A breastfeeding mom told me recently that she had the appetite of a 250 pound linebacker. She was trying to figure out how to balance this MASSIVE appetite with weight loss.
Can these things go hand in hand?
I’m currently nursing my 2nd baby and the struggle is real friends. There are days when I’m shocked by about the amount of food I can put down.
I’m constantly asking myself things like:
Where does it all go?
Can I actually lose the baby weight while eating like this?
When I’m done nursing will I have created a bad habit of eating too much?
Is my husband going to eat that cookie?
If not can I?
All real thoughts that go through my head on almost a daily basis. And based on the amount of direct messages I got to a recent instagram post I’m not alone.
After coaching many breastfeeding moms in my small group fitness program I’ve tackled a lot of the same breastfeeding related questions over and over. Its about time to get all these answers down in one place!
5 Most Common Breastfeeding & Fitness/Nutrition Questions I get:
- Will Exercising Intensely Effect My Milk Supply?
No. Research is pretty clear on this one. Many studies have been completed looking at the difference both in quantity of milk production and calorie content of milk in active moms vs sedentary moms and NO DIFFERENCE has been shown. So don’t stress that getting your workout in will effect your milk supply.
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention here that just because intense exercise should’t effect your milk supply that doesn’t mean I’m advocating for you to return to intense exercise immediately.
There are a lot of other factors at play here and its very important that you ease back into exercise, work on strengthening your core (not in traditional ways), listen to your body, and consider seeing a women’s pelvic floor physical therapist to clear you for exercise (don’t rely on your doctor or midwife only to give you the all clear). Many problems like stress induced incontinence, diastasi recti, and pelvic organ prolapse can be prevented or minimized by not pushing it too hard to soon.
- What should I eat to increase my milk production.
I get this one a lot. Particularly for moms of older babies (6+). They aren’t producing gobs of milk like they may at the beginning (or never have produced enough at all) and an increase in production is needed for baby’s growth, mom to be able to return to work, travel, just have a damn break, etc.
Many of the traditional answers you might see on a google search for increasing milk production will suggest things like oats, fenugreek, special teas, and lactation cookies. All of these are great ideas and worth trying.
Another suggestion that I offer to moms is to increase your protein intake, particularly if you are exercising. 1-1.2 gram/kg of bodyweight is the recommendation for breastfeeding moms. For a 140 lb woman that would be 63-75 grams of protein/day. I would tend to advise much more than that.
1.7-1.8 grams/kg in body weight is the optimal amount of protein for a woman who is strength training (Source). For a 140 lb woman that is approx 115 grams of protein/day. A strength training breastfeeding mom should probably increase from there.
- I am SO HUNGRY all of the time. What can I eat to feel full?
Girl. I get it. One day while eating Chipotle burrito bowls with a friend I HOUSED mine and then looked over at her like a puppy dog waiting for her to offer up the rest of hers (and then I ate that too).
The #1 thing that leaves me feeling full is protein. And lots of it. I’m striving for 25+ grams of protein per meal plus snacks high in protein.
A few ideas for you to increase your protein: Add some deli meat to your eggs, cook a pound of ground turkey and keep it on hand for snacking, greek yogurt (go with plain or choose a brand like Wallaby where you can add the sweetener yourself and control how sweet it is), meat sticks, add greek yogurt to a smoothie, high quality protein powder, high quality tuna, and oatmega bars are all great options.
- How Can I lose weight while breastfeeding?
One of the number one things people ask me is how to lose the baby weight. For some, it comes easily and naturally (bitches) for others it is much harder.
There is, unfortunately, no one size fits all approach here. I can tell you though that simply decreasing the amount of calories you take in and exercising like a mad woman is not going to give you the long-term results you’re looking for and in fact it could cause a decrease in your milk supply.
So what should you do? For starters, pay attention to your hormones. Hormones are messengers from our brains that direct our body to do things. They are hugely important when it comes to fat loss. There are definitely things you can do to impact your hormones (decrease stress, get sleep, eat protein, time your carbs properly, and eating enough to name a few).
Conversely though there are certain hormones that you really don’t have control over. For example, hormones like estrogen & progesterone post pregnancy are likely low and prolactin is high if you’re nursing. Depending on the levels of those specific hormones you may have a harder time losing fat and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. And listen, that sucks, BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t lose fat. It just means you need to be patient with yourself and your body. You made a HUMAN and now you’re feeding that human. Give it time.
You’re place a lot of demands on your body. Try to be patient with it and in the meantime focus on what you CAN control. Eating adequate protein (I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but you really need to eat your damn protein), get as much sleep as you can (pump a bottle of milk before bed and have your partner take the baby overnight), work to reduce stress, exercise, particularly strength training.
If you don’t have a community around you to support your fitness goals (a class or a group of friends for example) you might consider my small group coaching program. I write your workouts and give you weekly nutrition advice plus you get the online support of a group of other moms in your exact position.
- Why Am I craving so much junk food?
Kids are FINALLY in bed. You have an hour before you are going to get yourself in bed, time for a quick snack and some TV. Just 1 piece of chocolate right. Which then turns into 4, and then you want some ice cream, a few starburst, some crackers, and dear god why can’t you stop eating this shit?
Why is this happening?
Could be a few things.
- Not enough protein (Again, I know)
- You’ve been depriving yourself of things that make you feel satisfied (cheese, chocolate, fat, a little treat here and there
- You’re exhausted. Research says that being tired can be a whole lot like being drunk. Ever eaten carrots when you’re drunk? No you order a pizza.
- Your not eating enough. Many moms have coffee for breakfast, a few bites of leftover kid chicken nuggets for lunch, another PM coffee (because obviously) and then a salad for dinner. Breastfeeding or not, that’s NOT ENOUGH food. Try eating full meals with a significant protein source and allowing yourself to have something that tastes good (like a few dark chocolate chips) and preempts you from eating 10 oreos later that day.
You’ve heard protein mentioned a few times throughout this post and that is because it is SUCH a vital building block of your body and the missing key to so many people’s nutrition struggles.
But here is the thing…
There is no hard and fast rule for how many grams of any macronutrient that YOUR body needs. Our bodies aren’t made the same way and they don’t process food the same way. You HAVE to be willing to do some detective work when it comes to finding the right balance of food for your body.
Increase your protein intake and then monitor your milk production, how you feel, your weight, your energy. Make some notes. Stick with it for a few days so you get a real accurate portrayal of how what you ate is affecting your body.
I know fat loss might be on your brain and that is a totally ok goal, but the traditional ways of getting there (eat less, exercise more) aren’t going to cut it in the long-term. You can lose weight and feel full. Its just a matter of filling up with the RIGHT types of food.
That’s it friends!
What is or has been the biggest struggle for you when it comes to breastfeeding? Did it come easy for you or not so much? Lets continue this convo in the comments!