Women often hear the old phrase “I am eating for two” when they are pregnant. However, it is really after pregnancy when this statement is closer to the truth. Pregnant women need to consume adequate calories, and in some cases, increase their daily calorie level if their physician is not seeing adequate growth in their unborn babies. Breastfeeding women, in order to produce quality milk, need to consume more calories than you need to sustain just yourself.
A good ballpark figure is around 400-500 calories a day more than you normally would eat. And keep in mind that just a calorie increase is not going to make your milk better for your baby. It needs to be “quality” calories, not just an extra cheeseburger! Complex carbohydrates including whole grains like brown rice are great additions. A between meals snack of a sandwich on whole wheat bread is a good choice with a side of fruit.
Also key is increasing your fluid intake. The average woman produces between 22-27 ounces of breast milk a day. So it makes sense that more fluid is needed! Drink water, non-caffeinated fluids, milk or yogurt drinks.
Another key ingredient it fat. Yes, fat! One of the most vital components in brain development is quality fat in foods, and your breast milk is it for as long as you choose to make it so! Three to five “servings” or ounces of fat a day are recommended-like adding salad dressing to your salad, butter with your toast and egg, or mayonnaise to your sandwich.
Are supplements necessary? Many physicians often say to continue pregnancy vitamins in order to meet your needs-and if you can continue to stomach those large pills, go right ahead. Otherwise, a healthy balanced diet probably should be enough!
Benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, especially for your little precious one. Often overlooked is the benefit to you, the new mother! Breastfeeding requires a tremendous amount of energy, causing a rise in your metabolism. This in turn leads to calorie use, mobilization of fat, and….the magic words, weight loss! Not only is the weight loss benefit great, but it really causes a healthy shift in your stored body fat that existed for pregnancy. Yes, you may have heavy breasts, but you will see your stomach and abdominal area shrink faster (breast feeding increases the contractions that cause this), and the other “problem” areas like hips and your butt.
Laura is a Montgomery County mom to a 6 year old and wife to a picky eater. She is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. Her and her family love reading, hiking and are avid Phillies baseball fans.