How many calories should breastfeeding mom eat to lose weight? — If you’re a woman who is breastfeeding, or is pregnant and are breastfeeding, you already know that what you eat matters. You probably assume that if your diet is full of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables then you are doing the right thing.
A calorie deficit is the central to losing weight. Sufficient breastfeeding will satisfy the calorie needs of your baby, so what about you? How many calories per day should you eat for breastfeeding moms?
Does breastfeeding help you lose pregnancy weight?
Breastfeeding may help you lose weight post-pregnancy, but the amount of weight you’ll lose varies for everyone.
Breastfeeding typically burns 500 to 700 calories per day. To lose weight safely while breastfeeding, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for how many calories you need to consume daily. You also will need to get clearance from your doctor before resuming exercise after childbirth.
Read on to learn more about postpartum weight loss while breastfeeding.
How fast can you expect to lose pregnancy weight?
A number of factors will affect how quickly you lose the weight you gained during pregnancy, including:
- your metabolism
- your diet
- how often you exercise
- how much weight you gained during pregnancy
Depending on how much weight you gained during pregnancy, it may take six to nine months, or up to a year or longer to lose the weight you gained. Some women never lose all of it.
It’s common to lose around 13 pounds shortly following delivery. This quick weight loss is from the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid. This amount could vary depending on the size of your baby or whether you retained a lot of fluid during pregnancy.
Following this initial weight loss, you’ll need to take in fewer calories than you burn off to lose more weight. But for health and safety reasons, you’ll want to lose weight gradually and consume at least 1,800 calories each day while breastfeeding. This will keep your milk supply high and give you enough energy.
You can safely aim to lose around one to two pounds per week. You may find you’re back at your prepregnancy weight after breastfeeding for six months. For some women, it may take a year or two.
It may take longer to lose weight if you’ve been pregnant before or if you gained more than the 30 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.
How many calories do I need while breastfeeding?
Based on daily calorie intake recommendations for women aged 19 to 50, based on your lifestyle, you may need to consume the following number of calories per day while breastfeeding:
To maintain your current weight while breastfeeding, and keep up your milk production and energy levels, you’ll need to consume an additional 450 to 500 calories per day.
- sedentary lifestyle: 2,250 to 2,500 calories per day
- moderately active lifestyle: 2,450 to 2,700 calories per day
- active lifestyle: 2,650 to 2,900 calories per day
Once you’ve identified the total amount of calories you should be eating daily, try to make sure the majority of your calories are coming from nutrient-rich foods. These include:
- whole grains
- lean protein
If you’re trying to lose weight, avoid empty-calorie foods like:
- white bread
- baked goods
- other junk or fast food
You may also need to take a multivitamin or you may continue taking your prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding. Ask your doctor which supplements they recommend.
Is it safe to restrict calories while breastfeeding?
Even if you’re trying to lose weight, make sure you’re consuming at least 1,800 calories per day while breastfeeding. You can supplement your diet with exercise once you’re cleared by your doctor. For most women, this is usually around six weeks after delivery, though it may be longer if you had a cesarean delivery, or complications during or after delivery.
Effects Of Reducing Calories While Breastfeeding
While you are breastfeeding, the uncontrolled intake of calories triggers unwanted weight gain. To avoid such a situation, you may need to reduce your calorie intake, and also remember to keep yourselves hydrated.
Here are few effects of reducing calorie intake while breastfeeding:
- As a nursing mother if you want to lose weight and reduce calorie consumption you can do that. However, your baby needs to be around two months old. A calorie intake of 1,800 calories per day should be more than enough for you and your baby. Reducing calories in the early stage of breastfeeding imposes harmful health effects and reduces breast milk production rate.
- Cutting calorie intake by more than about 25 percent interferes with the process of breast milk production. If you abruptly decrease the total amount of calories it can lead to numerous health difficulties. The best practice is to reduce the calories gradually over the lactation phase.
- Another danger of reducing calories when breastfeeding is that it makes you more susceptible to malnutrition. As your body does not get enough supply of nutrients and minerals, you may become malnourished and suffer from nutritional deficiencies.
- As a breastfeeding mother, if you want to lose weight during breastfeeding you can perform various physical exercises instead of cutting down your calories. A simple 15-20 minutes morning or evening walk burn 200 calories and keeps your weight normal
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
- Include protein foods 2-3 times per day such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Eat three servings of vegetables, including dark green and yellow vegetables per day.
- Eat two servings of fruit per day.
- Include whole grains such as whole wheat breads, pasta, cereal and oatmeal in your daily diet.
