If you’re pregnant and reading this, I have to be the one to warn you, that breastfeeding hunger and cravings are way worse than in pregnancy. And if you’ve experienced it first hand, you’re probably smiling in agreement.
I remember being in the hospital, waking up in the middle of the night, and thinking, “I’m starving”. Thankfully my BFF had dropped off a bag of snacks and I swear, the Cookies & Cream candy bar in it was the best thing ever.
There was a handful, well a lot, of things I learned my first time around with breastfeeding but today I’m going to focus on dieting while breastfeeding for anyone like me who had gained some, well a lot, of weight during pregnancy.
Since I’m a nerd, I’m going to be referencing my handy dandy Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins to fact check any point I’m making. BUT, please keep in mind, this is from my personal experience which may not apply to everyone.
- Save dieting for after weaning
When I was on my maternity leave, I was so ready to lose the baby weight right away that I tried to cut out carbs to do so. My milk supply dropped significantly. Eating healthy is important in general and also important while breastfeeding but I wouldn’t suggest cutting down on calories. It only cuts out milk production. The Nursing Mother’s Companion states that an extra 500 calories a day are suggested but that not all mothers need that much. One benefit of nursing is you’re hands-free, so it’s easy to snack while feeding your baby. I drank a ton of Carnation instant breakfast drinks mixed with milk and felt like they helped build my supply while satisfying that extreme hunger.
- Being lightly active is still important
In pregnancy, I was guilty of using it as an excuse to be lazier than a sloth and definitely paid for it after I had my daughter. I didn’t realize all of the built-up fluid in your joints may not go away as soon as you leave the hospital, in July in Alabama it sure didn’t. I will say, it is totally important for new moms to take time to recover and heal in those first few weeks but after a while, you can start to feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. I remember being cross-legged on the floor with my daughter and thinking my knees were locked and I was stuck in that position forever. I also remember the first time I took my daughter out on my own and realizing just how weak my arms were when carrying the car seat with her in it.
I would suggest gradually getting into a routine of light exercise like walking to get your blood circulating and relieve some of the joint pain. I found a great video on YouTube that I wish I had had when I was on maternity leave. The search for it is Popsugar Fitness Baby Bulge Begone Workout. It’s super simple and targets important areas that were affected by pregnancy.
In relation to exercising in breastfeeding, Kathleen Huggins points out that it can be effective in preventing postpartum depression, as Elle Woods puts it in Legally Blonde, “exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t”
I hope these few points make a difference to someone about to be a new mom or currently soaking up the newness of their newborn. Just know that it does get easier and remember, you’re doing a great job!