Being a mum and breastfeeding your newborn comes with more than a few challenges. While there are things you can do to support your nursing journey, like eating a healthy diet and investing in breastfeeding tops, it’s not always easy to stay on top of things.
One of the main problems breastfeeding mothers encounter is the extra energy they burn throughout the day. For as long as you’re producing breast milk and feeding your baby, your body will have slightly different dietary needs. Keeping up with your body’s changes means you’ll always have the energy to nourish your newborn and look after your own health. Eating a balanced diet while breastfeeding is important, but you also need to pay attention to how much you’re eating to ensure you’ve got enough energy to offset the calories burned during breastfeeding.
How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?
Your body works hard to produce the breast milk your baby needs. And it’s not just the physiological strain that burns energy – the calories in breast milk have to come from somewhere, and that means they come from your own food intake.
There are no conclusive studies about how much extra energy is burned by breastfeeding mothers. We all react differently, and things like different diets and fitness levels can impact how much energy our bodies burn while nursing. But, generally speaking, the Australian Government advises that breastfeeding burns an extra 2,000 to 2,100 kilojoules each day (that’s 500 calories or so). The real amount burned varies from person to person, so your best bet is to pay attention to what your body wants. It’s a good idea to eat enough to avoid being hungry or feeling tired. Your body is working extra hard during breastfeeding, so you need to give it the energy it’s looking for.
Do I Need to Eat More While Breastfeeding?
If you’re burning an extra 2,000 kilojoules every day then you will probably need to increase your food intake while breastfeeding. For reference, the average woman needs to eat about 8,700 kilojoules per day to maintain a healthy weight. The overarching rule is to pay attention to your hunger signals and eat when you need to. But, for most women, it’s perfectly okay to eat an extra 2,000 kilojoules to offset the energy burned by breastfeeding.
Whether you want to eat some or all of those extra kilojoules is up to you. Some new mothers like to take the opportunity to help shed any baby weight, but it’s more important to be mindful of yours and your baby’s health. Even if you have your eye on getting back into shape before summer, make sure you’re eating enough to keep up with your baby’s needs by adding a few extra healthy snacks or meals into your day.
The Best Foods for Breastfeeding Mums
The best thing you can do to support your breastfeeding journey is to focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet. Studies show that babies grow up to be more adventurous eaters if their mothers also ate a varied diet during breastfeeding. Remember that the energy your baby needs is all coming from your breast milk, so it’s your job to eat enough food for the both of you.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to say that eating certain foods helps with breast milk production. While there are no conclusive studies about those foods, doctors all agree that nursing mums need to eat a diet that’s rich in whole foods, protein and micronutrients like iron and calcium. The foods we’ve listed below are all good for nursing mums:
- Whole grains – oats, whole wheat bread
- Dark leafy greens – kale, broccoli, spinach
- Citrus fruits
- Dried fruits
- Lean red meat
- Lean white meat
- Low-mercury seafood – mackerel, prawns
- Dairy products – cow’s milk, yoghurt
- Beans and other legumes
The diet you eat while you’re breastfeeding doesn’t need to be complicated. Many new mums don’t have the time to stand around cooking gourmet meals, so it’s a good idea to keep a collection of healthy snacks on hand. Foods like lactation cookies are designed to support your journey and are a great pantry staple. Combined with other comfort items like breastfeeding tops, having a store of the right foods always makes it easy to consume a few extra calories and keep your newborn fed!