Breastfeeding And Extra Calories

A nursing mom needs to take in extra calories each day.
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How Many Extra Calories Do You Need Each Day?

In general, if you are not pregnant or breastfeeding, you need to eat between 1800 and 2000 calories each day. This number depends upon your height, weight, and activity level.

While you're pregnant, an additional 300 calories a day is usually recommended. Then, after your child is born, and you begin to breastfeed, you will need to add a little bit more because making breast milk requires extra energy.

If you're nursing one child, you should take in approximately 2200 to 2500 calories each day.  When you're nursing a newborn 8 to 12 times a day, your body will need those extra calories. Later, when your child is older, eating solid foods, and breastfeeding less often, you will not need to eat as much.

If you are diabetic, a teen mom, a vegetarian or vegan, breastfeeding more than one child, or breastfeeding while you are pregnant, you will have special dietary needs. If you fall into one of these categories, you should see your doctor, a nutritionist, or a registered dietitian. These healthcare providers can help you plan a diet that contains all the calories and nutrients necessary to keep you and your baby healthy.

Will The Extra Calories Cause Weight Gain?

The extra calories that you need while you're breastfeeding will not cause you to gain weight, as long as you're eating the right foods.

As your body makes breast milk, it will burn off those extra calories. If you're eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, you will most likely gradually lose your pregnancy weight. However, if you're adding those extra daily calories by eating junk foods, cakes, and high-fat foods, the weight will come off much more slowly — and you may even gain weight.

Junk food only gives you empty calories, not the nutrients that your body needs.

Can You Cut Calories To Lose Weight?

Many women worry about how they will lose weight after their baby is born. It's important to remember that while you're breastfeeding, you should not cut the number of calories that you have each day to try to lose your pregnancy weight unless you are specifically told to do so by your doctor for medical reasons. Liquid diets, weight loss pills, or going without food for long periods of time can be harmful to your health and likely cause a decrease in your milk supply.

It is much healthier to lose weight gradually. Remember, it took you nine months to gain your baby weight, so make sure you give yourself at least that much time to lose it. Be realistic with your goals. Eating healthy foods and incorporating exercise into your daily routine can help you to safely lose the weight and get back into shape. Just be sure to check with your doctor before you begin to exercise.


American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

United States Department of Agriculture. Nutritional Needs While Breastfeeding. Accessed February 8, 2013:

Whitney, E., Hamilton, E., Rolfes, S. Understanding Nutrition Fifth Edition. West Publishing Company. New York. 1990.