meal plan for breastfeeding
How many times have you heard other moms talk about how their postpartum baby weight is just “melting” right off? You are left there thinking how the hell are they doing that? What is their secret? What is this magical drug they clearly must be taking? Losing your baby weight can be hard, especially for breastfeeding mamas. You have an increased appetite and you need those extra calories to help you produce breastmilk. Um, hello…you alone are making the best food available for your baby. And that’s pretty awesome. So let’s take care of you too! While I can’t promise you a miracle weight loss drug I can share with you how I lost 35 pounds in 6 months after having my son all while maintaining my milk supply – I actually overproduced!! Following my tried and true meal plan for weight loss while breastfeeding is as simple as:
  • Eat 3 well-balanced meals and 2-3 snacks per day 
  • No calorie restrictions 
  • No elimination diets 
  • No actual dieting 
I am going to teach you how to make smart & healthy food choices by walking through what foods you should eat more of and what foods you want to work on limiting. I’ll talk about foods and supplements you can add to your diet to help maintain and increase your milk supply + tips for physical activity while breastfeeding! 

Safe Weight Loss for Breastfeeding Moms

Producing breastmilk is a demanding task on your body, so you want to make sure you are still providing your body with the energy and nutrients that it needs – not depriving it! Do NOT restrict your calories.  Restricting calories – or skipping meals – can:
  • Lead to a drop in your milk supply
  • Make it harder for your body to heal postpartum
  • Make you feel lethargic and weak
  • Deprive you of the energy & nutrients you need
A healthy & safe goal to set for yourself is to lose 1 pound per week or 4 pounds per month.  Obviously, in the first weeks (maybe even a month or so) this number may be a bit higher. Early on you will continue to lose a lot of fluid. After that initial big dip in weight (from delivering your baby & fluid loss), you want to try and focus on the above goal of 4 pounds per month. Remember – weight loss while breastfeeding is different for everyone. Your weight loss journey is dependent on:
  • Your physical activity level
  • The amount of weight you gained during pregnancy
  • How much breastmilk you are producing

How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?

Breastfeeding burns about 300-500 calories per day.  Moms think that this calorie burn excludes them from needing to watch what they eat or avoiding physical activity, but 300-500 calories per day aren’t much when you are trying to lose weight! Don’t get me wrong…the extra calorie burn definitely HELPS lose weight – and is a bonus of breastfeeding your baby. But you still need to watch what you eat – no splurging like you may have done while you were pregnant – and work out to get the results you want. Now that you have a bit of understanding about healthy weight loss while breastfeeding let’s jump into the 6 tips that will help you shed the unwanted pregnancy weight! 

#1: Foods You Need To Eat MORE Of

When you sit down to plan out your meals for your weekly meal plan – or you’re standing in front of your pantry thinking “what the heck am I going to cook for dinner?” I want you to focus on the following foods. These are the foods you want to eat MORE of: 

Fruit

Any type of fruit is fair game here. Fruit is full of natural sugar (and your body needs the carbohydrates), just make sure you aren’t binging on fruit throughout the day. Remember we are looking to eat well-balanced meals & snacks. Some fruits you can add to your meals or snack on are:
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Berries

Veggies

Any type of veggies is also fair game, just make sure you are eating a variety! Dark leafy green veggies are important to include in your diet – especially early on – they are packed with essential nutrients for postpartum and breastfeeding moms, like iron! Some veggies you can add to your meals or snack on are:
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peppers

Lean Proteins

Protein is SUPER important for your postpartum recovery and breastmilk production. Lack of protein can lead to muscle loss while breastfeeding – we want to lose fat…not muscle! The key here is to focus on eating lean proteins:
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Seafood
  • Beans & Lentils (black beans, kidney beans, white beans)
  • Nuts
  • Tofu
  • Protein Powder
You can still eat other protein sources like beef and pork, but just limit these two protein sources in your diet and focus on eating lean sources more often.

