How Many Calories Should a Breastfeeding Mom Eat?

Consume the Right Amount of Calories While Breastfeeding

After nine months of eating and drinking for two, the joy—and responsibility—continues as you begin to breastfeed your baby. Being a new parent takes an enormous amount of energy, and that’s particularly true when nursing is added to the mix. Plain and simple—breastfeeding burns calories; in fact, it takes almost 20 calories to make a single ounce of milk. If your baby consumes 25 ounces a day, that’s 500 additional calories burned. Be sure you’re eating the right amount of calories to stay appropriately fueled.

Calorie Counting

breastfeeding. mother feeding a baby breast in bed dark night

Post-Natal Diet

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Calorie counting is less important than ensuring you’re eating good, healthy food. Eat balanced food from all the major food groups, focusing on lean proteins, dairy, whole grains and lots of fruit and vegetables. If you’re looking for a general guideline, keep your calorie intake between 1,800 and 2,000 a day as a baseline; then adjust that for breastfeeding. The Mayo Clinic recommends an additional 400 to 500 calories a day to keep your energy up and milk supply solid, so total calories consumed should be in the range of 2,300 to 2,500.

Exercise and Diet

While you may be anxious to shed those extra pounds of baby weight, it might be unhealthy to either restrict your diet or exercise too much. If you’re exercising, be sure to consume additional calories—ideally up to 3000 calories—to keep up your milk supply. Try to eat something every three to four hours to stabilize your blood sugar levels—think an apple with almond butter so you have something fresh, plus healthy fat and protein.

What You Need

breastfeeding. mother feeding a baby breast in bed dark night

Meal Plan for Losing Weight While Breastfeeding

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Eating and drinking enough are both critical while breastfeeding. In particular, fuel your body with iron-rich foods such as lentils, dark leafy greens and dried fruit. Also consume a little protein, such as eggs, lean meat and legumes, at every meal, and eat or drink calcium-fortified products like cereal and yogurt. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Ultimately, you should be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program to be sure your choices are healthy for you and your baby.

What to Avoid

Stay away from beverages containing caffeine, as it can interfere with your baby’s sleep schedule. Alcohol is also best avoided, but if you do drink wine or beer, allow the alcohol to clear your breast milk first before feeding your little one. This generally takes two to three hours. Steer clear of any foods that are overly spicy or that are prone to make you gassy. Finally, be careful of the empty calories in sugary fruit juices or too many sweets—your calories should be from healthy sources.