Slower Is Better for Both of Mom and Baby
By Sharon Waldrop
There’s no doubt that healthy breast milk is the ultimate food for your baby. Even the formula companies admit this. If you have chosen to breastfeed your baby, you are giving your child a gift that only you can provide: milk fortified by Mom herself!
A breastfeeding mother needs more calories per day now than she did during pregnancy. Is it possible to shed excess pregnancy pounds while consuming an increased amount of calories per day? Yes, it is!
Shedding Pregnancy Pounds
How many calories a day should a breastfeeding mother consume while safely shedding pregnancy pounds?
A breastfeeding mother needs more calories per day now than she did during pregnancy.
“First it should be understood that usually the majority of pregnancy weight gain is fluid, along with the baby, and not fat,” says Diane Ferel, a registered and licensed dietitian in Boynton Beach, Florida. “It takes a few weeks, even months for some, to shed the pregnancy fluid completely. When it comes to shedding pregnancy fat, the general recommendation is to consume an added 500 calories to the pre-pregnancy diet since breastfeeding has been reported to take an extra 400 to 800 calories a day.”
Physical activity should be increased too, as permitted by a doctor. The fat reserves should slowly decrease over the period of a few months depending on the actual fat gained from pregnancy. Calorie restrictions are not recommended, as nutrients in Baby’s milk may be sacrificed.
A nursing mother can make the most out of her caloric intake by consuming foods that will give her the energy she needs, while enabling her to produce nutritious milk for her baby.
Ferel recommends nutrient-dense foods that contain multiple nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals — which are disease-fighting constituents mainly found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. “Protein is another necessary nutrient,” says Ferel.
In food terms, an ideal meal will include a minimum of two whole grains/starches, one fruit, one vegetable, 1 teaspoon of fat, two to 3 ounces of lean protein and 1 cup of milk. It is important that nursing mothers consume three meals per day. Ferel also recommends two snacks per day that include a serving or two of a carbohydrate (grain, fruit, milk, or veggie), and a protein.
“What you don’t see listed above are a bunch of refined, sugary and fatty foods,” says Ferel. “More than modest intakes of doughnuts, cookies, sodas, juices, etc., provide little for Baby and Mother, and may make Mom’s fat-shedding efforts difficult.”
Breastfeeding mothers need to remember to consume adequate fluid. Ferel suggests adding approximately four extra cups of fluid per day above the pre-pregnancy diet. Fluid may come from any (preferably) caffeine-free or non-alcoholic beverage. Soup, ice cream, gelatin, and ice pops are all considered fluid choices.
Here is a list of some healthy snacks that Ferel recommends to nursing mothers:
- Peanut butter and crackers
- Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread
- Cheese and crackers
- Cottage cheese (packed with protein!) and fruit or vegetables
- Yogurt (cultured or frozen)
- Fruit smoothies (ice, milk or yogurt, and fruit)
- Cheese sticks/cubes (small portion)
“When my baby was 9 months old, I began my workout and [started] eating clean again,” says Shannon Gamble of Waco, Texas. “I don’t call it dieting because I don’t count anything.” Shannon just eats when she is hungry and makes the right food choices.
Shannon’s workout included cardio and weight training two or three times a week for the first two months. Next, she stepped up to working out four or five times a week. She lost 14 pounds in three months. “I think I’m hanging onto the last few pounds while nursing,” says Shannon. “I’ve hit a plateau it seems.”
Shannon’s favorite healthy breakfast is cooked oatmeal, sweetened with sugar-free syrup. For lunch and dinner, her smart food choices include:
- Fat-free, deli-sliced turkey breast sandwich with lite mayonnaise or mustard on whole wheat
- Fruit and fat-free yogurt
- Chicken breast with vegetables (sweet potato, steamed broccoli, cauliflower, or green bean mix)
- Baked fish with vegetables
- Lean red meat (small portion)
- Grape Nuts cereal with a green salad and low-fat dressing (unusual craving during post-pregnancy period)
The Jeans Will Fit Again!
Kimberly M. from Rockford, Illinois, lost weight while lactating by preparing sensible meals that were not loaded with fat or sugar. “I now weigh less than I weighed before I was pregnant,” says Kimberly. “I have a 4-month-old baby and am now wearing all my regular clothes— except those that can’t accommodate my nursing breasts.”
Kimberly owes her weight loss success to eating three basic meals daily, healthy snacks and drinking eight glasses of water per day. Her healthy snack choices include raw veggies, popcorn with no butter or salt, salads with just a little dressing and fruit. She consumes very little fruit juice since it can be high in sugar.
Your Own Success Story
Remember, your weight loss experience while nursing will be as unique as you and your baby. If you don’t lose weight quickly—don’t fret. If you retain some weight while breastfeeding—don’t frown. Your body is playing an important role right now and nothing is more important than providing an adequate food source for your baby.