Gaining weight is equally challenging as losing weight while breastfeeding. Read on if you are trying to gain weight while breastfeeding but don’t know where to start or need ideas to put on extra calories.
Your daily energy need increases when you are breastfeeding. Your body uses nutrients from fat cells accumulated during pregnancy and energy from your diet to make all that breastmilk for your baby.
And if energy input from the diet is not sufficient, the milk-making process will continue using the nutrient reserve of your body, resulting in losing body weight while breastfeeding.
Losing bodyweight too quickly while breastfeeding is not good when your baby is dependent on you for her nutrient needs.
To gain 1 pound per week while breastfeeding or maintain your body weight, you need to add extra 500 calories to your diet per day depending on your body type, activity level, and how much breastmilk you are making.
If you are losing weight and don’t know where to start or need ideas on adding those extra calories to your diet, this article finds you well.
In this article, we will discuss possible reasons for losing weight while breastfeeding, what you can do to gain weight while breastfeeding, and much more.
Why am I Losing weight while Breastfeeding?
You will lose about 10-15 pounds almost within a week after giving birth to your baby, including the water you retained during pregnancy, your baby’s weight, placenta, and amniotic fluid. After that, weight loss becomes gradual (1).
Losing weight immediately after giving birth to a baby isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Your body is getting ready to get back to normal. But after that, losing weight is dependent on your body type, how much weight you gain during pregnancy, genetic factors, whether you are breastfeeding or not, your activity level, and your metabolism (2-4).
To fuel milk production, your body uses calories from your diet and fat cells stored in your body. Research studies show that exclusively breastfeeding mothers tend to burn 500 calories a day (5). If you are not consuming enough calories to meet your body’s energy demand, you start losing weight. So, it is essential to consume a well-balanced diet and enough calories to meet your baby’s nutrition needs if you are breastfeeding or pumping.
Also, breastfeeding mother’s consciousness to eat a healthy diet like fiber-rich food, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, grains, and cutting back on processed food can contribute to losing weight while breastfeeding (6).
Other factors that may contribute to weight loss during early postpartum include added responsibilities of caring for a newborn. With postpartum recovery, sleepless nights, and stress of new parenthood, self-care takes backspace for most new mothers. It is also not unheard-of for new moms complaining about how they don’t have time to eat or drink during the early postpartum period. Skipping meals and not drinking enough water while breastfeeding can impact the quantity and quality of breastmilk and ultimately affect your body.
But losing too much weight too quickly is not good for you and your baby when you want to continue breastfeeding. Losing too much weight after pregnancy can lead to low breast milk supply, nutrient-deprived breastmilk, and leave you exhausted.
If you think you are getting skinnier than you were before while breastfeeding, you need to talk to your health care provider, and they can work with you in determining how many calories you need to add to your diet to gain weight while breastfeeding.
Why am I Thinner after Pregnancy than Before?
Body changes a lot after you have a baby and many factors contribute to why you are thinner or skinnier after pregnancy than before.
Let’s look at the factors that contribute to getting thinner than before (2-4).
- Pre-pregnancy weight (underweight)
- Weight gain during pregnancy
- Pregnancy complications
- The delivery method
- how much breastmilk you are making
- Body type
- Postpartum stress level
- The pressure of new parenthood
- Your genetics
Yes, genetics plays a significant role in you getting thinner after giving birth to a baby. It drives how quickly your uterus and other organ shrinks after giving birth to a baby. If you were underweight pre-pregnancy or did not gain weight during pregnancy, you would most likely lose weight quickly while breastfeeding.
But if you are getting thinner after pregnancy than before or losing weight too quickly, it may warrant a visit to a doctor. It can impact the quality of breast milk you are producing and leave you tired.
When you are losing weight too quickly after having a baby, you want to check your diet. Breastfeeding mothers need to consume enough calories to meet the demand of making breastmilk and nutrient need of your body. While breastfeeding, you need to consume extra 500-700 calories a day.
If you think you are consuming recommended extra calories and still getting thinner after pregnancy than before, you need to get your thyroid check (7). And if the thyroid is not the issue for you, you need a fail-proof strategy to gain weight while breastfeeding.
The weight gain strategy that I am going to share here is tried and tested by my friend. She was underweight pre-pregnancy and did not gain much weight during pregnancy. She weighed about 20 pounds heavier than what she weighed pre-pregnancy. Her daughter was 7 pounds when she was born. And it didn’t take her too long in her breastfeeding journey to get thinner than before.
She ended up taking help from a nutrition specialist. So, this strategy is inspired by the diet she followed. Although I did not get permission to use her photo, she agreed to share the strategy to help other moms struggling to gain weight while breastfeeding. After following this strategy, she was able to return to her pregnancy weight.