- Drink water to satisfy your thirst. Many women find they are thirsty while breastfeeding; however, forcing yourself to drink fluids does not increase your supply.
- Dietary restrictions from pregnancy do not apply to breastfeeding moms.
- Vegetarian diets can be compatible with breastfeeding. If you avoid meat, make sure you eat other sources of iron and zinc such as dried beans, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and dairy. If you avoid all animal products (vegan diet) you will need to take a B12 supplement to make sure your baby does not develop a B12 deficiency.
The following snacks are quick and simple to make, and will give you energy and strength:
- fresh fruit
- sandwiches filled with salad, grated cheese, mashed salmon or cold meat
- yoghurts and fromage frais
- hummus with bread or vegetable sticks
- ready-to-eat dried apricots, figs or prunes
- vegetable and bean soups
- fortified unsweetened breakfast cereals, muesli and other wholegrain cereals with milk
- milky drinks or a 150ml glass of 100% unsweetened fruit juice
- baked beans on toast or a baked potato
A nourishing meal plan for breastfeeding Mums
When you are breastfeeding, your body will benefit from extra energy (calories or kilojoules) to produce breast milk and feed your baby. By nourishing yourself well, you support your body to produce good quality breast milk in the right quantities for your baby to thrive. Remember, the more you breastfeed your baby, the more breastmilk your body will make.
Below are some healthy options for different mealtimes and snacks. On some days you may feel ravenous and you’ll need to eat more food than other days! That’s OK, everyone is different and everyone has different appetites. Remember to drink plenty of water as you can become easily dehydrated during breastfeeding. Aim for at least 8 glasses of liquids over the day to stay well hydrated. Water is ideal, but very diluted juice or low-fat milk are also good choices.
It easy to skip breakfast, but it means you miss out on that energy boost to start the day. Here are some wholesome suggestions:
- Wholegrain cereal with low fat milk or yoghurt e.g. wheat biscuits, porridge or natural muesli. Look for higher fibre cereals which keep you fuller for longer, also look for added folic acid and iron.
- Toast topped with fruit spread, mashed banana or peanut butter, or scrambled/poached/soft boiled eggs. Wholemeal or wholegrain bread is good because it’s higher in fibre and B vitamins
- Fresh fruit salad & yoghurt, and a large handful of chopped nuts.
Plus drink a glass of water, low fat milk, diluted juice or a cup of tea or coffee if you like (see information about safe caffeine intake)
Choose a snack from the following suggestions:
- A pottle of low fat fruit yoghurt & a piece of fruit
- A few crackers and cheese slices (Edam or cottage cheese is lower in fat) & a piece of fruit
- 1- 2 handfuls of unroasted nuts and raisins/dried apricots
Plus drink a glass of water, or low fat milk, or diluted juice to keep you hydrated. Have a cup of tea or coffee if you like.
Make sure you have enough fuel to keep you going throughout the day – even if you’re busy, lunch is something you should always make time for. Try:
- A wholegrain bread sandwich – include a protein filling like cooked lean meat, edam cheese, or a hard boiled egg, and salad greens & tomato.
- A cheese & tomato or baked bean toasted sandwich
- A bowl of thick vegetable soup with toast & olive oil spread
- Add in a piece of fresh fruit
- And a pottle of fruit yoghurt or a few crackers with cheese if you’re still peckish
Plus drink a glass of water, or low fat milk, or diluted juice to keep you hydrated.
Choose a snack from the following suggestions:
- A slice of wholegrain toast with cottage cheese and fruit spread, or peanut butter and sliced banana.
- 1-2 handfuls of unroasted nuts and dried fruit
- A fruit smoothie made with reduced fat milk & yoghurt & fruit
Plus drink a glass of water, or low fat milk, or diluted juice to keep you hydrated. Have a cup of tea or coffee if you like (see information about safe caffeine intake).
An ideal dinner provides a wide range of nutrients – your body is constantly using up energy, even over night so regular meals are important.
- Include a serving (about the size of your palm) of cooked lean meat, chicken or fish, or cooked eggs, tofu, legumes (lentils, dried beans and peas).
- Add some starchy carbohydrate food like potato, kumara, rice or pasta
- Add plenty of cooked vegetables, or salad
Plus drink a glass of water, or low fat milk, or diluted juice to keep you hydrated.
- 2 plain biscuits or a slice of fruit loaf
- Fruit salad topped with natural yoghurt
- Low- fat custard and stewed apple
- A cup of warm low fat milk, hot chocolate
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.