Now that you're breastfeeding, do you suddenly feel voraciously hungry and constantly thirsty? This is quite common because breastfeeding takes a lot of energy which burns calories and depletes hydration. But don't sweat the extra calories you're consuming - it's definitely for the benefit of your baby. And besides frequent trips to the bathroom, drinking lots of water will help your milk supply and keep your entire body functioning properly.
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 or who are exercising while breastfeeding 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.
Your baby will have several significant growth spurts within the first year and the fluctuation in your milk supply and breast size may be quite noticeable. Be sure to have stretchy and adjustable nursing bras on hand to accommodate these normal ebbs and flows, such as The Uma or The Janet, two of our most popular cotton wirefree nursing bras. Nursing tank tops are also excellent for shifts in your breast size. They feature inner slings for support, as well as ample stretchy comfort.
As you are listening to your body during this sacred time, be sure to maintain healthy habits beyond nutrition. Exercise while breastfeeding is usually fine for new moms and often encouraged, as it helps keep up your energy level and releases feel-good hormones that compliment the happy hormones you get from breastfeeding. Try incorporating your baby into your exercise while breastfeeding by doing yoga or talking walks in The Danika, our uber-cute nursing sports bra.
Be sure to get plenty of relaxation and sleep too. Breastfeeding and caring for an infant is draining on your body so carve out time for rest and solid sleep. In our easy-access leisure bras and sleep bras - like The Meryl, The Felicity, and The Serenity - you'll be ready for feedings when nap time is over!