You were warned about the sleepless nights, but no one told you about the round-the-clock hunger and thirst that comes with breastfeeding. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to safely curb your breastfeeding hunger, while not impacting your milk supply.
Why does breastfeeding make me hungry?
Breastfeeding requires energy, and our bodies need to burn calories to create this energy. The extra energy used each day to create milk is around 500 calories and can be even higher during the first few weeks. In addition to this sustained energy use, most mothers are tired and suffering from sleep deprivation. When we're in an overtired state, it often causes a desire to comfort eat, and high-sugar, high-carb foods are usually the go-to in these cases.
Other reasons you are always hungry wile breastfeeding
1. Skipping meals
A new mum is undoubtedly in the running to be one of the busiest people in the world. Not only are you exhausted and depleted after having just given birth, but now you also get woken up every couple of hours to feed, burp, change and settle your little one.
With a schedule like this, it's understandable that many mums either forget to eat or don't get a chance sometimes. However, skipping meals can lead to a dangerous level of hunger, and therefore accessible, convenient, one-handed snacks are your best friend in the first few weeks; they'll get you through to the next meal if you find yourself caught up.
2. Not eating enough protein
Protein requirements increase after birth for two reasons: to assist the mother in her recovery and support healthy growth in the baby. Getting adequate protein post-childbirth is one of the most powerful ways to support recovery and keep all cells in mum and bub happy and healthy.
A high-protein diet is the most satiating diet of all. Protein not only helps to keep you full, but it also increases the secretion of the appetite and hunger-reducing hormones. Your body craves protein, so if you're not consuming enough, hormones will create hunger signals, encouraging your body to eat something and restore the protein.
Delicious high-protein foods for breastfeeding include:
Mild dehydration is one of the leading causes of overeating. This is because your body thinks it needs food when really, it's looking to be hydrated. Why? Because the section of the brain called the hypothalamus is responsible for regulating both appetite and thirst. So as we start to become dehydrated, our default is often to go for food rather than water.
The solution? Stay ahead of your hydration. Even if coffee is the first thing on your mind when you open your eyes, first have a large glass of water. Other tips to help with water intake:
Buy a reusable water bottle that you like and keep it on you, always. Pro-tip for breastfeeding mums; get a bottle that has a straw rather than a lid. Taking a cap off one-handed is difficult, whereas a pop-up straw is simple.
Rehydrate every time you feed, even during the night feeds.
It doesn't just have to be plain water; try mineral water, adding a slice of lemon or some mixed berries. Or, if you're really not a water lover, herbal teas are a great option.
4. Not eating enough fibre
Dietary fibre is super important for post-partum women. Fibre is what keeps everything running smoothly in our digestive systems, and if we're not consuming enough, it can lead to constipation. If there's one thing a post-partum mum wants to avoid, it's having to push when going to the toilet!
There are two types of fibre, and you want to begin incorporating both into your diet. Insoluble fibre is the type that speeds up the digestive process and moves things along. Whereas insoluble is the type that adds bulk to the foods you've eaten and helps to keep you feeling full. So, if your diet lacks fibre, increased hunger is often one of the first things you'll notice.
High fibre foods for breastfeeding women include:
Lentils and beans (chickpeas, kidney beans etc.)
Vegetables, in particular broccoli, carrots, and Brussel sprouts
Fruits, including avocado, berries, apples, pears, and kiwi fruit
5. Bub is going through a growth phase
If bub is going through a growth spurt or cluster feeding, chances are you're going to be extra hungry. So the most important thing to do during these times is to honour your hunger and fuel your body with nutrient-dense, satisfying and satiating foods.
Remind yourself that your number one job is to support your little one's needs. If you're not eating enough or missing out one essential nutrients due to skipped meals, it's going to cause issues for you and your bub. So surround yourself with nutritious one-handed snacks and be sure to have some prepped for the night-time.
Fantastic one-handed snacks for breastfeeding mums include:
Veggie sticks with hummus
Bananas and apples
Homemade sugar-free muffins, cookies, or muesli bars
Fuelling your body regularly and consistently is key. Our advice is to set reminders on your phone to prompt you to grab a snack, make a smoothie or have some lunch. New mums have a million things on their minds, so simplifying things where we can is vital.
2. Limit sugar intake
When we are overtired, we see a spike in cortisol levels, which tells our body we are under stress. So our body thinks we need to fuel it with high-energy foods to deal with this extra stress. And this leads to cravings for high-sugar treats and comfort-eating.
When women give in to these cravings, they will often choose an unhealthy option instead of a healthy option. So not only are we getting the negative impact of unhealthy food, but we're also missing out on potential nutrients from healthy foods.
If it's something sugary you're craving, instead go for something with natural sugar like fruit or something sweet that's sugar-free like an In Shape Mummy hot chocolate or chai.
3. Focus on nutrients, not calories
We recommended aiming for wholesome foods 90% of the time and treats 10% of the time. You want every meal to contain a healthy amount of carbs, fats, protein, and as many colourful vegetables as possible. A simple method to follow is fill half your plate with vegetables, half a cup of cooked carbs and a piece of protein that fits in the palm of your hand.
4. Reduce energy expenditure (if you can)
If you're finding it too difficult to eat enough food throughout the day, it's super important to rest and reserve your energy. We recommend avoiding any intense physical exercise until you're able to eat a substantial number of calories. Take naps when you can and opt for smaller, more frequent meals.
How much should a breastfeeding mum eat?
Most healthy breastfeeding women maintain an abundant milk supply while taking in between 1800-2200 calories per day. However, there is no one size fits all figure as it depends on your BMI. Your BMI (body mass index)is calculated based on your age, weight, height, whether you are breastfeeding partially or exclusively and how much activity you do.
Should I eat at night while breastfeeding?
During the first few weeks, you may find you need to snack during the night-time feeds. Eight-ten hours is a long time to go without fuelling your body if you’re up multiple times and burning energy while you feed.
Bananas are an excellent night-time snack as they are high in potassium which promotes good sleep.
Veggie sticks and hummus, a boiled egg, or handful of nuts.
Avocado on toast with a boiled egg, sliced tomato, and spinach.
Tuna on rick cakes, In Shape Mummy Salted Caramel Peanut Fudge Protein Bites, or an In Shape Mummy Health Shake.
Grilled fish with a quinoa salad, bolognaise with zucchini noodles or a chicken curry with brown rice.
Cooking in bulk and freezing will be your saviour during the busy first few months.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything to curb your hunger but you’re still always hungry while breastfeeding, give In Shape Mummy a go. In Shape Mummy is a meal replacement shake designed specifically for breastfeeding women. It contains protein, fibre and 25 essential vitamins and minerals.
Head to our website to order your health shakes today.
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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