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 weight loss, 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.
How many calories are you burning while breastfeeding?
One of the fun aspects of breastfeeding is that we burn more calories. Burning a few extra calories while breastfeeding is part of the process of producing extra energy. In reality, we are producing extra calories and transferring those calories, or energy, over to another human being. We are taking energy from our body and giving it directly to our babies in the form of breast milk. What a beautiful process!
Breastfeeding typically means we are burning anywhere from 200 – 500 extra calories. This depends on how your body uses calories, how your baby uses calories, and the stage of growth baby is in.
Your individual amount of calories burned while breastfeeding is dependent on a few factors. Here are some of the factors that will affect your calorie burn:
- Baby’s age
- Baby’s growth stage
- Your metabolism
- Baby’s metabolism
Those main factors are going to contribute to whether you are burning 200 calories, on the lower end, or 500 on the higher end. As you can see, if you are on the higher end, you can eat 500 extra calories a day and maintain your current weight. Most mamas want to lose weight after baby, and have plenty of fat stores to tap into for the needed energy.
Your Diet Does Not Need To Compensate For The Additional Calorie Expenditure:
This is going to be contrary to many of the blogs you’ve read or typical advice that is general and outdated. Most women who are breastfeeding have extra fat stored from pregnancy for the purpose of producing breast milk. Our bodies don’t assume more food is going to be available when baby arrives. It assumes that once baby arrives, it will have to use stored fuel as fuel for baby. A simple, natural process.
It has actually been proven that mamas don’t need extra calories in order to produce a plentiful milk supply.
My purpose is educate new mommies on the need for your nutrients to increase, not calories while breastfeeding.
You nutrient needs as a new mommy increase more than caloric needs. Nutrients are stored in fat cells, but they also need to come from diet. This is where you can ensure a healthy milk supply, even if you aren’t eating more calories, by giving your body, and thus baby’s body, lots of readily available nutrients.
Some nutrient needs that increase during lactation are:
- Protein (I LOVE this protein powder)
- Vitamin B12 in addition to other B vitamins
- Folate (not quite as much as pregnancy, but still increased)
I created a new lactation protein powder, Milk Dust, which is specifically formulated to help postpartum mamas nourish their bodies properly while breastfeeding. It is so yummy, perfect for curbing sugar cravings, and it will help you boost your milk supply while also nourishing your body!
In my FREE 14-day clean eating challenge, you get a chance to start working on the quality of your calories, rather than the quantity. Sometimes that is all you need, just to shift focus on the type of foods you are eating.
How To Calculate How Many Calories You Need While Breastfeeding:
Still, whenever losing weight, you want to get a grip on how much you should be eating, and breastfeeding can make it difficulty because there isn’t really a way to know how many calories your body is using to make breast milk. The number of calories your body uses to feed your baby is completely unique to you, so let’s go over how you can figure this out:
Get an Easy-To-Use App:
MyFitnessPal is easy to use, and it has a TON of foods in it. You can also calculate your personal recipes and creations on there, so you will know how many calories per serving any recipe you make is. All you do is type in the ingredients and amounts, and how many servings you want it to be. In my program, I found the BEST clean, nourishing and healing salads and dinner recipes! You can check out the 7 of the healing salads, or some of the healing smoothies that are included. AND, I just saw that the app, Pact will pay you if you stick to your food logging goals with MyFitnessPal. Might as well make some money while you are doing it! To be honest with you, I can’t stand logging food intake. I really prefer to eat based on quality foods, and feeling whether my body is hungry or just craving something. By filling up on fruit and vegetables and eating clean protein. This protein powder is the best and safest for breastfeeding, you can learn to eat based on knowing your body and what nutrients it needs. I go over this more in depth in The Postpartum Cure.
Log Three Days of Normal Eating:
Next, I want you to eat just like normal, and log everything you eat. I am assuming that you’ve already established a healthy milk supply. If you haven’t, I wouldn’t suggest trying to restrict calories. I would suggest going for a cleaner diet, and eating as much of nutrient-dense foods as you can. This protein powder and shakes help me, as well as filling myself up with foods that are full of the nutrients you need.
If your milk supply is great, and you are eating nutrient-dense foods, but you think you need to cut back a bit to lose the last few pounds, then logging three days of what you would normally eat is going to help so much. This will give you an average of the number of calories you are eating.
I can’t tell you how many calories you need. You have to figure that out because so many factors play a role. Your height, genetics, metabolism, muscle mass and more. It is so important that you figure out your ideal calorie intake for your body.
Let’s say you are currently eating 2100 calories, and you feel great, your milk supply is healthy, but you have more fat to lose. Let’s get into what to do next.
Cut Back on Calories Slowly:
If you are at 2100, try cutting back to 2000 every day. This will give your body time to adjust, ensure your milk production stays steady with a smaller amount of food, and it is a reasonable goal. 100 calories is not much to cut back on each day, so it will set you up for success. If you do this for 3 days, and you feel fabulous, try 200 the next few days.
Here’s where a tricky part comes in. If you are a shorter, maybe under 5.2″, and eating 4000 calories, with limited postpartum exercise. I would suggest cutting your calories down slowly, but get closer to the 2000 range. But, I’m assuming that all those extra calories are getting stored. If you are 5.7″ eating 2500 calories, with 10 lbs to lose, the amount of calories to reduce is much less.
Because I don’t know you, your weight, your genetics and physical activity, I can’t advise you on how far to reduce your calories. I don’t know where you are starting, and how far you want to go. BUT, I can tell you that by slowly reducing your calories from your normal eating range will help you lose weight. Being responsible and learning about your body is your biggest role in doing this.
If you are looking to lose a few pounds, even 10-15, this method works great because you only need to reduce your caloric intake to about 200 a day to get there.
How to Protect Your Breast milk When Cutting Calories:
I think it is important to note that when cutting calories, your can still protect your milk supply by focusing on the type of calories you are putting in. I find protein shakes to be super helpful, lots of fruits and veggies, sweet potatoes and more. You can check out these foods, or these supply boosters that I like to help!
I go more into detail on how to do this in my program, The Postpartum Cure. If you are struggling to lose the baby weight, want to heal your postpartum body and work on minimizing the pooch, this program is for you. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of nourishing and healing your body. Figuring out calories is very important, but I also talk about how it may not be the number of calories you need to change, but the quality of those calories.