Low-Fat or Non-Fat Dairy

When choosing dairy products to include in your breastfeeding meal plan make sure to include dairy products that are non-fat or low-fat. Some non-fat or low-fat dairy choices are:
  • Milk (non-fat, 1%, or 2%)
  • Yogurt (I always have a tub of low-fat Vanilla Chobani Greek yogurt in the fridge)
  • Cheese (mozzarella, ricotta, feta, swiss, cottage cheese)
  • Dairy-alternatives
What about cheddar cheese? Cheddar cheese is a bit higher in fat than other cheeses, but fat is needed during breastfeeding and cheddar cheese has a lot of nutritional benefits. I’d continue to include cheddar cheese in your meal plan, but just don’t add cheese to everything you eat!

Whole Grains

When it comes to grains – bread, rice, etc. – choose whole grains more often than refined grains. Some great whole-grain foods to include in your breastfeeding meal plan include:
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Whole wheat English muffins
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Granola

Healthy Fats (Oils)

Fats get a bad rap, but there are many benefits to eating healthy fats especially for breastfeeding mamas. Including healthy fats in your meal plan will help maintain your milk supply and keep you full for longer! The amount of fat you eat is not reflected in your breastmilk (a lot of fat eaten doesn’t equal fatty breastmilk), but the type of fat is – which is why we want to eat healthy fats! Some healthy fats to include in your breastfeeding meal plan include:
  • Oils (like olive oil and veggie oil)
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Seafood (halibut and salmon are great choices!)
Pro Tip: Cook with olive oil, veggie oil, or avocado oil instead of butter!

#2: Foods You Want To Limit

Now that we have covered the types of foods that you want to increase in your diet and include in your well-balanced breastfeeding meal plan, let’s jump into the foods you want to limit! When I say limit I don’t mean you can never eat these foods and you need to deprive yourself. Eliminating foods completely from your diet and deprivation are surefire ways to cause you to give up on your healthy eating/weight loss journey. It’s okay to splurge every now and then, but let’s not make these foods an everyday thing.

Added Sugars

Remember fruit and whole grains are on your list of foods to include in your breastfeeding meal plan – so you aren’t eliminating carbs. Buuut you do want to cut down on low-quality foods with added sugars, like:
  • Soda
  • Sweet tea
  • Candy
  • Pastries
  • Baked goods
When you buy pre-packaged foods – especially cereal or snacks – check the “added sugar” on the nutrition label and choose a food product (like a cereal) with a lower “added sugar.”

Unhealthy Fats (Saturated Fats)

Unhealthy fats include foods such as:
  • Butter
  • Beef and pork
  • Whole milk
  • High-fat cheeses (remember cheddar cheese is okay to include, just in small portions)
There are many nutritional benefits to eating healthy fats and not so many benefits to eating unhealthy fats – hence the name. You want your breastmilk to be made up of healthy fats that are going to provide beneficial calories to your growing baby.

Foods High in Sodium (Salt)

Most packaged and frozen foods are high in sodium. You can check the nutrition label on your pre-packaged foods at the grocery store to get a glimpse at how much sodium is in them – you may be surprised! I encourage you to eat whole, fresh foods whenever possible! Shop the perimeter of the grocery store – produce, meat/deli, and dairy. Choose no or low-salt options when you have the choice – canned goods, broth, etc.

Empty Calorie Foods

I can’t stress this one enough!! First off…if you are unsure of what the heck an “empty calorie food” is, it is basically a food product that provides calories but little to no nutritional value – often snack foods. Think about it this way…I don’t want you to restrict your calories because you need those calories to produce breastmilk and be a functioning healthy mom for your new baby. But, you are also trying to lose that stubborn postpartum baby weight. Don’t you want every calorie you eat to count for something? Every calorie you eat – if you are choosing nutrient-rich foods (allllll those foods we discussed in the first tip) – provides benefits to you and your baby + sets you on the right track to lose that weight. Eating a lot of empty calories foods will leave you hungry more often – therefore you’re eating even more food/calories throughout the day + causing that weight to hang around longer than you want it to!

