How many calories should I eat while nursing, in order to lose weight?
This is a very common question here, so I thought that I would place a sticky here to answer the question.
Calorie counting is something that is personal to each individual. The more you weigh, and the more active you are, the more calories you can eat per day and still lose weight. For instance, a woman who is 250 pounds and exercising can eat more than a woman who is 140 pounds and sedentary.
When you are nursing, however, you are not the only concern. You are a primary food source for your infant, and your body will need about 300-500 calories a day JUST FOR MILK PRODUCTION. This would be the same as going out and running a few miles every day! If you dip TOO low in calories while you nurse, your milk supply can be affected, and you can start becoming malnourished as well!
La Leche League and other breastfeeding groups, books, and other references recommend that you do not go under 1800 calories a day while nursing an infant. However, not every nursing mother needs to eat only 1800 calories per day-many can eat more than this, and lose.
A nursing woman eating 1800 calories per day is the equivalent of a NON-nursing woman eating about 1300 per day. 1800 calories a day for a nursing mother is the LOW end, and most nursing women do not need to start out this low.
I recommend using trial and error to find the correct calorie level for you. If you have under 30 pounds to lose, try 1800 calories for a week, and weigh in. If you lose 1-2 pounds, then this is the correct level for you. If you lose MORE than this, try upping it to 1900 per day and weighing in the next week. You are aiming for a weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week.
If you have 30-50 pounds to lose, you might want to try starting with a 2000 calorie range, and adjusting it up or down from there-using the same formula. A woman with over 50 pounds to lose can probably start even higher. Remember, 2000 calories might sound like a lot, but 300-500 of that per day goes directly to your baby.
It usually takes a couple of weeks to tweak the calorie range so that it fits your individual needs.