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9 Easy Steps to Gain Weight While Breastfeeding?
While breastfeeding moms burns about 500-700 extra calories per day to fuel milk making, it is still possible to gain weight while breastfeeding. And here is what you should do,
Disclaimer: Please consult with your doctor before you begin any calorie restriction or diet program.
1. Use a Calorie Calculator
Before you start adding calories to your diet, calculate how many calories you need per day to maintain your weight while breastfeeding. There are calorie calculators available to tell you how much calories you need per day factoring in your height, weight, age, and breastfeeding status. You can use a breastfeeding calorie calculator like this one.
This calculator considers whether you are breastfeeding or not into account to calculate your approximate calories per day to maintain your body weight.
This calculator approximates value based on your height and weight and other factors as you included during calculation.
For a more accurate calorie count, you need to contact your healthcare provider and nutritionist, depending on your condition. They will help you estimate how many calories you need and help you plan to increase your calories in a healthier way.
2. Count Calories you are taking per day
To determine how many extra calories you need to gain weight while breastfeeding, you need to count the calories you are taking per day. The best way to do this is by keeping a food journal.
Write down what and how much you are eating during breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack time, and how much fluid you are taking. You may need to measure the size of the serving at each meal to calculate the calories. By keeping track of the food, you are consuming; you can estimate the calories per day.
You can also take advantage of an app to make it easy for you to count the calories you are consuming.
3. Calculate the extra Calories you need per day
Based on the number you got from the breastfeeding calorie calculator and estimated your total calorie intake per day, you can calculate your extra calorie need per day.
Suppose that the breastfeeding calorie calculator gave you 1900 calories per day based on your height/weight (to maintain your weight while breastfeeding). Your estimated calorie intake from your food diary is only 1700 calories; – you are not consuming enough calories to maintain your weight.
Remember, to gain weight while breastfeeding; you need to consume extra calories per day than what you need to maintain your weight. To gain 1 pound a week, you need to consume 500 extra calories per day.
So, when the breastfeeding calorie calculator tells you to consume 1900 calories per day to maintain your weight, you need to consume extra 500 calories a day to gain 1 pound per week (1900 + 500 per day).
If you are still unsure about counting calories in your diet or don’t have time to go through all the trouble of keeping track of quantities of meals you ate in a day, I highly recommend getting this 28-days breastfeeding meal plan. This plan is carefully designed by a lactation consultant and nutritionist.
It is designed to meet the unique needs of postpartum moms while providing delicious and easy recipes. This meal plan contains ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks/dessert with the grocery list.
The great thing about this meal plan is that each day meals come with a complete nutritional breakdown for each recipe and account for 1900 calories per day.
With this meal plan, you don’t have to worry about what you are going to cook to get 1900 calories. And if you need extra calories to gain weight while breastfeeding, you add those extra calories as suggested below. Learn more about 28 days breastfeeding meal plan HERE.
Now let’s see how you can add more calories to your diet.
4. Add calorie-rich food to your diet
Include healthy, calorie-rich food in your diets, such as lean proteins, healthy fats, and starches. It will provide you with all the nutrients you need while breastfeeding. Include whole-grain bread, leafy vegetables, pasta, nuts, nut butter, avocado, beans, purified butter (ghee), legumes in your diet.
Eating calorie-rich food will help you gain weight if you can’t eat in large quantities or get full too quickly.
5. Add more Calories while Cooking
Cook your meal with a healthy fat. Such as use peanut oil, purified butter (ghee), sunflower oil while you are sauteing your vegetable or cooking your pasta. You can also replace water with milk or milk powder, yogurt while cooking your meal.
6. Sprinkle Calories on your cooked Meal
This one is easy to do. Add cheese to your pasta, nuts to your salad, or more salad dressing to your salad. It not only makes your food delicious but quickly adds extra calories to your diet without much effort.
7. Snack it up
When you are breastfeeding, you get hungry a lot. So, rather than eating unhealthy food, snack on nuts, dried fruits, or go for peanut butter and jelly (or honey) sandwich or avocado toast for easy extra calories.
Snacking on 1 ounce of almonds adds 170 calories
Snacking on 1 medium-size avocado adds around 200 calories
2 tablespoon of peanut butter adds 190 calories
2 tablespoon of honey adds 128 calories
You can also drink your favorite smoothies as a snack. To make it more calories dense, add protein powder, yogurt, milk to it. (More on the protein shake while breastfeeding below). This will give you an extra boost of vitamins and minerals that you and your baby can benefit from.
