How many calories should a breastfeeding woman eat to lose weight?

Many new mothers who are breastfeeding wonder how they can safely lose the extra weight they gained during pregnancy while still producing plenty of nutritious breast milk for their baby. Losing weight requires creating a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than you burn, but breastfeeding women have higher calorie needs than regular adults. Finding the right calorie intake level to support milk production and allow for gradual weight loss requires some planning and monitoring. With the right approach, most women can lose 1-2 pounds per week through a combination of diet and exercise without negatively impacting their milk supply.

How many extra calories do breastfeeding women need?

The calorie needs for lactating women are higher than for non-lactating women. Some key facts on the additional calories required while breastfeeding:

  • Breastfeeding women generally need at least 500 extra calories per day compared to their pre-pregnancy calorie needs.
  • In the first 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, women need around 800 extra calories per day.
  • After the baby begins eating solid foods at 6 months, calorie needs drop slightly to around 500 extra per day.
  • Heavier milk supply requires more calories. Women who pump milk in addition to nursing directly may need up to 1000 extra calories per day.
  • The extra calories required varies based on the mother’s body size, metabolism, and activity level.

So while most women need at least 500 extra calories for breastfeeding, the specific needs can vary quite a bit. Tracking your milk supply and weight changes while adjusting intake is the best way to determine your optimal calorie level.

What should the calorie deficit be to lose weight while breastfeeding?

To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis. This calorie deficit causes your body to break down fat stores. However, too large of a calorie deficit can negatively impact milk supply. A moderate calorie deficit is recommended:

  • Aim for a deficit of 10-20% below your calorie needs for weight maintenance.
  • For most women, this equates to a deficit of 300-600 calories per day.
  • This level of deficit will allow for steady milk production and a weight loss pace of 1-2 pounds per week.
  • Never eat less than 1500-1800 calories per day unless under medical supervision.

Monitoring your rate of weight loss and milk supply will help determine if your calorie deficit needs adjusting up or down. Losing weight too rapidly through extreme dieting can cause energy, mood, and milk supply problems.

How can breastfeeding women determine their optimal calorie intake?

Determining the right daily calorie intake for healthy weight loss during breastfeeding requires a bit of trial and error. Here are some tips:

  • Use a calorie calculator to estimate your maintenance needs.
  • Subtract 300-600 calories from the maintenance estimate to create your starting deficit.
  • Adjust up or down by 100-200 calories at a time based on your rate of weight loss and milk supply.
  • Aim for losing 1-2 pounds per week. Losing faster may signal too large a deficit.
  • Make sure your minimum calories don’t fall below 1500-1800 per day.
  • Focus on nutritious foods to support milk production – protein, whole grains, fruits/veggies.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and consider taking a prenatal vitamin.

Monitoring your weight, milk supply, energy levels, and nutritional intake will help determine if your calorie deficit needs adjustment. Being patient and making small changes is key for success.

Sample meal plan for a breastfeeding woman losing weight

Here is a sample 1800 calorie meal plan that could result in a steady 1-2 pound per week weight loss for some women who are breastfeeding:


  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (150 calories)
  • 1 medium banana (105 calories)
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast (70 calories)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (95 calories)

Total: 420 calories


  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread (340 calories)
  • 1 cup mixed greens salad with vinaigrette (70 calories)
  • 6 whole wheat crackers (120 calories)
  • 1 medium apple (95 calories)

Total: 625 calories


  • 4 ounces chicken breast (140 calories)
  • 1 cup roasted broccoli (55 calories)
  • 1 cup brown rice (215 calories)
  • 1 cup milk (115 calories)

Total: 525 calories


  • 1 medium banana (105 calories)
  • 1 ounce almonds (165 calories)

Total: 270 calories

Daily Total: Approximately 1840 calories

This sample menu provides balanced nutrition to support milk production including lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats, and fruits/veggies. Adjustments can be made based on food preferences and calorie needs. Portion sizes of high calorie foods may need to be reduced to stay within daily calorie goals.

Tips for safely losing weight while breastfeeding

Here are some additional tips for losing weight gradually while breastfeeding:

  • Aim to lose only 1-2 pounds per week maximum to avoid impacting supply.
  • Do not follow any diet providing less than 1500-1800 calories daily unless supervised.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated – at least 64 oz per day.
  • Take a prenatal vitamin to cover nutritional bases.
  • Include protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack.
  • Limit empty calorie foods like sugary drinks, desserts, fried foods, etc.
  • Exercise regularly by walking, doing yoga, cardio, etc. but don’t overdo it.
  • Get enough rest and sleep since sleep deprivation can impact supply.
  • Watch for signs of excessive calorie restriction like low energy, milk supply drops, etc.

Losing weight gradually and making nutrition a priority is key for success in the postpartum period. Focus on developing healthy habits that will sustain you for the long-run.

Common concerns about losing weight while breastfeeding

Many women have additional questions about losing the baby weight while breastfeeding. Here are some common concerns addressed:

Will my breast milk be affected if I diet?

As long as your calorie deficit is moderate and you don’t cut calories too drastically, your breastmilk should not be impacted. Make sure you don’t dip below the minimums of 1500-1800 calories daily and keep nutrition a priority. Rapid weight loss through extreme dieting can affect milk quality and quantity.

How much exercise can I do and still maintain milk supply?

You can exercise moderately without impacting supply. Aim for 30-60 minutes per day of moderate activity like brisk walking. Limit high intensity exercise until milk supply is well established. Stay hydrated and feed the baby before intense workouts. Consider pumping afterward to mimic the feeding session.

When will my milk supply regulate so I can lose more weight?

Most women find that milk supply regulates around 3-4 months postpartum once solid foods have been introduced. At that point, you may be able to increase your calorie deficit slightly and lose weight a bit faster while maintaining supply. Go slowly and monitor supply often when making any changes.

Are meal replacement shakes safe when breastfeeding?

Meal replacements and protein shakes can be used in moderation but shouldn’t replace real whole foods on a regular basis. Make sure to get nutrition from real food at most meals and don’t rely entirely on shakes. Also follow the minimum daily calorie recommendations when using shakes.

Can I follow a low carb diet when breastfeeding?

Low carb diets are not generally recommended while breastfeeding because restricting carbohydrates can impact milk supply. Aim to include some complex carbs and whole grains in your daily meal plans to support your energy levels and milk production.

How much water should I drink while breastfeeding and dieting?

It is important to stay very hydrated, especially when losing weight through calorie restriction. Aim to drink at least 64 ounces (8 cups) per day minimum. Drink whenever you feel thirsty and sip throughout the day. Dehydration can decrease supply fast.


Creating a moderate daily calorie deficit of 300-600 calories should allow most women to safely lose 1-2 pounds per week while breastfeeding. Very low calorie or restrictive diets can negatively impact milk supply and should be avoided. Focus on getting proper nutrition, staying hydrated, managing stress, and not losing weight too rapidly. Be patient, make adjustments as needed, and consult your doctor if you have any concerns. With the right balance, you can successfully lose your pregnancy weight gain without sacrificing the quality or quantity of the breastmilk your baby needs.

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