and cut lettuce (easy to toss for a salad)
- Rotisserie chicken (already cooked in grocery store)
- Hard-boied eggs (easy to grab!)
- Chickpeas, black beans and other beans (super easy to throw on a salad)
- Frozen fruit (always fast and easy for smoothies!)
- Frozen, steamable veggie bags (microwave bags of veggies for fast prep!)
- Frozen turkey burger patties (these can be really handy and delicious!)
- 100 % dark chocolate unsweetened (amazing for chocolate cravings)
- Milk Dust Fudge Brownie protein (late-night milk shakes!)
Planning your meals with fast, and healthy options can really impact the success of your breastfeeding meal plan.
WHAT FOODS ARE IMPORTANT TO ELIMINATE IN YOUR BREASTFEEDING MEAL PLAN FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
There are some foods that are important to eliminate in your meal plan. These foods lack nutrients, and ultimately offer empty calories. These are also foods that will negatively affect your blood sugar. Balancing blood sugar is really important to ensuring that you don’t have intense cravings, while also keeping hormones level. Blood sugar can impact hormone levels, which can also impact milk supply levels.
THE BIG LIST OF FOODS TO NEVER HAVE IN YOUR BREASTFEEDING DIET PLAN FOR WEIGHT LOSS:
- Ice cream (all fat and sugar – don’t do it! Try this snickers milkshake instead!)
- Chips and crackers (full of carbs and calories – no nutrients)
- Cheese (just adds extra fat and calories. Not ideal for weight loss)
- High-fat meats (lean meats are great, extra fat is not for weight loss)
- Candy and chocolates (these add sugar and fat, with no nutrients!)
- Deep fried foods (very high in fat and low in nutrients)
- Processed foods (look at ingredient lists for chemicals)
By eliminating these foods, you can really help your body function properly, let go of fat, and still produce all the breast milk that your baby needs.
Top Tips To Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
1) Drink At Least 8 Cups Of Water Every Day
Drinking plenty of water every day is one of the best things you can do for the overall health of your body — whether you’re trying to lose weight or not. And it’s especially important for breastfeeding moms.
Water helps your body naturally shed unwanted pounds because water:
- Contributes to regular body functions like circulation, digestion, regulation of body temperature, transportation of nutrients, and milk production
- Assists your kidneys and makes it easier to keep your body toxin free
- Helps you feel fuller longer and prevents overeating
- Keeps your muscles working at 100%
- Combines with the oil on your skin to form a protective barrier against the sun’s harmful UV rays and other environmental toxins
We recommend drinking at least eight cups of water every day. Sound like too much to ask from a busy mom?
- Start by drinking two cups first thing in the morning
- Next, drink two cups each at lunch and dinner — that’s six cups
- Then, to get the last two cups, fill a water bottle with 16 ounces of water and sip on it throughout the day
If you’re “not a water drinker,” try an infusion bottle that will allow you to add a hint of fruit. Seltzer works just as well and is especially good for those of you who like to drink soda. Just make sure whichever drink you choose doesn’t have added sugar because it can make its way to your baby through your breast milk.
2) Eat A Healthy Diet To Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
We’ll give you some ideas about maintaining a healthy diet, but first, you need to make sure you’re getting enough calories. You’re already burning plenty of calories while breastfeeding, and when you throw in exercising, it could lead to problems if you’re not careful.
You will need to add an additional 300 to 500 calories per day to your diet when breastfeeding, bringing your total daily consumption to between 2,200 and 2,500 calories.
Following these guidelines for healthy eating will ensure you’re consuming the right kind of calories. After all, it’s completely normal to get extra hungry — and stay hungry! — while you’re breastfeeding.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables should make up a large portion of your caloric intake. A simple way to get a healthy dose of these foods is to start your day with a fruit and vegetable smoothie. A banana, some strawberries, and blueberries combined with almond milk and two handfuls of spinach make for a healthy and delicious breakfast.
Beyond that, try to include a serving of vegetables with both lunch and dinner to complete your day. If you get hungry between meals, munch on a carrot, an orange, an apple, or another raw vegetable instead of something processed.
Protein can be obtained from a variety of different foods, but you should aim for “lean” protein. Lean protein can be found in foods like chicken, fish, beans, and protein powders. Adding a scoop of the latter to your morning smoothie can help round out your healthy breakfast.
For lunch and dinner, include a piece of chicken or fish, or a cup of your favorite beans, to gain the health benefits of these protein-packed foods.
It may seem counterintuitive to purposely add fat to your diet while trying to lose weight, but healthy fats are important for both you and your baby when you’re breastfeeding.