#3: Foods & Supplements to Increase Your Breastmilk Supply

Your breastmilk supply is something that is always on the back of your mind as a breastfeeding mom and often the one thing I see most moms stress about before and after their baby is born. By following my breastfeeding meal plan you shouldn’t have any dip in your breastmilk supply because I am not requiring you to eliminate foods from your daily diet or restrict the amount of food you are eating. I am just asking you to change the way you eat – for the better! Here are some foods & supplements you can add to your breastfeeding meal plan if you experience a drop in your milk supply or if you just want the extra boost in your diet:
  • Fennel seed
  • Flaxseed (I keep ground flaxseed in my pantry and add it to literally anything I can – pancakes, breakfast muffins, etc.)
  • Red raspberry tea leaf (here is my favorite – it is safe to drink while breastfeeding)
  • Brewers yeast
  • Protein powder for breastfeeding

Protein Powder for Breastfeeding Moms

Lactation or breastfeeding protein powders are great breakfast or snack options – you’ll find I include them throughout my sample breastfeeding meal plan. Milk Dust Breastfeeding Protein Powder for Milk Supply is my absolute favorite protein powder to suggest to moms. It’s specifically tailored to breastfeeding moms who are looking to lose their pregnancy weight gain without sacrificing their milk supply. Other safe protein powders for breastfeeding moms are: Protein powder is packed with protein (obviously 😉), vitamins, & minerals – a nutrient-dense food option! Lactation protein powders will often also have galactagogues (foods that increase your milk supply).

#4: Choose Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

Snacking is a must for breastfeeding moms! The extra nutrient and calorie boost in between meals will help you to maintain your energy levels and breastmilk production. Healthy snacks for breastfeeding moms are snacks that are:
  • Nutrient-dense
  • High in protein
  • Healthy carbs (whole grains and fruits)
  • A little healthy fat
Aim for 2-3 high-protein snacks per day. Try to add healthy carbs and/or fats to your snack – fruit, brown rice, oatmeal, string cheese, cottage cheese, etc.

Healthy Snacks to Add to Your Breastfeeding Meal Plan

Check out the list below of some healthy snack ideas that you can add to your breastfeeding meal plan:
  • Low-fat and low-sugar yogurt + granola and fruit
  • Protein smoothie
  • Hummus + veggies (carrots, cucumbers, celery, peppers)
  • Lactation energy bites
  • Apples + peanut butter
  • 1-2 spoonfuls of chicken salad sandwich in a lettuce wrap
  • Cucumber sandwiches – cucumber slices, nitrate-free deli meal & a slice of cheese)
  • Make your own trail mix – fresh berries, nuts, and a sprinkle of dark chocolate chips
  • Beans + cauliflower rice – sprinkle low-fat cheese and your favorite seasoning for a snack when you’re a bit hungrier than usual
If you are finding yourself constantly hungry in between meals – even after a small snack – you may need to add more protein into your diet. Make sure your meals are high in protein and fiber – this will keep you full for longer. meal plan for breastfeeding

#5: Stay Hydrated + Make Smart Drink Choices

Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water is the easiest and quickest way to increase + maintain your milk supply – yes, it’s that simple!  Your goal is to drink 128 ounces or 16 8-ounce cups of water a day!  I use this water bottle to help keep me on track throughout the day.

What Not To Drink…

Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sweet tea, and sports drinks. Powerade is not going to increase your breastmilk supply not matter who tells you its true – I cross my heart promise. Limit caffeine beverages to only 3x/day. I recommend no more than two small cups of coffee daily. If you are looking for an energy boost midday, but don’t want the caffeine then try these Hydration Packs that are high in vitamins B6 + B12 for natural energy.

What About Alcohol While Breastfeeding?

