Why am I craving sugar breastfeeding?

what to eat after child birth

Has your sweet tooth taken on a life of its own since you started breastfeeding? Well, don't worry! You're not the only one searching for chocolate at 2 am. Sugar cravings are super common amongst breastfeeding women.


Although we might not be able to suppress our cravings completely, understanding why we are experiencing these hankerings for sugar can help us resist.


Why am I craving sugar?

Figuring out what's triggering your appetite for sweets might take a little time. We'll help make it easier for you with this article. There are plenty of reasons why breastfeeding women crave sugar, and there's not a one size fits all explanation. Possible causes include:


1. Lack of sleep

Unfortunately, those hours of shut-eye that you're missing out on could be to blame for your mid-morning chocolate cake cravings. If you're not getting as much sleep as you need, or your sleep is interrupted, a set of hormonal signals are triggered. For example, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol will increase after a bad night's sleep. And, when this happens, all our brains want is glucose (high-carb and high-sugar foods) because these are the foods that give us a quick hit of energy.


When you give in to your cravings, your brain gets that initial energy hit that it's after and therefore believes the sugar did an excellent job. So, the more you give in to your cravings, the stronger they will become, and if we're not careful, it can bring on a nasty cycle.


The best way to deal with cravings caused by a lousy night's sleep is to get on the front foot. Having a large glass of water, plus a healthy and wholesome breakfast soon after you wake up, will stabilise your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels are stabilised, your brain receives a steady stream of glucose, reducing any sudden drops.


2. You are not getting the nutrients you need

Eating chocolate is a lot easier than preparing a grilled steak. That's why busy mums can often become deficient in many essential vitamins and minerals. Mineral deficiencies are one of the leading causes of sugar cravings. Magnesium and chromium, in particular, play a significant role in stabilising blood sugar levels.


Both magnesium and chromium can be found in the fresh produce that we eat. So if we're feeding our sugar cravings with biscuits and soft drinks, there's a big chance we won't be hitting our recommended daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals.


Supplements can come in handy in the first few months of breastfeeding. It’s important to chat to healthcare professionals when considering introducing any supplements into your diet. Alternatively, a breastfeeding specific health shake like In Shape Mummy contains a dose of over 25 vitamins and minerals. The best thing is, it's not another thing you need to remember to take each day; it's just thrown into the blender with your other smoothie ingredients.


3. You're not eating enough protein

Protein should be a post-partum mum's number one priority. It's essential for several reasons. Not only does your little one need protein to grow and thrive, but new mums also need it for their recovery.


If your diet is low in protein and high in simple carbohydrates, you are much more likely to crave sugar and have strong urges to comfort eat. So if you notice you're craving something sweet after dinner, it might signify that you need more protein.


Some high protein foods you can add to any meal include eggs, lean red meat, chicken, tofu, beans and lentils, dark leafy greens, milk, cheese, and nuts. Here's an example day on a plate that you can follow amp up your protein intake.


Breakfast:

In Shape Mummy smoothie

1 cup almond milk

1 handful almonds

2 tbsp In Shape Mummy Caramel Fudge Health Shake

2 tbsp oats

3/4 cup frozen raspberries



Morning snack:

2 boiled eggs on rice cakes with hummus


Lunch:

Tuna salad


Afternoon snack:

In Shape Mummy Salted Caramel Peanut Fudge Protein Bites


Dinner:

Grilled steak with roasted root vegetables


4. You're over-hungry

Just like when we're overtired, not getting enough nutrients, and not eating enough protein, being overly hungry wreaks havoc on our hormones and blood sugar levels. As we mentioned above, when we skip a meal, our brain sends signals to the rest of our bodies, letting us know we need energy. And what's the easiest way for us to get a shot of energy? Calorie-dense foods.


Research has proven that skipping meals can cause persistent and intrusive thoughts about food. And can cause you to lose control at mealtimes resulting in overeating. So if you're skipping meals as a way to cut calories and speed up weight loss, you could be causing the total opposite effect.


Women who are breastfeeding should be eating three meals and two snacks per day. It's essential to focus on the nutrients of your food rather than the calories. If you're filling your plate with lean protein, wholesome vegetables and fruits and whole grains, while avoiding highly processed foods, you're putting yourself on the right track to losing the kilos gained during pregnancy.


How to stop craving sugar while breastfeeding

Being aware of why you are craving sugar is the number one way to keep your cravings at bay. So if you find yourself reaching for the chocolate bar, ask yourself, am I overtired? Have I been eating enough healthy food lately? Did my last meal have enough protein?


And if the cravings won’t budge, try the distraction method. Before you give in, go for a walk around the block, do some push-ups, have a large glass of water, or call a friend. Do something to distract yourself in the moment, and often, you’ll forget about your craving.


And remember to go easy on yourself; a treat here and there is okay. Stick to the 90/10 rule: wholesome, healthy food 90% of the time and treats 10% of the time.


Can too much sugar affect my breast milk?

When breastfeeding, the food you eat affects not only your health but your baby's as well. Highly processed foods are generally low in essential nutrients, so not a lot of goodness from these foods pass through your breastmilk and onto your little one. This is one of the reasons why breastfeeding women are advised to limit their intake of highly processed foods, and foods containing lots of sugar.


Is natural sugar okay when breastfeeding?

Refined sugar is not a friend of the digestive system, because it is a foreign substance, and our bodies don’t know what to do with it. So, we break it down super quickly, and this causes our blood sugar levels to skyrocket.


Refined sugar and processed foods are full of empty calories, so you don’t feel full or satiated after eating them. On the other hand, foods that contain natural sugar, like fruit, also contain fibre. When we eat food high in fibre, as it’s processed, it combines with water in our digestive system and swells, making us feel full. So there is no reason to avoid natural sugar while breastfeeding.


If you feel a craving for sugar, why not try a piece of sweet fruit? 


How can a breastfeeding meal replacement shake help with sugar cravings?

In Shape Mummy is a meal replacement shake designed specifically for breastfeeding mums. It helps to tackle some of the leading causes of post-partum sugar cravings. It’s packed with protein to help you hit your daily target and enhanced with vitamins and minerals to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need throughout the day. The delicious chocolate brownie, caramel fudge and vanilla flavours satisfy sweet cravings but they only contain less than 1 gram of sugar which is naturally derived from monk fruit.


Extra Support

If you’re looking for extra support, join our Facebook Group – The In Shape Mummy Breastfeeding Support Group. Join over one thousand breastfeeding mums all sharing their experience and supporting one another.

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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