It is quite common for breastfeeding mothers to feel extra hungry and thirty. Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy which burns calories and depletes hydration. Your energy expenditure is to your baby’s advantage because the effort your body spends making breast milk directly benefits your baby. Here’s the skinny on what’s happening when you breastfeed:
It is estimated that producing breast milk takes 25% of the body’s energy. That means you are working extra hard to maintain all other life-sustaining functions. So it’s no wonder the extra load will make you more hungry and thirsty.
Two very common questions of breastfeeding mothers are: how many calories does breastfeeding burn and how many calories should I eat while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can burn up to 1,000 calories a day, depending on the amount of breast milk you are producing and expressing. However, experts recommend that nursing moms eat 300-500 extra calories a day. Typically this puts mothers in a 1,800-2,200 calorie range per day. Dipping below 1,500 calories a day can interfere with milk production.
Of course nutrition must be assessed on an individual basis, especially when it comes to lactating moms. Those with more fat reserves may be able to eat less while breastfeeding. Those with active lifestyles may need to eat more to keep up with the caloric demands of their day on top of producing breast milk.
While a healthy diet is optimal for mothers, even those with less-than-perfect diets can produce quality breast milk for their babies. As much as possible, nursing moms should try to eat nutrient-rich foods including whole grains, protein, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Maximizing nutrition in meals can help keep calories from being excessive while still getting all the good stuff you need. Nursing moms are also encouraged to continue taking prenatal supplements to increase the nutritional output of their breast milk.
When it comes to water, most experts recommend drinking to quench your thirst. This probably means eight to ten 8-oz. servings of water-based liquids a day. Over consumption of water is not going to increase milk supply and may actually have the opposite effect. If you find breastfeeding makes you thirstier than usual – which many women do – drink a bit more water to stay hydrated. Light yellow urine is a good indication that you are drinking plenty of water.
Most of the time your body will tell you how much you need to eat or drink while breastfeeding. The transition from pregnancy to postpartum breastfeeding can make reading your body somewhat difficult at first. You may find yourself famished at times or not hungry at all. When you are hungry and thirsty, eat and drink. If you aren’t, eat and drink enough to maintain good nutrition and hydration. Also remember, when your baby hits a growth spurt, your body may be working even harder to produce milk to satisfy your little one and therefore you may be hungrier or thirstier than usual. After the growth spurt, you can probably reduce your food and water intake again.