How Much Should Breastfeeding Moms Really Eat?

Lauren Flynn Kelly

When you're a new mom, someone else's needs suddenly come first, so it's easy to forget your own. And for breastfeeding moms, the most important need is food, because if you don't get enough nourishment, your baby might not either.

I find that I'm often so distracted with what my newborn daughter needs -- a diaper change, a feeding, a spit-up spot cleaning -- that I put off feeding myself. That and I just don't have the free hands to whip up something nutritious, so I grab whatever my one hand can find in the pantry while holding my baby. And sometimes it's a handful of chips or a piece of chocolate.

The trouble is, breastfeeding requires even more additional calories -- up to 500 above what you ate before pregnancy -- than pregnancy does, and just as healthy a diet. That includes whole grains, leafy greens, calcium-rich foods, and proteins. Yet I find myself struggling just to get one of those in on a daily basis that I fear I'm leaving out those extra calories.

The general recommendation among breastfeeding experts is that we take in at least 2,200 calories per day, while fewer than 1,800 calories could actually decrease milk production. This is obviously not a time to pig out (though I can't see the harm in having the occasional sundae), so I came up with the following healthy snacks:

  • A yogurt parfait with granola, fresh fruit, and a little honey
  • Whole-grain toast with a yummy flavored butter like almond or apple butter
  • A handful of nuts (although I'll temporarily avoid peanuts in case baby develops an allergy)
  • Cheese and spinach quesadilla with avocado slices
  • Toasted pita with hummus

Another easy-to-forget breastfeeding must is fluids. Dr. Sears recommends drinking a glass of water or juice before you sit down to breastfeed, and at least eight glasses of fluids a day. Just beware of over-hydrating, which could actually hinder milk production.

The good people at KellyMom recommend a simple solution to all of this: Listen to your body. Eat when you're hungry and you'll get the calories you need, and drink when you're thirsty. Sounds easy enough, right? Nevertheless, I'll be sure to add a few of the above to my grocery list.

How do you get your extra calories?


Image via Lana Stewart/Flickr

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