9 answers

How Many Calories a Day for Nursing Mom?

I got such a great response to my post a few days ago, I thought I would run this by you helpful women also... I cannot remember how many calories a day you should have while nursing... Is it 2500? I also am having a hard time finding foods to help me meet this requirement that aren't gonna cost me an arm and a leg.. Any suggestions? My milk supply is good right now but I am starting to exercise a little bit to be able to fit into my clothes and get rid of the "hail damage" in the thigh area. :)

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks for all the advice. I am just eating when I am hungry and trying very hard to eat as healthy as possible. Of course I am also drinking up a storm!

More Answers

Hi K.,

I've been bfing my dd of 9.5 months, and have never counted calories. I just drink water when I'm thirsty, eat when I'm hungry, and try my best to eat healthy. I think that the extra calories needed is equal to an extra snack or light meal. I've never had any supply issues.

Here is more info from La Leche League:

"The number of calories a woman needs depends upon how much body fat she has and how active she is. While women are often advised to consume about 500 extra calories daily while they are breastfeeding (compared to before pregnancy), research now indicates that this could be too much for some women, while for others it could be insufficient."

"In general, drinking to thirst is a good rule. You are usually drinking enough if your urine is light colored. Many mothers feel thirsty when they breastfeed, especially when the baby is a newborn. It’s a good idea to have a glass of water available while breastfeeding. Drinking beyond one’s needs is unnecessary, as it doesn’t help to increase the milk and may be unpleasant."

Source: Maternal Nutrition during Breastfeeding from LLL (http://www.llli.org/NB/NBMarApr04p44.html)

I used slimfast after each of my boys were born and nursed them until they were a year old. If you go to there website it has you enter info and comes up with a meal plan/calorie count for you and it does take into account nursing. I'm not a breakfast person, so the shake for me was a good fit and I lost my weight. Good luck and remember it took 9 months to put it on, so it may take some time to take it back off, but they're worth it!

I'm not sure how this is different for different women, but I am studying to be a midwife. Right now I'm studying nutrition and what I learned is 3000 calories for pregnant women and 4,000 calories for nursing moms. This is a lot more than what you said. So here is an aritcle I just found on the net, which makes a lot of sense to me. It's a combination of info and encouragement to listen to your body!

Actually, I'm glad about this, I will ask my teacher about the large number above. Thanks for the push to learn a bit more.

Do breastfeeding mothers need extra calories?

In general, you should simply listen to your body and eat to appetite - this is usually all you need to do to get the calories you need. When exclusively nursing a young baby, it is very common to feel hungry much of the time... listen to your body. Mothers of older babies may feel hungrier when baby temporarily increases his or her milk intake (for example, during a growth spurt)... again, listen to your body. Counting calories is rarely necessary unless you are having problems maintaining a healthy weight.
If you really want (or need) to count calories...

Studies have shown that most healthy breastfeeding women maintain an abundant milk supply while taking in 1800-2200 (or more) calories per day. Consuming less than 1500-1800 calories per day (most women should stay at the high end of this range) may put your milk supply at risk, as may a sudden drop in caloric intake. (See Can I diet while breastfeeding? for more information on calorie restriction).

A mother's "baseline" need for calories (not including lactation) depends upon her activity level, weight and nutritional status. A mother who is less active, has more fat stores, and/or eats foods higher in nutritional value may need fewer calories than a mom who is more active, has fewer fat stores, and/or eats more processed foods. This link from the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine has more information (including a handy calculator) on determining your individual caloric needs: Research helps fine-tune a woman's true caloric needs.

An exclusively breastfeeding mother, on average, needs to take in 300-500 calories per day above what was needed to maintain pre-pregnancy weight. Since the recommended added calories during the last two trimesters of pregnancy is 300 calories/day, an exclusively breastfeeding mother will typically need either the same amount of calories she was getting at the end of pregnancy, or up to 200 additional calories per day. That's the equivalent of adding 1-2 healthy snacks per day.

Per Breastfeeding and Human Lactation (Riordan, 2004, p. 438), "The amount of energy needed by lactating mothers continues to be debated. The lactating mother need not maintain a markedly higher caloric intake than that maintained prior to pregnancy: in most cases, 400-500 calories in excess of that which is needed to maintain the mother's body weight is sufficient."

The number of additional calories needed for nursing depends on:

* The extent of breastfeeding:
Is your child exclusively breastfed, mostly breastfed, or breastfed 1-2 times per day? If your nursling is only partially breastfed (for example, an older child who is getting less milk, or a younger child who is getting formula supplements), calorie requirements would be proportionally less.
* Mom's fat reserves:
Is your body mass index [BMI] low, high or in-between? A mom who does not have any spare fat reserves (and most of us do!) will need the greatest number of extra calories. Maternal fat stores typically provide about 200 calories per day towards lactation, so if your BMI is low (particularly if you're considered very underweight, or BMI<19.8) you will need to get extra calories from your diet.

2500 is about right. You need about 500 extra calories a day compared to when you are not pregnant or nursing. Peanutbutter, bread, yogurt, cheese, and dried fruits are all good nutrient dense, inexpensive foods to add. Exercise is good and in most cases won't hurt your milk supply.

Per the lactation specialist I worked with at St. Rose Hospital she recommended only 300 - 500 additional calories that you would need for yourself. So if you are eating 2500 calories a day I would say you either will gain weight or not lose any of the post pardum weight you may have left. As your child starts to breast feed less (once you are giving them solids) your extra calorie intake will need to decrease.

The rule of thumb is to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and if you are eating 3 normal balanced meals a day. Add another additional meal of about 300 calories a day plus 2 healthy snacks to make up for what you need to supply to the baby in milk production.

I hope this helps!

I do not know this answer, but 2500/ day sounds awfully high. The average for women is less than 2000, so if you are eating 2500, you may be packing on some lbs. I think the key is to eat and eat healthy, don't starve yourself to try to lose the baby weight.

I believe it's anywhere from 2500-3000 calories, but with my first I only ate about 1500 calories and worked out like crazy and my mile supply was never affected at all. I did however drink water like crazy and occasionally would have a beer to keep up the milk production. I think it varies greatly for every woman. If you feel you are eating enough and your milk supply is established and still plentiful than don't be so concerned about how many calories you are consuming.

The guidelines I am familiar with say to add 300-500 calories per day to what you are already eating. This should definitely include some protein and some fiber, so something like veggies with cream cheese or apples with peanut butter are good. Some days I would just have a bowl of cereal or oatmeal as a snack.

However, if you're not hungry, you feel reasonably energetic, and you are not having supply problems there's no reason to eat extra calories. Just make sure you stay hydrated with your workouts, you should be fine!

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