You can find these beneficial fats in foods such as:
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
There are plenty of simple ways to work healthy fats into your diet. One way is by measuring a tablespoon of hemp seeds and a tablespoon of chia seeds into your morning smoothie. Fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy fat in one easy-to-eat meal? You really can’t ask for a better breakfast.
For lunch, try adding some olives to your midday salad or topping it with an olive oil-based dressing. Come dinner time, cook your chicken or fish with a dollop of coconut oil. It tastes great and is good for you. And if you find yourself hungry between meals, try snacking on a handful of nuts to keep your energy up.
Planning your meals in advance is not only a good idea in relation to saving time, but it’s also a good idea for the sake of your health. When you plan and prepare your meals ahead of time, you won’t be tempted to eat more than you have.
Meal planning also cuts out the need to stop for something quick to eat because you’re too tired or don’t have enough time to cook. Your meal will already be prepared. With a future mindset in place with meal prepping, you are more likely to consume healthier calories.
3) Incorporate Moderate Exercise
Maintaining control of your diet is only half the battle. To lose weight while breastfeeding, you’ll also need to exercise.
When we think of exercise, we too often picture ourselves going to the gym or running long distances. With a breastfeeding infant, though, those activities can be all but impossible.
In fact, it’s important that you wait at least six to eight weeks before starting or restarting a serious exercise regimen. Extreme dieting and exercise can impact your body’s ability to produce healthy milk — so be careful.
Typically, postpartum exercise can be divided into two basic categories:
- Cardiovascular (cardio)
Each type of activity has its own distinct benefit for your body. Cardio (anything that gets your pulse rate up for 15 to 20 minutes) is great for the health of your heart, lungs, and circulation. Weight-bearing exercise, on the other hand, helps strengthen your muscles and bones.
Once you begin a workout regimen, you may need to increase your calorie consumption to ensure that your body has the nutrients it needs to support milk production. If you’re planning a particularly strenuous workout, eat a healthy carb about a half-hour beforehand.
Thankfully, exercise doesn’t have to be difficult or intense to produce real results. Cardio can be as simple as going for a brisk walk while pushing your baby in a stroller. Walking is a low-impact exercise that can raise your heart rate without negatively impacting your knees or joints.
4) Get As Much Sleep As You Can
Sleep is just as vital to post-pregnancy weight loss as exercise and diet, but getting adequate sleep can be difficult when you’re breastfeeding a newborn. However, the importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Why? Because when you’re asleep, your body repairs itself and returns to a healthier state.
Here’s how your body becomes healthier while you sleep:
- Blood pressure returns to its normal level (if elevated during the day by stressors).
- Muscles relax.
- Blood supply to organs and muscles increases.
- Growth hormone is released.
- Breathing and heart rate stabilize and become more consistent.
And that’s just the tip of the healthy iceberg. In fact, weight gain has been linked to lack of sleep. To add insult to injury, hungry, sleep-deprived new moms tend to satisfy their cravings with simple carbohydrates, which often result in weight gain (not weight loss).
So even if you’re doing everything else on this list right but you fail to sleep enough each night, you may struggle to lose those last few pounds. For that reason, we recommend getting at least seven hours of sleep every night.
If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night just yet, make it a point to nap when she naps. This will give your body the time it needs to recover and stay as healthy as possible.
5) Apply A Firming & Toning Product
Part of the process of getting back to your pre-baby appearance is firming and toning your skin. Exercise has a lot to do with that goal, but you can help your body from the outside by applying a firming and toning product throughout the day. We recommend Mustela’s Body Firming Gel, Bust Firming Serum, and Stretch Marks Serum (to help prevent and reduce stubborn stretch marks).
These products are specially formulated to help reshape your body’s contours after childbirth by:
- Reinforcing skin elasticity.
- Promoting collagen production.
- Firming skin from within.
- Relieving dry, tight, sensitive skin.
Mustela’s firming and toning products help with the above through a combination of natural, hypoallergenic ingredients. Also, Mustela’s entire product line is free of parabens, phthalates, phenoxyethanol, bisphenols A and S, caffeine, and alcohol. That makes all of Mustela’s products safe for both you and your breastfeeding baby.
So feel free to apply a firming and toning product where you need it and when you need it, without worrying about the effect it will have on your baby.
6) Breastfeed Frequently
It’s OK to feed on demand. While it may seem like your little one is getting too much, they know what they need. Remember, you actually burn calories while nursing. So if you nurse on demand, you will burn even more calories throughout the day.
If you’re starting to exercise more, you’ll obviously lose some weight. However, your body will need to know that even though some of its fat deposits are disappearing, it still needs to produce milk. This is why breastfeeding on demand — or breastfeeding more frequently — while exercising is a great concept to put into practice.