How Many Calories Does a Nursing Mother Need Each Day?

by Michelle LaRowe

If you are a nursing mother, eating the appropriate amount of calories each day is important for you and your baby. As a nursing mom, what you eat not only affects you but your nursing baby as well. Eating the right number of calories each day ensures that your milk production remains steady and that your milk has the proper nutrients for your baby.

Daily Calorie Requirements

While the amount of calories each nursing mom requires can vary, a good rule of thumb is to eat 500 more calories per day than you did before you became pregnant. This is because your body needs the additional calories while it is producing breast milk, according to FamilyEducation.com. At minimum, most nursing moms need at least 2,200 calories per day to maintain their milk production and to ensure that their milk has adequate nutrients for their nursing baby.

Types Of Calories

While it can be tempting to eat whatever types of food you want while you are nursing, it's important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. A well-balanced diet that is composed of a variety of foods will help ensure that you and your baby receive adequate amounts of vitamins each day. While nursing, aim to eat three meals per day composed of complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins and a few nutritious snacks. Eggs served with oatmeal, a salad topped with grilled chicken and grilled salmon served with a baked potato and steamed veggies, are all balanced meal options. Yogurt, paired with nuts, and cottage cheese, topped with fresh fruit, are healthy and nutritious snack options. The calories that come from these foods have more nutritional value than prepackaged foods, like potato chips and cookies.

Under Eating

If you don't eat enough calories, you may not produce enough milk for your baby. While at first you may make enough milk to support your baby, over time, as the fat supply you stored up during pregnancy is depleted, your milk supply may decrease, according to KidsGrowth.com. If you don't eat enough calories, you can also put your own health at risk. If your protein intake is too low, you may risk losing muscle tissue. If your calcium intake is too low, your bones may lose calcium.

Dieting While Nursing

For some new moms, losing their pregnancy weight is a top priority. Since breastfeeding burns calories, nursing moms who eat a well-balanced diet and engage in moderate exercise are likely to lose weight. If you are losing or plan to lose weight this way, you can safely lose about 1.5 lbs. per week. While it can be tempting to adapt a drastic diet while breastfeeding, don't. Rapid weight loss can negatively impact your breast milk. When you lose weight too quickly, the toxins that are normally stored in your fat and released into your bloodstream are instead released into your breast milk. If this happens, your baby ends up ingesting those toxins.

Food Intake Myths

Many nursing moms believe that they must drink milk each day to produce milk, so they drink lots of calories in the form of milk each day. Drinking milk doesn't make you produce milk, according to La Leche League International. A healthy diet composed of a variety of nutritious foods supports a healthy milk supply. For nursing moms who are worried about getting enough calcium, it's important to know that many non-dairy foods, like dark green veggies, seeds and nuts, are sources of calcium.

About the Author

Michelle LaRowe is the 2004 International Nanny Association Nanny of the Year and the author of "Nanny to the Rescue!", "Working Mom's 411" and a "Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists." LaRowe graduated from Bridgewater State College with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and holds a Certificate in Pastoral Studies from Global University.

Photo Credits

  • mother and baby drinking breast-milk image by hans slegers from Fotolia.com