What if I told you that the best breastfeeding diet for nursing moms wasn’t a “diet” at all. At least, not in the sense you’re probably thinking about it.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word diet my mind instantly goes to weight loss, calorie cutting, and healthy eating. And you may be here because you’re wanting to know how you can lose weight when you’re breastfeeding (I’ll get to that, I promise!)
But in this post, I’m mostly talking about how to eat for optimal health and well being when you’re breastfeeding – your overall diet or way of eating.
A Healthy Breastfeeding Diet
For good health and breast milk production, you need about 500 extra calories a day. However, this number is subjective and you may require more or fewer calories depending on your unique needs and lifestyle.
And here’s something to note: the quality of your breast milk isn’t affected if you consume a poor diet – it will be the perfect nutrition your baby needs one way or another.
So there’s room for pizza, burgers, and chocolate. You don’t have to practice “clean eating” or cut out carbs and sugar.
Is that a relief, or what?
Now let’s talk about what to eat, what to avoid, and what to think about when you’re breastfeeding and want to eat well and even lose weight.
What to Eat When You’re Breastfeeding
You’ll be pleased to know that the best breastfeeding diet for nursing moms is one that’s varied, balanced, and ensures you get adequate nutrition – including the vitamins and minerals you need to be in good health.
Start by becoming aware of how you eat now.
Try tracking what you eat for a week and see if you’re getting in meat, dairy, grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
Make a note of how much you’re eating, when, and how you feel after each meal.
When you’re aware of where you’re starting, you can think about what you want to accomplish and set some personal goals.
To get you started, let’s talk about what you can eat so that you have the best breastfeeding diet possible for you.
Eat a Variety of Foods
For starters, it’s important to eat a variety of foods. That makes it easier to get in all the necessary food groups.
Eating a variety of foods ensures you’ll get in the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs and when you’re breastfeeding, nothing is more important than keeping yourself healthy – you need to be at your best to take care of that baby!
Balance Your Plate
When you’re planning a meal – or snack, for that matter – think about covering your bases.
At each meal, try to get in:
- Protein/meat (Vegetarians, think about boosting your B vitamins if you’re not consuming meat/dairy)
- Fruit and/or veggies
- And a serving or two of dairy products throughout the day
One tool that really helps and saves me time is a portion control plate. These plates make it a no-brainer when you’re putting together a meal. You see what you need to include on your plate and about how much to portion out.
The porcelain plate at the right helps you manage portion sizes, has a design that gives you suggestions for what food goes where and is microwave and dishwasher safe. Love it!
Choose Natural Foods Over Processed Foods
Here’s another no-brainer tip for maintaining good health and well being when you’re breastfeeding: the less processed the food, the better.
So lean cuts of meat broiled, baked, or roasted, is a good choice for protein. Raw or steamed veggies, fresh-cut fruit, and whole grains round out your meal.
And when your meals are put together like this and prepared right, you can easily use leftovers as grab-and-go snacks. Great for when Baby is cluster feeding and you need food that’s ready to go.
What Not to Eat When You’re Breastfeeding
The good news here is that you can eat just about anything when you’re breastfeeding. Sure, there are exceptions. Namely, certain herbs and anything you’re allergic to. Other than that, you can enjoy a wide range of foods put together in tasty, hunger-satisfying ways.
➡ Read more about what foods to avoid while breastfeeding.
Avoid Supplements and Meal Replacements
It’s important to know that weight loss/herbal supplements and meal replacements like Shakeology and Plexus are a no-no and should be avoided when you’re breastfeeding.
Because many of these supplements contain ingredients that have not been proven safe for breastfeeding moms and very little is known about how (if at all) some of these ingredients transfer through breast milk.
Just because something has not been proven to cause harm does not mean it’s safe, and that’s an important distinction.
Best Diet to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
While calorie cutting and fad diets are NOT recommended when you’re breastfeeding, you can make some changes to your diet and lose weight while breastfeeding.
First, get the OK from your doctor. It’ll be about 6-8 weeks before you’re cleared to lose weight and exercise – longer if you’ve had a C-Section.
The good news is that breastfeeding alone is linked to postpartum weight loss. The key here is nursing on-demand (as opposed to a schedule or going by the clock) and for at least 6 months.
To lose weight while breastfeeding:
- Get your doctor’s approval to lose weight.
- Avoid weight loss supplements, fad diets, and even mainstream diet and weight loss plans/programs.
- Eat when you’re hungry and drink water when you’re thirsty. Do NOT reduce calories.
- Choose high-quality meat, whole grains, and fruits and veggies over processed foods.
Mindful Eating for Breastfeeding Moms
Before I got pregnant, mindful eating was working really well for me. By paying attention to my hunger, noticing when I was full, and becoming aware of how food made me feel, I was able to get the scale moving down and I wasn’t depriving myself, counting calories, or dieting in the traditional sense.
I did really well with this Virtual Gastric Band Hypnosis app that programs your mindset.
I listened to that as suggested by the program and dropped 10 pounds in a month…without dieting!
So when my breastfeeding journey begins and after I’ve been cleared to lose weight, I will be going back to this plan.
Mindful eating for breastfeeding moms is probably the best breastfeeding diet plan there is. It’s simply about eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re satisfied, and paying attention to how food makes you feel, so you can adjust your eating plan accordingly.
What can be easier than that?
And I really like that there’s no stress with this diet plan – it’s about ease and grace. It’s about finding what works for you in your unique situation.
➡ Check out my favorite mindful eating books (THE best diet for breastfeeding moms) below!
Thin Side Out: Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans, Too!Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful – Savor Food with Intention and JoyEat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating ProgramMindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We ThinkIntuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works
What About Exercise When You’re Breastfeeding?
The other half of the “weight loss equation” is exercise. A few things need to happen before you start – or get back to – exercising when you’re breastfeeding.
First, it’s important to take it easy for the first eight weeks or so after giving birth. Don’t start your exercise routine before that – focus on postpartum recovery and getting breastfeeding basics down.
When you’re ready, let your doctor know you want to get back to exercising.
Once you’re cleared to begin, start slowly. It’s important to know that – for some women – exercise depletes milk supply and it can change the taste of your milk (Baby might not like that!), which is why it’s important to start slow and take it easy.
Good nutrition and hydration may be enough for your body and, if that’s true, honor that. Make it a priority to focus on getting your nutrition in tip-top shape and drinking plenty of water.
If you’re determined to add activity back into your schedule, gentle, low-intensity movement is a good start.
Walking is a great exercise for breastfeeding moms – I know, you’ve heard it before…bear with me!
The great thing about walking is that you can do it anywhere, anytime, at your own pace. You can take an easy walk just for the joy of moving your body and Baby can come with you!
You can gradually increase intensity to break a sweat and work your heart muscle.
And you can continue to build up to more intense exercise.
➡ Always – of course! – being aware of your supply and making your breastfeeding journey the priority!