Does Breastfeeding Make You Hungry? Breastfeeding Hunger
Does breastfeeding make you hungry? Why does breastfeeding make you hungry? What Does Breastfeeding Hunger Feel Like? How Can I Stop Being So Hungry while Breastfeeding?
These are some of the questions many new breastfeeding mothers have recently asked me, and I have once pondered such questions.
If you’ve wondered about breastfeeding hunger and your tendency to binge eat, there’s a reason for it! Read on.
I have been planning to create this article for new moms (especially) for quite some time now. Breastfeeding hunger is a natural phenomenon, and it can be easy to miss hunger cues as a new mom.
Breastfeeding hunger is a real problem, and a lot of mothers find themselves super frustrated as they are adding weight and starving at the same time while breastfeeding.
They feel as if they’ve done something wrong to feel hungry all the time.
Some moms tell me they are both ashamed and scared by these feelings of hunger. Neutrally, “breastfeeding and always being hungry” makes sense.
In addition, several factors can cause breastfeeding to make you hungry.
Let’s get right into it!
Does Breastfeeding Make You Hungry?
Yes, breastfeeding can make you hungry and even sleepy. Logically, you are producing food (breast milk) for a baby, which takes a lot of work and energy on your body’s part.
Therefore, this may explain why you are constantly hungry while breastfeeding.
In addition, you might feel like your body is working overtime like you’re expecting to see not only your baby’s first steps and words but maybe a Nobel Prize or two. And after all that hard work, you might be ready for a cookie (or three).
Why Does Breastfeeding Make You Hungry?
The body uses fat storage and energy reserves to produce milk, which can vanish almost as fast as it was made.
Most babies feed every 2 to 4 hours. Therefore, your body generates and burns tons of energy around the clock, which certainly requires additional calories. That is why breastfeeding results in increased appetite and hunger.
Besides this, you also need energy around the clock to keep your heart pumping, your kidneys filtering, your lungs breathing, and many more things.
Furthermore, if you’re exercising on top of it all, you’ll need even more energy.
I remember the hunger I experienced while breastfeeding (my first and second child) as being much worse than the hunger I experienced after a marathon.
So, if you are nursing and running, you will definitely feel hungry!
Thankfully, I always had snacks like dairy-free protein bars, nuts, packaged snacks, cookies, coconut balls, and other fast foods around me.
So, whenever hunger struck, I ate! There were even times I had to wake up in the middle of the night and was craving a snack. Trust me! The postpartum hunger was crazy!
So, here are other reasons breastfeeding makes you hungry and even gaining weight.
Nutrient requirements are not being met.
In order to maintain lactation, breastfeeding mothers require additional nutrition. Many mothers experience cravings as a result of the increased demand, which may manifest as pure hunger.
In order to get more nutrients, the body will often signal for more food, as it is technically hungry for them.
Often, nursing moms turn to food when tired or feel hungrier when not sleeping.
Your blood sugar levels fluctuate.
Breastfeeding hunger brings a lot of extra cravings, mainly for sugar and other food types.
Mothers’ cravings for carbs and desserts while breastfeeding impact blood sugar levels dramatically.
Mothers who breastfeed require more nutrients, hence breastfeeding hunger.
Sadly, many nursing moms feed their hunger with high carbohydrates and fatty foods such as potato chips, fries, cheeseburgers, bread, nachos, among others.
When you consume these food substances, your blood sugar spikes, then drops quickly. When blood sugar drops, hunger returns when there is insufficient fibre or protein in the diet to satiate.
The issue with dropping blood sugar, your body technically doesn’t need more food, but it certainly feels that way. As a result, you overeat but never feel full.
Adjustment to new hormone levels with prolactin for lactation
During lactation, hormone levels change dramatically. As estrogen levels fall, prolactin levels rise.
Even though the lower estrogen helps you lose weight, sometimes your body does not respond well to the prolactin.
Hormones can influence hunger and metabolism, so that some nursing mothers may have more appetite during hormonal changes.
Lack of sleep increases cortisol levels.
Breastfeeding newborns require a great deal of attention which can be stressful.
