Do nursing mums need more calories? A mum's guide to a healthy breastfeeding diet

Do nursing mums need more calories? A mum's guide to a healthy breastfeeding diet
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Breastfeeding provides numerous advantages for both you and your child. Because you'll be burning more calories, it's critical that you eat a nutritious breastfeeding diet and drink lots of water.

You might even discover that breastfeeding aids with postpartum weight loss. If you’re aiming to reduce weight, you’ll still need to follow healthy eating habits and regular exercise.

How much calories should a breastfeeding mum consume?

According to studies, most healthy breastfeeding mothers may maintain an abundant milk production while consuming 1800-2200 (or more) calories per day. Consuming less than 1500-1800 calories per day (most women should aim for the upper end of this range) may jeopardise your milk supply.

A mother’s minimum calorie requirement (excluding nursing) is determined by her activity level, weight and nutritional health. A woman who is less active has more fat stores, and/or eats more nutritious foods may require fewer calories than a mother who is more active, has fewer fat stores, and/or eats more processed foods.

On average, an exclusively breastfeeding woman needs 300-500 more calories per day to maintain her pre-pregnancy weight.

Because the recommended enhanced calorie intake during the latter two trimesters of pregnancy is 300 calories per day, an exclusively breastfeeding mother will likely require either the same amount of calories she was getting towards the end of her pregnancy, or up to 200 extra calories per day. That equates to adding one or two healthy snacks every day.

The number of extra calories required for nursing is determined by:

The scope of breastfeeding

Is your child nursed entirely, mostly breastfed, or breastfed one or two times each day? If your baby is only partially breastfed (for example, an older child who receives less milk or a younger child who receives formula supplements), his or her calorie requirements will be proportionately lower.

Mum’s body fat reserves

Is your body mass index (BMI) low, high, or somewhere in the middle? A mother who does not have any additional fat reserves (and most of us do!) will require the most extra calories.

Maternal fat stores normally give about 200 calories per day for nursing, so if your BMI is low (especially if you’re deemed very underweight, or BMI 19.8), you’ll need to supplement your breastfeeding diet with extra calories.

Your body will require those extra calories if you are nursing a newborn eight to 12 times each day. When your child starts eating solid foods, you’ll be able to stop breastfeeding and eat less.

Extra calorie intake and weight gain

As long as you eat the correct meals, the extra calories you need during breastfeeding should not cause weight gain. Your body burns off those extra calories while producing breast milk. You should gradually decrease your pregnancy weight if you eat a healthy, well-balanced breastfeeding diet.

However, if you supplement your daily calorie intake with junk meals, cakes, and high-fat foods, the weight will come off much more slowly. You might even gain weight as a result. Junk foods provide merely empty calories, not the nutrition your body requires.

A healthy breastfeeding diet

Make sure that your breastfeeding diet will provide you and your baby nutrients necessary for growth and development.

A healthy, balanced diet will provide you and your baby with many of the nutrients necessary for vigorous growth and development.

Breastfeeding mothers should also consume plenty of water. If your urine has a dark yellow colour, you may be dehydrated. It may be beneficial to consider drinking a glass of water every time you nurse.

Juices and sugary drinks might cause weight gain, so stay away from them if you’re attempting to reduce weight. Sugary drinks also have no nutritional value for you or your kid.

Limit caffeine consumption to two to three cups. Caffeine might lead you to urinate more frequently and in larger amounts, causing you to lose vital fluids. Caffeine can also irritate and disrupt your baby’s sleep.

Protein, iron, and calcium-rich foods are believed to help boost breast milk production. Consume foods like:

  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds
  • Healthy fats: Avocados, olive oil, coconut, eggs, full-fat yoghurt
  • Fibre-rich starches: Potatoes, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, oats, quinoa, buckwheat
  • Fish and seafood: Salmon, seaweed, shellfish, sardines
  • Meat and poultry: Chicken, beef, lamb, pork, organ meats (such as liver)
  • Fruits and vegetables: Berries, tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, kale, garlic, broccoli
  • Other foods: Tofu, dark chocolate, kimchi, sauerkraut

If your infant develops fussiness, a rash, diarrhoea, or congestion after breastfeeding, consult your baby’s doctor. They could be suffering an allergic response to one of your foods.

Despite their health benefits, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower should be avoided because they can produce gas. To decrease your baby’s exposure to mercury, avoid eating high-mercury fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.

Breastfeeding mothers should never smoke, use illegal drugs, or consume alcohol. These drugs can harm your infant if they pass into your breastmilk.

If you want to drink alcohol, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises breastfeeding mothers to wait two hours after consuming a single alcoholic drink before breastfeeding. Larger amounts of alcohol may take longer to pass through your system.

Breastfeeding and weight loss

After giving birth, many women are eager to regain their pre-pregnancy weight. However, unless your doctor specifically instructs you to do so, you should never limit the amount of food you eat or cut calories while breastfeeding.

When you are breastfeeding a child, your body requires extra calories in order to produce a sufficient quantity of breast milk. Going on a liquid diet, taking diet pills, or decreasing calories can reduce your milk supply, making breastfeeding difficult.

While medical professionals believe that nursing provides weight reduction benefits, there is no clear research that shows breastfeeding alone leads to postpartum weight loss.


According to the La Leche League, women who partially or completely breastfeed tend to lose more weight in the three to six months following birth than those who only give their children formula.

In addition to breastfeeding, if you want to reduce weight, you need to follow a balanced diet and exercise schedule. The combination should result in a faster weight loss than breastfeeding alone. Losing weight gradually is healthier.

Also, don’t underestimate how important having enough rest postpartum. It is important in keeping your milk supply up and in ensuring a favourable breastfeeding journey. Remember, stress can also be the culprit why mums are not watching what they eat.

Eating healthy foods and including exercise in your regular routine will assist you in safely losing weight and getting back into shape. Just make sure to consult your doctor before beginning any workout programme.

If you wish to start a special breastfeeding diet and fitness plan, consult with your doctor first.

This article was first published in theAsianparent.

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