What happens if you don t eat enough calories while breastfeeding?

Not eating enough calories while breastfeeding can have negative impacts on both mom and baby. Some key things that can happen include:

– Reduction in milk supply. Milk production requires extra calories, so not eating enough can cause a drop in supply. This means baby may not get enough milk.

– Weight loss for mom. Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so if calorie intake doesn’t increase, mom may lose more weight than recommended while breastfeeding.

– Nutritional deficits. Not eating enough overall calories could mean mom isn’t getting adequate nutrition. Key nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals may be lacking.

– Fatigue. With calorie intake too low, mom’s energy levels may plummet. It can be exhausting to keep up with a baby’s demands without the right fuel.

– Higher risk of illnesses. With nutrient deficiencies and fatigue, mom’s immune system may suffer. Illnesses like colds or infections may be more likely.

– Effects on baby’s growth. If milk supply drops substantially due to inadequate calorie intake, baby may not gain weight properly or grow at healthy rates.

– Potential for developmental delays. Nutrient deficiencies could affect baby’s development, especially cognitive development. Lack of “good fats” like DHA may be problematic.

– Postpartum depression risk. Insufficient calorie/nutrient intake along with fatigue and illness risks means mom is more vulnerable to postpartum mood disorders.

The key is for breastfeeding moms to understand their increased calorie needs and make sure they are eating enough to meet demands. Tracking intake, eating frequent small meals, opting for calorie-dense foods, and staying hydrated can help. If weight loss is excessive or supply drops, seeking medical/lactation guidance is important.

How Many Extra Calories Do You Need When Breastfeeding?

The calorie needs for breastfeeding moms are higher than normal. However, recommendations vary on exactly how many extra calories are required. Here are some general guidelines:

– During first 6 months: +500 calories per day. So if mom’s normal intake is 2000 calories, aim for 2500 calories daily.

– After 6 months: +400 calories per day. For example, intake would be 2400 calories if normal is 2000.

– Twin babies: +600-700 calories per day. Carrying and feeding two babies requires more energy.

– Preterm babies: +700-800 calories per day. Babies born early need higher calorie milk, requiring more from mom.

– Exclusively pumping: +500 calories per day. Pumping milk continuously burns extra calories as well.

These are just averages – exact needs vary based on a mom’s health, weight, and activity level. Talking to a doctor or lactation consultant can help determine appropriate calorie goals. The key is eating to hunger – avoiding calorie restriction and undereating.

Tips for Increasing Calorie Intake While Breastfeeding

Getting those extra 500 or more calories per day into your diet can take a little planning when breastfeeding. Here are some tips:

– Focus on dense, nutritious foods. Choose proteins, healthy fats, complex carbs to maximize nutrition.

– Eat frequent small meals. 5-6 mini-meals spread throughout the day helps ensure adequate intake.

– Snack whenever hungry. Keep snacks like nuts, yogurt, or fruit handy for when hunger strikes.

– Drink milk, juices, soups. Higher calorie beverages can supplement meals nicely.

– Add nut butters. Smear almond or peanut butter on crackers, apples for extra calories.

– Don’t skimp on fats. Include olive oil, avocados, nut butters, full-fat dairy for energy density.

– Check in often. Weigh yourself weekly and monitor supply/hunger to ensure you’re eating enough.

– Stay hydrated. Drink water consistently along with other fluids to help with milk production.

How to Know You Aren’t Eating Enough Calories While Breastfeeding

Sometimes it can be tricky to know if your calorie intake is sufficient to meet the needs of breastfeeding. Here are some signs that your calorie intake may be too low:

– Excessive fatigue. Feeling overly tired, lethargic, weak. Struggling to get through the day.

– Extreme hunger. Stomach rumbling, headache, irritability if a meal is delayed. Ravenous all the time.

– Inability to lose pregnancy weight. Losing less than 1-2 pounds per week (for moms with weight to lose).

