Looking Past The Celebrity Bodies & Getting the Calories Breastfeeding Moms Need
Did you know that breastfeeding women need to take in more calories per day than pregnant women? A breastfeeding mom needs an extra 500 calories per day (more for nursing multiples) over her normal diet.
But not many women know that. Most women see magazine headlines about how celebrities return to their pre-pregnancy bodies in a matter of weeks but aren’t given good information about how, and what, to eat while breastfeeding to help ensure that both mom and baby are healthy. Our calorie- and weight-conscious culture can badly undermine breastfeeding mothers. Especially nursing moms who are struggling to maintain their breast milk supply.
Those celebrity magazine photo spreads create an unrealistic, and unhealthy, idea of what we’re “supposed” to look like immediately after having a baby. And even though most of us know that it’s unrealistic, the thoughts are still there, nagging at us, making us wonder if maybe we should start dieting and drastically cutting back on calories. The answer, of course, is NO – that’s not healthy.
Breastfeeding mothers need to be focused on actually taking in enough calories through healthy foods (fruits and veggies, proteins, whole grains), not restricting calories. Restricting calories will actually decrease your body’s ability to make enough breastmilk. But to eat enough healthy foods, we all need to be better educated about how to make good choices about what to eat, how much to eat, and how to still indulge in occasional treats in a way that doesn’t undermine our breastfeeding goals.
Start by listening closely to your own body’s appetite cues. Your body is well-equipped to inform you about what it needs if you stop to listen. Your appetite communicates by hunger and fullness cues, sent from the cells in your body to your brain. Just like the celebrity magazines lure us to think our body is not good enough after we have a baby, many fitness and nutrition magazines overwhelm us with too many “quick tips to eating healthy” – which are not the way to eat healthy. Instead, start with the best tool you have – your own body. Listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues more closely and be educated about what and how much your body needs. Stock your kitchen with foods from all the food groups so that when you’re hungry, you have a variety of choices.
As a breastfeeding mom, your body is amazing. It nourished a baby during pregnancy and now is providing the absolute best nourishment available – breastmilk. Make sure to give your body the credit that it is due and listen to your appetite cues.
Of course, we all understand how difficult it is to just ignore the pressure about losing the “baby weight”. But keep these points in mind (post them on the bathroom mirror to remind yourself if you need to!):
- New mothers should lose no more than 1 pound per week (after the initial weight loss from birth, of course). Losing weight more rapidly can cause a dramatic decrease in milk production.
- Most breastfeeding mothers will keep that last 5 pounds or so – it ensures that you have enough body fat to maintain your milk production. Once your baby weans, that extra weight disappears. But don’t fight it and risk your milk production.
- Remember that your fat stores are mobilized during breastfeeding. That fat we’ve been carrying around for years is there to help produce milk. It actually does have a good purpose!