Stress can also arise from sleeping fewer than the needed hours. A high level of cortisol can result from this stress among many moms.
Stress and sleep deprivation for new mothers can lead to an increase in appetite, so breastfeeding mothers truly face a hunger dilemma.
What Does Breastfeeding Hunger Feel Like?
According to lactation experts, the most common issue with most mothers is that they no longer understand hunger because they ignored it for so long.
After you start nursing and experience breastfeeding hunger, you’re going to have a lot to deal with.
Perhaps your body has blunted some of these signs. Most mothers struggle to deal with hunger because it is frightening.
You are forced to think about food (perhaps something you are trying not to think about or a topic you already concentrate on).
You should take some time to become familiar with your early hunger warning signs, regardless of whether it is primal hunger or feeling so hungry while breastfeeding.
Some Common Signs of Hunger
- Inability to focus
- Tired or lethargic
- Grumbling or growling stomach
- You can’t help but think about food
As we are all unique, there isn’t a universal blueprint, but you should be able to identify your own.
I recognize my hunger cue by gradually stopping to think straight and can’t seem to focus on work anymore. I could even start trembling, and food became the only thing that occupied my mind. Also, I get tired when breastfeeding at that point.
So, you must recognize your hunger signs and cues and replenish your energy with the right nutrients.
How Often Should I Eat When Breastfeeding?
As a guideline, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists advises exclusively breastfeeding women at a healthy pre-pregnancy weight. They are advised to consume 450 to 500 calories every day in addition to their pre-pregnancy calorie requirements.
As a result, you are likely to take about the same caloric intake as you did during your third trimester.
On the other hand, those underweight at conception but are exclusively breastfeeding will have to consume even more calories than this extra 450-500.
Mothers who were obese or overweight at conception do not require additional calories when exclusively breastfeeding and may be able to even moderately reduce calories to lose weight.
Aside from your pre-pregnancy weight, there is a great deal of variation in calorie needs. Your needs are also highly dependent on your activity level, fat stores, breastfeeding frequency, and how many children you are nursing.
So, all these factors are into the calculation of what calorie intake is right for you.
Reasons Why Breastfeeding Hunger Feels Scary
The feeling of breastfeeding hunger can be frightening since it is different from any other kind of hunger. Having this feeling is strange to most women.
We can be uncomfortable whenever we encounter any kind of foreign experience in our bodies. In addition, we often think of unnatural behaviours in our bodies as “wrong.”
Among the reasons you may feel scared about breastfeeding hunger are:
- Compared to before, it feels much more intense
- Body changes and weight gain worry you
- Throughout your life, you have learned to control or ignore hunger
- You have been dieting for a long time
- It has been challenging for you to manage your eating disorder
- If you have not felt connected to your body due to depression, anxiety, maternal mental health disorders or birth trauma. This can be really true if you have been disconnected from your body in the past.
Often, women ignore their hunger for a certain period or ignore it until it feels convenient to eat.
So, when people ask, “does breastfeeding make you hungry?” it is because it is something to worry about, especially when it is so intense and you haven’t experienced it before. It usually feels like you need to address something urgently.
What Happens If You Don’t Eat Enough While Breastfeeding?
Some lactation consultants say when a breastfeeding mother is not eating enough, she is likely to experience fatigue and face the challenges of gaining or maintaining weight.
In addition, she may feel dizzy and have muscle cramps.
Like I earlier stated, a nursing mother needs an additional 400 to 500 calories every day. (Calorie intake depends on several factors, which I stated above).
Therefore, if a breastfeeding mother is not feeding enough, the breast milk will still contain all the healthy properties for the baby to meet their caloric needs.
But, the mom’s body will suffer since you are eating less and losing more.
How Can I Stop Being So Hungry while Breastfeeding?
Since breastfeeding makes you hungry, here are things you can do to avoid staying so hungry and overeating.
Regularly consume fluids and meals throughout the day
You can stay in shape by regularly eating to consume enough calories and prevent becoming over-hungry, resulting in overeating.