– Reduced milk supply. Supply seems low or milk doesn’t spray or flow as strongly.

– Fussy or unsatisfied baby. Baby never seems full or content after feedings.

– Baby not gaining weight. Slow weight gain or failure to regain birth weight.

– Constipation. Infrequent bowel movements; hard, dry stools.

– Dizziness or faintness. Feeling lightheaded when standing up suddenly.

– Lack of energy for exercise. Too exhausted to engage in regular physical activity.

If experiencing several of these symptoms, have a discussion with a doctor or lactation consultant. A calorie increase may be needed.

What Happens if You Don’t Eat Enough Calories While Breastfeeding?

If calorie intake remains too low while breastfeeding, several negative effects may happen:

Decline in Milk Supply

One of the first things that may happen when calorie intake is insufficient is a reduction in milk supply. Milk production requires extra energy, so if calorie intake doesn’t rise to meet the demands, the body’s capacity to make milk declines. This can happen gradually over weeks or more suddenly in a matter of days. A consistent calorie deficit makes it tough for the body to keep up with milk manufacturing.

Weight Loss for Mom

Breastfeeding burns calories – estimates range from 300-700 extra calories burned per day. So with the higher calorie expenditure, if more food isn’t consumed, mom will start losing weight. Doctors recommend gradual weight loss while breastfeeding of about 1-2 pounds per week. More rapid weight loss than this through calorie restriction can jeopardize milk supply.

Nutritional Deficiencies

If overall calorie intake is too low, mom likely isn’t getting adequate amounts of key nutrients her body needs. Important dietary components like protein, vitamins A, C, B6, and B12, antioxidants, minerals like calcium and magnesium, and omega-3 fats may be lacking. These nutritional deficits can impact both mom’s and baby’s health.

Extreme Fatigue

With calorie intake too low, mom will often feel overtired, weak, and run down. The body lacks the fuel it requires to function properly, so extreme fatigue sets in. Feeling constantly exhausted makes it hard to care for a newborn and keep up with daily tasks. Rest and recovery are essential but difficult when calories are insufficient.

Suppressed Immune System

The combination of fatigue and nutritional shortcomings caused by low calorie intake can suppress the immune system. Mom becomes far more vulnerable to illnesses like colds, the flu, respiratory infections, and yeast infections. Recovery takes longer when the body is undernourished. Staying healthy is very challenging.

Inadequate Milk for Baby

The most concerning impact of mom not eating adequate calories is that baby doesn’t get enough milk. As supply drops, baby’s intake is reduced. If intake continues declining, baby may not get sufficient milk to support healthy growth and development. Signs baby isn’t getting enough include lethargy, fewer wet diapers, and poor weight gain.

Developmental Delays

Babies require key nutrients like protein, iron, zinc, vitamins, and essential fatty acids to support proper growth and cognitive development. If mom’s intake of these is too low, her milk may not contain adequate amounts. Nutrient deficiencies can impact baby’s brain growth as well as physical development.

Higher Risk of Postpartum Mood Disorders

Insufficient calorie and nutrient intake coupled with extreme fatigue increases mom’s vulnerability to postpartum mood disorders like depression, anxiety, and irritability. The physical and emotional demands of new motherhood require adequate nourishment to stay balanced and optimistic.

Tracking Calorie Intake While Breastfeeding

To ensure you meet your daily calorie needs for breastfeeding, it can help to track your intake. Here are some tips:

– Use a food journal or app. Writing meals, snacks and calories helps you stay on track.

– Read nutrition labels. Look up calorie content for portion sizes.

– Don’t forget beverages. Track calories from juices, milk, smoothies, etc.

– Weigh foods when possible. For accuracy, use a food scale for items like nuts, cheese, meat.

– Consider a wearable tracker. Devices like Fitbit estimate calories burned.

– Log hunger and energy. Notes on hunger cues and fatigue can signal if more food is needed.

