This post probably contains affiliate links, to items I am in love with, and I am confident you will too! For any health advice I give on nutrition and wieghtloss, make sure you check with your doctor, as I am not a health professional. I am just a mama with lots of health and fitness knowledge and experience.
Protein while breastfeeding is super important to maintaining a healthy milk supply, maintaining muscle and healing postpartum. Eating protein isn’t always the hard part. It is knowing how much protein to eat while eating. Other questions come in like, “what type of protein is the best?” or “does it have to be organic?” We are fortunate to have a plethora of food options in our country, but sometimes more options can be more complicated.
How Much Protein Does a Breastfeeding Woman Need?
The first step is to understand how much protein you need while breastfeeding. Protein isn’t directly linked to milk supply, that we know of yet, but it is very important for your body to function properly and thrive. A body full of nutrients is a body that will produce a healthy milk supply, so they go hand-in-hand in my mind. That being said, medical officials say that breastfeeding mamas need twice as much protein as non-breastfeeding mamas. The recommended daily intake for a non-breastfeeding woman is about 46 grams of protein. This is an AVERAGE, meaning your individual body may need more or less, depending on your muscle mass and metabolism. But, if you take it one step further, your body needs twice this much, meaning you need 92 grams of protein per day.
If you aren’t getting this much protein, and you feel great with a healthy milk supply, you may not need this much. I personally don’t require that much protein. If you lift heavy weights while you are working out, you could need more. The more protein you eat, the more muscle you can support, so if you aren’t a very muscular person, you probably don’t need quite that much naturally.
If you are struggling to lose the baby weight, and keep up your milk supply, I have a brand new program out, The Postpartum Cure, which focuses on a specific meal plan for breastfeeding mamas to lose weight, but keep their milk supply up. Protein is a key factor in this program, and I go over everything including a meal plan, recipes and grocery list. I also have some fabulous lactation desserts, which help you with sweet cravings! See what other mamas are saying, and it also comes in an app, which makes it super user-friendly and easy to navigate through the recipes, workouts and more. I also have an ab-rehab and pelvic core program to help you heal your mommy tummy!
How Much Protein Do I Need, As A Breastfeeding Mama?
I believe in discovering your optimal numbers, rather than relying on a great average recommended amount. The great thing about a recommended amount of protein is you have a starting point. In order to figure out your individual needs, start by counting how much protein you eat on a daily basis, NATURALLY. Write down how much for about three days in grams. Add up the total grams for three days, then divide by three to get your daily average. That will give you an idea of how much you are currently eating. Are you way off from the recommended 92 grams? If you are, don’t worry. You can increase or decrease your protein and eliminate other foods. If you are around let’s say 50 grams of protein a day, try increasing your protein to 60 grams a day, and eat less processed foods. See how you feel with 10 grams more per day, if it increases your milk supply, and overall you feel great. If that goes well for a week or so, try increasing 10 more grams a day. That could take you over the top for yourself, or it still could be a good number. Working with a doctor or specialist is the best way to go, but it can also be done on your own.
Once you know how much protein to eat while breastfeeding, it is super important you eat CLEAN, nutrient-dense sources.
There are many, many sources of protein available, and it can be hard to determine which ones are safe while breastfeeding. I personally love a protein powder for one serving of protein. The protein powder I highly recommend, that is safe for breastfeeding mamas has 21 grams per serving. It is completely plant-based, but it also comes with amazing nutrients, greens, fruits and digestive enzymes. I’ve been in love with this brand for quite some time, and many of my mamas in my specialized program have been loving it. There is also a new protein powder on the market, which is specifically created to support lactation. It has a lactation-boosting blend, as well as nutrients, digestive enzymes and probiotics to fully support your body while breastfeeding. I am a huge fan of this product as well!
The reason protein powders, or shakes are one of my top choices is because they are fast and easy, and you can add in wonderful, nutrient-dense foods like spinach, berries, bananas, flaxseeds and more. This gives you such a great, milk-boosting meal!! The lactation protein powder has slightly less protein per serving, but at 15-20 grams (depending what protein powder you like) you have a great start. I have a free protein shake challenge for breastfeeding mamas, which I highly encourage you to start and see how protein shakes work for you.
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In addition to protein powders and nutritional supplements, eating clean sources of protein from pasture-raised beef, free-range chickens and organic sources is your best bet, but not always affordable. Beans are another more affordable source of protein and fiber, and they are super filling because they have more fiber. Combining fiber and protein is the best way to go in order to stay full on healthy food. Do your best to eat the highest quality sources, knowing your daily goal of grams after you’ve discovered how much protein YOUR breastfeeding body needs.
Still not sure what protein does? Protein is essential for your body to function while breastfeeding.
Protein is an essential nutrient for tissue and muscle maintenance, replacement, function, and growth. It also increases metabolism, and produces a feeling of satiety (meaning you will feel fuller and for longer). For the average population, a diet with moderate amounts of protein is therefore recommended (around 25-30%, and this varies for males and females), to ensure muscle building, maintenance and high metabolism.
Protein is a macronutrient used to help produce breast milk. Protein is essential for the growth of new cells, which is what is happening in your baby as they are growing. Your baby needs protein in the breast milk for growth, and if your body doesn’t have enough to give, it can’t provide enough to baby as well. Your milk supply may drop, if protein levels drop in your diet, so that can be a determining factor for you when discovering how much protein you need to eat while breastfeeding. Here are some food guideline to help you know what foods you can eat to increase and maintain your milk supply:
3-ounces of lean beef, chicken or fish = 20 to 30 grams
3 ounces of tuna = 30 grams
1 cup of cottage cheese = 28 grams
1 egg white = 6 grams
1 TBSP of peanut butter = 5 grams
1 cup of low-fat milk = 8 grams
1 cup of corn = 5 grams
1 ounce of cereal = 6 grams
In my program for breastfeeding mamas. we eat a well-rounded diet with lots of protein (we start the day with protein shakes!), and most of the dinner meals have protein in them. Including a super yummy steak recipe. I believe in eating as many nutrients as possible, and luckily protein is accessible in many different forms. If you are struggling with knowing what to eat while breastfeeding, I highly encourage you to check out what the mamas are saying about my program!