As a breastfeeding mamma, especially in the early days, I was a mess. I wasn’t sleeping. I was healing from delivery and in pain from my baby’s poor latch. And I was starving. I mean literally eating six eggs for breakfast and hungry two hours later starving. I also had no idea what the best foods for breastfeeding were, so I’d eat and then be hungry an hour later.
Figuring out what to eat while breastfeeding and what the best foods for breastfeeding are can be a challenge. Especially when balancing your desire to lose the baby weight while boosting or maintaining your milk supply. However, it can be done. I was able to lose all my baby weight by the time I went back to work, 14 weeks after my baby was born. There were no crazy diets. I didn’t have a trainer coming to my house at 5 a.m. forcing me to do squats.
So what did you do to boost lactation and weight loss?
I DID go for daily walks after I was cleared at my six-week postpartum appointment, and I nursed on demand. Every day I also pumped an extra session while I was on maternity leave, and continued to feed my baby every time she wanted to eat. My goal was to build up a freezer stash, but there was an added benefit of weight loss. This is not to say that everyone should lose the weight that quickly. I wish everyone could subscribe to the idea that it took nine months to put on, so we shouldn’t expect it to come off any sooner.
However, I know that losing weight while boosting milk supply is high up on a new mom’s priority list. Check out the following awesome “super” foods that provide nutrition, stabilize blood sugar, and won’t tank your supply. I also detailed everything I did to lose weight during the first year.
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Foods that will give you energy
There is one thing I can guarantee is universal across all new moms. They’re TIRED. Like bone-deep exhausted. I don’t think I ever fully comprehended the level of tiredness that existed before I had a baby. On top of that, we use a lot of crutches to boost our energy and crash even harder when they wear off. Feeding yourself with nutrient-rich foods that boost energy is one of the easiest ways to relieve some of that exhaustion.
Here are some of the best foods to keep your energy up:
Protein Rich Complex Breakfast: I know, this isn’t a “food” but it’s one of the best ways to start your day and keep your blood sugar from plummeting two hours later. Think eggs, smoothies with yogurt and fruit (not just fruit juice), whole wheat toast, and maybe even some turkey bacon.
Fruit: Fruit is a great pick me up because although it contains sugar, it’s way better for you than a candy bar or any of the other snacks that provide the same type of boost. A lot of fruits also contain fiber (yay digestion) and are easy to eat on the run.
Lean Meat: Ok, so this one isn’t a quick fix on the go, but a lot of energy comes from nutritious foods, and that includes lean meat and protein. While you may need to have someone hold the baby so you can sit down to eat, ensuring you’re getting enough protein will help fight fatigue.
Best foods for breastfeeding to boost supply
When you’re not eating or sleeping, you’re most likely nursing. You may be nursing and eating at the same time. (Try not to nurse and sleep together). One of the biggest concerns I and most new mammas have is whether or not their baby is getting enough to eat. Eating foods that boost your milk supply help ensure you’re always producing enough for your baby – even during growth spurts.
Here are five foods to incorporate into your diet to boost milk production, and a few to avoid:
- Sesame Seeds (or poppy seeds, caraway seeds, coriander seeds)
If you don’t want to dry up your supply you should avoid some herbs like sage, parsley, peppermint, and menthol, and cold medicine like Benadryl and Sudafed. While you’d need to consume a lot of the herbs to truly dry up, most mammas looking to boost supply aren’t asking for any decline in output.
The best foods for breastfeeding that will keep you from getting sick
Another thing I wasn’t prepared for as a new mamma was how often I would be sick. I knew my baby wouldn’t have a strong immune system and that daycare would be really rough at first. However, I had no idea how sick I would also get.
I was sick almost every time our little one got a cold, which was almost every week for about six months straight after she started daycare. I was tired and had a cold, and when she was sick she didn’t nurse as well. This was always more stressful, hoping that she wouldn’t get dehydrated. As much fun as it was, if we do it again, I’ll be doing everything I can to avoid getting sick for months on end. One of the easiest ways to do that is to fuel your body appropriately.
Here are a few awesome foods that boost your immune system*:
- Citrus Fruits (Think oranges – hello vitamin C)
- Red Peppers (These actually have more vitamin C than citrus!)
- Garlic (Has a ton of immune boosting properties, and is a favorite holistic remedy for many ailments)
- Broccoli (I’m pretty sure your mom told you about all the vitamins)
- Ginger (Reduces inflammation and possibly relieves nausea — although, after my lack of morning sickness relief I’m not sold on that one)
The best way to incorporate exercise
I’m going to be honest here. I did NOT do a great job at exercising after I had a baby. I did go to the gym up until the week I delivered. After I had her, not so much. I was cleared at my six-week postpartum checkup and one of the best things I did for my mental and physical health was to go on a walk every day.
I would wake up and nurse the baby and squeeze in my morning pump (more on that below). I’d then get dressed and immediately head out for a walk while she napped. Our walks usually lasted over an hour, and I was given a good workout while she slept.
I also recommend looking up some of the stretches and short workout videos on YouTube. I didn’t commit to a lot of weights or strenuous activity, but ensuring you get moving a few minutes every day REALLY helps jumpstart the weight loss.
How much to pump while nursing full time?
I am a big proponent of breastfeeding. My daughter was exclusively breastfed and was given pumped milk until 15 months. I nursed her when we were together for 20 months. I was so paranoid about running out of milk I pumped every day while on maternity leave to build a freezer stash.
In the early days, I was getting 8 oz. or more from one morning pump after my baby had nursed. As time went on I got fewer and fewer ounces, down to two ounces before I dropped the session. These extra sessions were what allowed us to fill our bottles and continue exclusive breastmilk for so long.
I also added in an extra pumping session if we ever fed her a bottle. If I wanted to sleep or have a glass of wine, etc. I added in a pump. There were very few times that we gave her a bottle and I didn’t add a session to replace the ounces in the freezer.
I 100% believe she would not have been EBF if I hadn’t been able to go to nurse her at lunch, or if I didn’t have the extra milk from our morning sessions.
That being said, if you’re already overproducing, you DON’T want to pump more. You can overstimulate your production and even end up with a plugged duct or mastitis. However, in my situation, the extra pump every day provided me with security that she wouldn’t starve if I needed to travel for work.
What happens if you need to keep weight on?
This is a much rarer problem but did happen to me. As I mentioned above, I was exclusively breastfeeding and was sick for almost six months straight. My baby also didn’t like solid food, so although we introduced solids, by eight months she was still getting most of her nutrition from breastmilk.
Her intake, combined with me not wanting to eat from being sick, caused me to lose 10lbs. from my pre-pregnancy weight. I was always concerned about supply, so I started eating these lactation cookies every day. I made them without the brewer’s yeast, so it may have been a placebo effect. However, I always felt like I had more milk after making them.
Feeding yourself and ensuring you’re healthy should be a top priority when you’re nursing a little one. If you get sick or aren’t healthy, you can’t take care of anyone else. Ensuring you’re eating appropriately and exercising when you’re able to are two of the top things you can do to maximize your health with a new little one.
There are a lot of awesome things about having a new baby. Your changing body and fluctuating appetite and hormone levels are not those awesome things. Balancing your cravings with foods designed to provide your body with nutrition while you feed a tiny human is critical. You’ll get back to your pre-baby self. Give yourself time and grace, and sometimes, eat the chocolate.