How Many Calories Do You Need to Lose Weight & Support Milk Supply?
A breastfed baby depends on their mother for 100% of their nutrition. That's why extra nutrients are required for milk production and to support your precious baby's healthy growth and development.
Extreme diets and cutting out major food groups are a no-no while breastfeeding because you'll miss out on too many vital nutrients. You'll also risk impacting your milk supply due to not eating enough for your body's needs.
So how many calories do you need to eat to lose weight at the same time as supporting your milk supply? Let’s find out.
Your weight is a result of an energy equation.
When you boil it down to basics, weight loss and weight gain seem simple. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Alternatively, you will lose weight if you burn more energy than you consume.
However, if you eat too few calories, you risk causing harm to your body. And, if your calories are too low while breastfeeding, you can impact your milk supply.
So, the key to losing weight when breastfeeding is to consume nutrient-dense, healthy foods and maintain at least a moderate level of physical activity. The combination of a healthy diet and exercise should ensure your energy output is slightly less than your energy input. And this will allow you to lose weight safely and gradually without impacting your milk supply.
It’s not only about how much you eat. It’s also the types of food you eat. Eating carrots for breakfast, lunch and dinner would make you lose weight – but it would only be temporary and it would deprive you of energy. No one can go on eating like that for the rest of their lives! You need a broad range of nutrients to look and feel your best, and to support your milk supply when breastfeeding.
How many calories should I eat to lose weight while breastfeeding?
Although we don’t recommend always counting calories (as it is a lot of work for busy mums), we understand that some people benefit from a guideline.
There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to calories. A 90kg mum has different calorie requirements than a 65kg mum. The 90kg mum and 65kg mum do not need the same amount of food. The number of calories an individual needs is influenced by age, gender, weight, activity level and whether you are partially or exclusively breastfeeding.
The internet is full of advice suggesting women follow a diet of 1,200 calories. But this is unrealistic and dangerous advice for many women, especially for mums who are breastfeeding as this is nowhere near enough.
Reasons why 1,200 calories isn’t enough for breastfeeding women include:
- Hunger - If your calorie intake is too far below your calorie burning, you will be hungry all the time. And you’ll likely feel tired often and even faint/weak.
- Cravings - A diet this low in calories will cause your blood sugar levels to drop which can lead to intense sugar cravings and unhealthy binges.
- Milk Supply - 1,200 calories is too low to support healthy milk production for many women.
No one can deny that breastfeeding mums have a lot on their plate. Between sleep deprivation, changing nappies, juggling cooking dinner, and witching hour, there's not much time for weighing out exact portions of chicken and broccoli. And that is why we don't recommend strict calorie counting. Instead, we suggest having a rough idea of how many calories you should consume and aim to make up those calories with a variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods.
Access the Free In Shape Mummy Calorie Calculator
This calorie calculator takes an individual approach that considers your age, gender, weight, activity level and whether you are partially or exclusively breastfeeding to determine how many calories you need to lose weight while supporting your milk supply.
Breastfeeding women generally require an additional 250 calories per day when partially breastfeeding (breastfeeding as well as solids/formula) and an extra 500 calories per day when breastfeeding exclusively. Our calculator takes the amount you are breastfeeding into account.
Listening to your hunger cues while breastfeeding is super important. One day you might find yourself starving even though you've eaten the same amount as usual. And this could be due to your little one going through a growth spurt and taking in more milk, ultimately requiring you to make more milk.
The number of calories you require for breastfeeding is influenced by:
How often you breastfeed
In the beginning, you could be breastfeeding between 8-12 times a day. This helps to explain a mother's constant hunger and thirst during the newborn phase. For the first few months, we recommend having stacks of snacks on hand, even for the night feeds. And always keep your water bottle on you. It's easy to become dehydrated when breastfeeding so frequently. And your body can misinterpret the need to hydrate as hunger. Breastfeeding women should aim for 9-15 glasses of water each day.
How much milk you're producing
Mums with a plentiful milk supply need to consume more calories than mums with a lower milk supply. The same goes for women who mix feed with formula, as the total amount of milk you produce is less.
Your baby's age
Newborn' and younger infants take in more milk and use more energy. Infants who have started consuming solids won't require as much milk and won't use up as much energy.
What does an extra 250 to 500 calories look like?
Not all calories are equal, so you can eat an additional 300 calories in one meal, or you could spread it out over the day by choosing healthy, nutrient-dense options. For example, a packet of 2-minute noodles contains 300 calories, provides no nutritional value and won’t fill you up. At the same time, 300 calories of healthy foods looks like a tin of tuna, two rice cakes, one tomato and ¼ of an avocado. These foods contain a healthy amount of protein, carbs, healthy fats, and an array of essential vitamins & minerals which will keep you feeling full until your next meal.
A healthy example of 250 calories is a combination of the following: one boiled egg, one apple, and six almonds.
A healthy example of 500 calories is a combination of the following: 100g chicken breast, ½ cup cooked quinoa, 2 cups mixed salad, one banana, one glass of almond milk, 2 tbsp In Shape Mummy Health Shake, and ½ tbsp peanut butter.
The quality of the calories also matters
When we eat foods that are low in nutrients, our body sends us signals for us to eat more in order to meet our nutrient needs. This helps to explain why sometimes, after a low nutrient fast-food meal, we find we’re hungry again an hour later.
Nutrient-poor foods are generally highly-processed foods that offer little nutritional goodness. These highly-processed foods are usually found in the middle aisle of the supermarket. The nutrient rich fresh produce such as fruit & vegetables, lean red meat & poultry, eggs, and dairy products, are usually found on the outer edges of the supermarket. Therefore, do most of your shopping on the outer isles of the supermaket. And if you’re too tempted by those middle isle, give online shopping a go - out of sight, out of mind.
How much weight can I expect to lose?
Breastfeeding women can safely lose around 2kgs per month, and non-breastfeeding women can up their weight loss to 4-6kg per month. Breastfeeding women have to take it slower because if you lose weight too quickly it can impact your milk supply. Getting caught up on the number on the scales can be bad for our mental health, so you might find you prefer to track your weight loss by how you feel in your clothes.
How does the In Shape Mummy Health Shake help you lose weight?
In Shape Mummy Health Shakes are formulated to help breastfeeding mums get the vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre and probiotics they need to support healthy weight loss while breastfeeding.
The In Shape Mummy Health Shake is a nutritious, convenient and calorie controlled meal replacement shake that include lactation aids to boost milk production. It’s the perfect, quick and easy solution to losing weight while breastfeeding.
When you purchase an In Shape Mummy Health Shake, you get a Free 12-Week Healthy Weight Loss Support Program that includes healthy weekly meal plans and recipes.
In this program, your individual calorie requirements are calculated and the meal plans and recipes are tailored to your specific needs. There is no need to calorie count if you follow this program as it is all done for you.
The meal plans in the 12-week program are just there for a little extra guidance for those who want it. If you prefer to do your own thing you might just like to reference it for some recipe ideas.
Shevi is a qualified nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food sciences. As a new mum herself, she is passionate about postnatal-related nutrition. Shevi has worked alongside some of the most famous leaders and celebrities in the fitness industry throughout Australia and the UK.
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