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Breastfeeding – are you eating enough?

It’s important to eat plenty and stay hydrated, when you are breastfeeding, to keep a good milk supply and maintain your health and energy levels.  Registered midwife Katie Hawkey looks at how to tell if you are eating enough nutritious food.

There is this myth that while you are pregnant you must ‘eat for two’ – this is entirely inaccurate.

In fact, your caloric/energy requirement whilst you’re pregnant (for a single pregnancy) does not usually increase in your first trimester, and only increases in your second and third trimesters by approximately 300-450 calories per day.

It is when your baby is born and exclusively breastfeeding that your energy requirements increase most – for a healthy woman with a normal BMI this is usually by approximately 500 calories per day. The Ministry of Health sets out a sample three day meal plan for a healthy, breastfeeding woman, who undertakes light/moderate exercise with a daily caloric intake averaging 2584 calories. Find it here.

As a guide, a couple of extra snacks or small meals a day would usually be sufficient to compensate for any additional energy needs while breastfeeding. For example, adding a smoothie made with banana, full-fat milk and yoghurt, a couple of pieces of fruit and a handful of raw nuts or a muesli bar to a normal pre-pregnancy diet would generally be enough to cater for these requirements.

Eating and drinking is an important part of maintaining a good milk supply, without draining your body of all reserves. Not adjusting your diet to replace the energy your body expends producing breastmilk is often why some women struggle with excessive weight loss postnatally.

If you are managing a young family as well as your newborn (or even contending with just a newborn!), remembering to eat well, and to eat enough, can become a challenge. Having pre-prepared healthy snacks on hand is one way to help and will keep your energy levels up, as well as helping to prevent you from becoming run down or losing excessive amounts of weight.

Granted, having ‘pre-prepared snacks’ is easier said than done – because someone must prepare them. However, new mothers will usually have countless visitors, most of whom will offer their help in some way, shape or form. My advice? Accept the help! Ask them nicely to bring you some healthy snacks, baking or meals for one (or two) that are easy to reheat – even give them a recipe, if you have specific requirements. We are all too used to politely turning down help and soldiering through tough times, but if the help is there, and willing… take it! People will be happy to assist.

If you have less people around to help, try to prepare during pregnancy, or if your baby is already here, pick the next day that you feel ‘at your best’ and prepare a few things you can pop in your fridge or freezer. If you are making an evening meal – double it and freeze half of it in portions so you can easily reheat. Search quick, one-bowl baking recipes and bake in muffin tins (lined with muffin cases there’s nothing to clean!) and freeze those too! Most things can be frozen if stored correctly, and when it’s difficult to even get out of bed, let alone prepare food, these will save you.

Date modified: 11 November 2020
First published: Jul 2015


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