I cup of whole milk has 149 calories
100 gms of whole milk, plain yogurt has 60 calories
1 scoop whey protein powder has 140 calories
8. Eat more often
Some women can not eat in large quantities or get full too quickly. If that is the case with you, then it is the reason why you are not gaining weight while breastfeeding.
It will help if you small meals throughout the day rather than three big meals a day. A small quantity every two-three hours will provide you enough calories, and you won’t have to eat a large amount at mealtime.
9. Keep yourself hydrated
Drinking enough fluid is as important when you are breastfeeding. Make sure you are drinking water when you are thirsty. But be careful about not drinking too much water just before your meal if it makes you full. For added calories, replace your water with coconut water or lactation smoothies. This will not only add extra calories but help you boost your milk supply. Find out fluids to drink while breastfeeding other than water here.
What is the best food to Gain Weight while Breastfeeding?
When you are trying to gain weight while breastfeeding, you need to eat calorie-rich foods. Include healthy fats, lean proteins, starches in your diet. For example, add whole wheat bread, nuts, dried fruits, nut butter, Purified butter (ghee), beans, seeds, peanut oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fatty fish, avocado, banana to your diet.
Can I drink Protein Shakes to Gain Weight while Breastfeeding?
Yes, protein shakes can help a breastfeeding mother to gain weight. Protein shakes are high protein beverages made with protein powder and frozen fruits. As long as you pick a protein powder made with clean, whole grain, and all-natural ingredients, there is nothing wrong with drinking it while breastfeeding.
Protein shakes are a very convenient way to consume protein needs while breastfeeding as many new moms do not have the time to make protein-rich foods for each meal. Some breastfeeding mothers use protein shakes as a substitute for a meal. Although protein shakes provide some calories, they are often less in calories than your regular meal. If you are trying to gain weight, do not use protein shakes to replace your meal, but use them in addition to your meals.
You can include a protein shake as a meal replacement when you don’t feel like eating. Alternatively, drink it as fluid instead of water or consume as a snack to add extra calorie to your diet.
- Can you Take Hair, Skin, and Nails Vitamins While Breastfeeding?
- Can you take Emergen-C during Pregnancy or Breastfeeding?
Can I drink Mass gainer shake while Breastfeeding?
Yes, there is no harm in taking mass gainer while breastfeeding if you try to gain weight while breastfeeding. Most of these food supplements are made with essential nutrients that your body can benefit from. However, you need to be careful about ingredients such as food coloring, additives, extra sugar, and preservatives present in the formula. Because whatever you eat, your baby gets that too.
As long as it is made with clean, all-natural ingredients and whole-food, it can be advantageous and help breastfeeding mothers find energy and strength. Also, it should not be used as a meal replacement. You can use it as a means to add extra calories to gain weight while breastfeeding.
Can you take a Herbalife Weight gain meal plan while Breastfeeding?
No, anything that is made with artificial ingredients should be avoided while breastfeeding. When you are breastfeeding, it is essential to include a well-balanced, calorie-rich meal into your diet to get all the nutrients and minerals needed for making breastmilk and nourish your body.
9 Easy steps to Gain Weight while Breastfeeding: Conclusion
Here you go, mama! I hope this article has given you some ideas on how to gain weight while breastfeeding. It’s all about consuming high-calorie food in your diet when you are trying to gain weight while breastfeeding.
After trying these tips, if you are still losing too much weight, you need to contact your doctor. Your doctor and nutritionist can help you determine how much weight you need to gain and work with you to develop a meal plan depending upon your unique situation.
Before you go, check out these 17 milk booster tips to increase your milk supply.
Good luck, mamas!!
Do you have any tips to gain weight while breastfeeding? Leave your comment below.
- Baker, Jennifer L., Gamborg, Michael, Heitmann, Berit L, et al. Breastfeeding Reduces Postpartum Weight Retention. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;88 (6): 1543-1551. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26379
- Dewey et al. (1993). Maternal weight-loss patterns during prolonged lactation. Am J Clin Nutr, 58(2), 162-166.
- Dewey et al. (1994). Effects of dieting and physical activity on pregnancy and lactation. Am J Clin Nutr, 59( Suppl 2), 446s-453s.
- Institute of Medicine. (2002). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, Amino Acids (Macronutrients). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
- Kominiarek MA, Rajan P. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. Med Clin North Am. 2016;100(6):1199-1215. Doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2016.06.004
- Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lemmens SG, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss, and health. Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S105-12. Doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002589. PMID: 23107521.
- Di Bari F, Granese R, Le Donne M, Vita R, Benvenga S. Autoimmune Abnormalities of Postpartum Thyroid Diseases. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2017;8:166. doi:10.3389/fendo.2017.00166
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