Nutrition and calorie counts during breastfeeding
Remember those days of counting calories to make sure you could fit into your favorite jeans? Well now that you're breastfeeding, you can give that calorie counter a break. That's because breastfeeding requires some additional calories—up to 500 more per day than you ate before you were pregnant. Just make sure those extra calories come from nutritious foods.
Calories add up fast
But before you dig into that slice of chocolate cheesecake, keep in mind that 500 calories really isn't that much. In fact, it's about the amount of calories in a small fast-food shake. You can get more food—and a lot more nutrition—for your extra calories by skipping those shakes and other high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and choosing basic whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean meats and poultry, low-fat milk or yogurt and whole grains.
Go for nutrients, not just calories
Moms who are breastfeeding exclusively have a greater need for key nutrients, but you can meet most of your needs just by eating a well-balanced diet. For the average breastfeeding mom, that means a daily diet that includes the following food groups and amounts*:
- 2 cups fruit
- 3 cups vegetables
- 8 ounces grains
- 6-1/2 ounces meat and bean
- 3 cups milk
* These amounts are for an average breastfeeding woman. You may need more or less than the average. Check with your health care provider to make sure you are losing the weight you gained during pregnancy.
There are also certain nutrients you should pay extra attention to, especially if you are vegetarian or restrict one or more food groups.
The nutrients, and examples of foods that they can be found in, include:
Calcium: milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products
Zinc: beef, pork, dark meat chicken, peanuts, peanut butter, and legumes
B6: chicken, fish, pork, whole grains and legumes
B12: meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products
Folate: leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and juices and fortified cereals and breads
Vitamin D: milk and other vitamin D fortified products
If you think that you aren't meeting your nutrient needs, or have any questions talk to your health care provider, who may have you continue taking the prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement you took while pregnant.
Break up your calories
Instead of eating all those extra calories at once, spread them out throughout the day. For instance, add one or two small snacks between meals to help keep your energy level up. If you need a portable snack to take to work or while running errands, try some whole-wheat crackers, a granola bar, or fruit that's easy to eat on the go, such as a banana.
Dieting while breastfeeding
While it may be tempting to cut calories to quickly take off those pregnancy pounds, it's best not to follow strict weight loss diets while breastfeeding. Cutting your calories too low can affect your milk supply and deprive your body of the nutrients it needs. Talk to your health care provider or a Registered Dietitian before starting any diet or exercise program.
Learn more about nutritious choices for breastfeeding moms.