How Does Dieting While Breastfeeding Affect Breast Milk?

Nursing mothers often wonder if dieting while breastfeeding is safe. Although “dieting” is not considered safe while breastfeeding, mothers can safely lose weight while nursing.

First Things First

Most importantly, it is critical that breastfeeding mothers establish a healthy milk supply before altering their diet in any way. For most women, especially new mothers, a healthy and consistent milk supply will not be established until approximately 8 weeks after delivery. Altering the diet at any time before milk supply is well established can cause adverse affects, resulting in a compromised supply of milk.

Caloric Needs While Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding women need to consume at least 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day to prevent a decrease in milk supply. For the majority of breastfeeding women, caloric intake should be approximately 500 calories more than a woman who is not breastfeeding, which would equal approximately 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day. Decreasing daily calories suddenly will reduce milk supply. In fact, studies have shown that rapid weight loss programs will cause fat-soluble toxins to be released into the breastmilk, which could be dangerous for your developing baby.

Quality of Calories

Equally as important as how many calories are consumed while breastfeeding is the quality of calories being consumed. For example, the average single-patty cheeseburger from a fast-food restaurant has 550 calories. You could eat almost 6 medium-sized bananas and consume the same amount of calories. Typically, women consume enough good calories to supply healthy breastmilk. However, when proper nutrients are not being received during breastfeeding, the body will begin using stored nutrients. Because breastmilk is directly affected by the foods that the nursing mother consumes, making wise nutrition choices is critical for the health of your newborn, in the event that the body needs to rely upon its food storage for milk production. If a breastfeeding mother continues to consume too few calories, these supplies will run out eventually, leading to decreased or non-existent milk production.

Wise Nutritional Choices for Healthy Weight Loss

Rather than going on a diet of some type, breastfeeding women should carefully scrutinize their daily diet and make changes accordingly. Some helpful questions to ask yourself include:

  • What am I eating? Although some fat is necessary in the human diet, most individuals simply consume too much fat throughout the day. Decrease the amount of fat and aim to eat healthier fats, such as nuts, avocados and olive oil. Breastfeeding women should consume 65 grams of protein each day to prevent a decrease in muscle mass. Protein will give you a “full” sensation and will increase your metabolism, leading to weight loss.
  • How often am I eating? Rather than eating one or two small meals a day, aim to eat six smaller meals throughout the day. Not only will eating more frequently decrease the chances of feeling hungry and having snack cravings, which often leads to unhealthy eating choices, but the body’s metabolism will be forced to stay elevated.
  • What am I drinking? People often do not realize how many calories they are consuming in drinks, which could be hundreds. Replace high-sugar drinks like juice and soda with water.

Knowing that the nutritional choices you make directly affect your breastmilk, which directly affects your baby, is sufficient for most women that are curious about dieting while breastfeeding.


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