– Calculate weekly totals. Add up each day’s calories to make sure you hit weekly targets.

– Meet with a dietitian. A professional can help analyze your intake and make a plan.

– Get lab work if needed. Blood tests can check for nutritional deficiencies.

Tracking intake, hunger, and energy expenditure takes diligence but helps ensure your diet provides sufficient nourishment while breastfeeding.

Sample Meal Plan for Breastfeeding Moms

When breastfeeding, following a meal plan with adequate calories and nutrition is key. Here is a sample plan with approximately 2400-2600 calories:


– 1 cup oatmeal cooked in milk with 1 tbsp chopped almonds, dash of cinnamon, and 1/4 cup blueberries.

– 1 slice whole wheat toast with 1 tbsp almond butter.

– 1 cup lowfat milk.

– 1 small orange.

Morning Snack

– 1⁄4 cup trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.

– 8 oz Greek yogurt.


– Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce, tomato.

– 1 cup butternut squash soup.

– 1 medium banana.

– 1 oz cheese stick.

Afternoon Snack

– 1 oz mozzarella cheese and 10 whole grain crackers.

– 12 baby carrots with 2 tbsp hummus.


– 4 oz grilled salmon.

– 1 cup roasted Brussels sprouts.

– 1 cup cooked quinoa.

– Tossed salad with vinaigrette dressing.

– 1 cup lowfat milk.

Evening Snack

– 1 serving trail mix with nuts/seeds/dried fruit.

– 10 whole grain crackers with 1 tbsp almond butter.

This plan focuses on lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and dairy for nutritional density. Modifications can be made based on food preferences and dietary needs.

Foods to Increase Calories While Breastfeeding

If struggling to meet calorie needs while breastfeeding, incorporate more of these healthy high-calorie foods:

Food Calories
Avocado (1/2 fruit) 160
Nuts (1 oz) 165-200
Nut butter (2 tbsp) 190-200
Banana (1 medium) 105
Dried fruit (1/4 cup) 130-170
Granola (1/4 cup) 200-250
Oatmeal (1 cup cooked) 150
Yogurt (1 cup) 150
Cheese (1 oz) 100-120
Milk (1 cup 2%) 125
Cottage cheese (1/2 cup) 100

Aim for 3 balanced meals with 2-3 snacks including these higher calorie foods to help meet needs. Discuss any concerns with your doctor.

Tips for Increasing Calories

Struggling to consume enough calories while breastfeeding? Here are more tips:

– Add nut butter to toast, apples, celery, oatmeal. Almond, peanut, cashew butter all add calories.

– Mix in avocado. Mash it into eggs, spread on sandwiches, blend into smoothies.

– Snack on nuts and dried fruit. Portable, nutritious hits of protein, carbs and fat.

– Cook with olive or coconut oil. Healthy fats boost calories in meals easily.

– Drink milk and juice. The calories add up from beverages like juice, milk and hot chocolate.

– Have a bedtime snack. Toast with cheese, cereal with milk, or trail mix helps overnight.

– Make smoothies. Blend milk, yogurt, nut butter, and fruit for a calorie punch.

– Indulge cravings (in moderation). A serving of ice cream or square of chocolate provides calories too.

– See a lactation consultant. Get specialized advice to ensure sufficient milk supply.

Don’t stress if one day is lower calorie – just focus on consistent intake day to day. Stay hydrated and listen to hunger cues.


Breastfeeding places higher calorie and nutrient demands on mom’s body. Consuming too few calories while nursing can result in low milk supply, unwanted weight loss, fatigue, and nutritional deficits in both mom and baby. Having 500 or more extra calories daily helps ensure adequate nourishment. Add snacks, nutrient-dense foods, healthy fats, and fluids. Tracking intake and hunger cues helps guarantee sufficient calorie consumption. Meet with a doctor or dietitian if struggling to maintain supply or energy. With a little planning, mom can get the nourishment she needs to successfully breastfeed her baby.

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