Moderate alcohol consumption during breastfeeding is okay. There is no research showing that 1 standard drink in a day is harmful to your baby – so enjoy that much-needed glass of wine with dinner tonight! The best practice is to wait at least 2 hours after a single drink before nursing or expressing breastmilk. I use the general rule that if you feel okay to drive, then you are okay to nurse. You’d be surprised at how little of the alcohol you drink actually affects your breastmilk. meal plan for breastfeeding

#6 Physical Activity

Yes, I have to be the bearer of bad news..but you do have to work out in order to lose weight. I know a lot of mom bloggers out there who promise you can lose “X” amount of weight without working out! But as a professional and a mom I’m here to tell you that weight loss without exercise is often unhealthy and don’t you want your body to be toned and hot after you’ve put in the effort to lose the weight? Not to mention daily physical activity postpartum also helps to:
  • Improve your mood
  • Fuel you with more energy
  • Make you feel better about yourself
  • Lower your risk of PPD.

How Often? What Kind of Workouts Should You Do?

You don’t need to become a newfound fitness guru…you just need to dedicate at least 30 minutes 5 days a week of light exercise. Light exercise can include:
  • Taking your baby for a walk in the stroller
  • Carrying your baby in a carrier while getting chores done around the house (laundry or vacuuming)
  • Walk on the treadmill
  • Ride a stationary bike
  • Yoga & pilates
Once you receive the green light from your physician to start working out postpartum (usually around your 6-week postpartum appointment), keep your exercise routine light for the first month or so no matter your previous physical activity level.

What About High-Intensity Workouts?

Avoid HIIT or high-intensity cardio training at the beginning. The hormone changes caused by a sudden intense workout program can affect your breastmilk production. You can build back up to these more intense workouts as time goes on. Give your body time to adjust, build back up your muscle strength, & allow your body time to heal. Remember what your body has been through in the last 9+ months and be gracious to yourself!

Sample Breastfeeding Meal Plan

So! To help you get successfully started on your breastfeeding and weight loss journey I have a gift for you – a sample week breastfeeding meal plan!

Why Should You Meal Plan?

I don’t know about you, but when dinner rolls around my brain has long since clocked out for the day. Making the decision of what to cook for dinner seems daunting and I’ll often pack up the family and head out to eat or order Door Dash 😬🤫 Planning our meals for the week ahead of time:
  • Eliminates the need for you to make decisions about dinner when your brain is done – you’ve already planned it out for yourself
  • Avoids eating out where food is often high in calories and all those things I talked about limiting in your daily diet
  • Saves money at the grocery store when you only buy what you need
  • Makes it easy for your hubby or older children to help out with mealtime

Tips for Meal Planning

  • Meal prep breakfast & lunch on Sunday (or any day of the week you have free time or help) – this makes breakfast & lunch super easy throughout the week
  • Don’t skip breakfast! I know you mama…mornings are hectic and busy but forgetting to fuel yourself in the morning can lead to splurging and overeating later in the day furthering you from your weight loss goal!
  • Take advantage of the crockpot or Instant pot on days that are busier than normal – doctors appointments, other kids’ extracurricular activities, etc.
  • Download this meal plan to help you get started

Let’s Wrap It Up

Phew 😅 I know that was a lot of info mama, so let’s just do a quick recap:
  • Don’t count your calories
  • Eat 3 balanced meals and 2-3 high protein snacks daily
  • Focus on eating whole foods instead of processed and fast food
  • Add foods or supplements to increase your breastmilk supply if needed
  • Stay away from added sugars, unhealthy fats, high sodium foods, & empty calories
  • Drink plenntttttyyyyy of water
  • Exercise – remember nothing crazy fitness guru – for 30 minutes, 5 days a week
Remember your weight loss journey is unique to you. It will take time. There is no miracle diet or miracle “no-exercise” weight loss plan that is healthy for you or your baby. There may be days you make some not-so-healthy food choice or a week or so you feel the scale is not pointing in the direction you favor, but that is expected and it’s okay. When you find yourself in these moments remember this…
“It’s all okay. Just keep showing up, and keep offering yourself compassion. Little by little, the work will get done.” Lee Chaix McDonough

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