Make sure you stock your home with meals and snacks you can grab easily, especially those you can eat with one hand (since you might hold your little one with the other hand).
So, for now, forget strict dieting as your body still has increased nutrient needs. Rather, focus on foods rich in nutrients that will aid in breastfeeding.
Ensure that you add an estimated amount of 450-500 calories to your diet per day in a healthy way.
While adding 450-500 extra calories may be more or less than your body needs, you should always listen to your hunger and fullness cues to decide how much you should consume.
Take a postnatal vitamin.
When breastfeeding, consider taking pre-or postnatal vitamins. Alternatively, you can take lactation supplements to guarantee you are meeting your daily nutritional needs for vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.
Communicate your concerns with your healthcare provider
Are you concerned about how breastfeeding makes you hungry and the fear of gaining so much weight? During nursing, endeavour to speak with your healthcare provider to ask any questions you have about weight or diet.
What’s the Best Diet for Breastfeeding?
So, based on all of this, I think new moms should have snack items accessible and easy to grab when hunger strikes.
Typically, carbohydrate snacks are easy to grab on the go and provide fast energy.
However, protein and fat can help you stay full for longer. For this reason, I recommend keeping some options on hand at all times.
A few healthy “grab and go” protein-rich foods include slices of fruit, sliced vegetables, nut butter, sliced cheese, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, guacamole, yogurt, string cheese, tofu, dried fruit, sauerkraut, homemade protein bars, dark chocolate, kimchi, and sliced nuts.
In addition, you can consume whole grains, low-fat dairy, seeds, beans, fruits, banana muffins, kefir, homemade granola or trail mix, and energy bites.
Furthermore, quick meals you can prepare are deli turkey with veggies, sweet potato turkey burgers, and apple turkey burgers are excellent examples as they include veggies, protein, and fruits.
Meat and Poultry
Chicken, beef, lamb, pork, and organ meats (like liver)
Fish and Seafood
Sardines, salmon, shellfish, seaweed, and any other low mercury fish
Fruits and Vegetables
Berries, tomatoes, cabbage, bell peppers, garlic, ginger, kale, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables
Seeds and Nuts
Almonds, chia seeds, date fruit, walnuts, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds
Olive oil, Avocados, coconut, eggs, full-fat yogurt, vegetable oil
Potatoes, Butternut squash, sweet potatoes, lentils, beans, oats, buckwheat, and quinoa,
Does Breastfeeding Make You Hungry: Tips to Control Breastfeeding Hunger
Does breastfeeding make you hungry? And how can you deal with your postpartum hunger?
You have to learn to listen to and honour your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
However, it might feel difficult at first, particularly if it is something you have ignored before now.
But you have to understand that being a postpartum mom produces a whole new set of challenges when it comes to self-care and attending to your own needs.
It is very likely that you are listening to your body when you feel hungry, but logically, it is challenging to eat when you are breastfeeding, caring for your little one, and just trying to manage life.
I want to encourage you to follow a few general guidelines to navigate this challenging and beautiful postpartum season so you’ll remain nourished and healthy, especially while breastfeeding and caring for a newborn.
Set a reminder to eat all through the day
When you’re postpartum and breastfeeding, you require more energy and should fuel your body regularly.
Furthermore, your blood sugar is likely to stay stable throughout the day, allowing you to manage your moods and energy (both of which are especially vital postpartum).
Regular nutrient intake can also help prevent you from feeling overly hungry or even hangry at the end of the day.
Therefore, use your phone to set setting reminders throughout the day to help keep you on track and ensure you don’t skip meals too often.
Keep On-The-Go Snacks Close
Put easy-to-eat snacks near places where you frequently nurse so that you have easy access to them whenever you need them.
You should avoid staying too long without eating as much as possible since that may lead to increased hunger intensity episodes later on.
Get Meals or Snacks That Satisfies and Sustains You Longer
Snacks with proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats are more filling and can keep you satisfied longer.
If you eat just one food at a time, it probably won’t sustain you for very long, and you’ll probably feel hungry again soon.
A complex carbohydrate like whole grains and fruits contains a higher fibre content and therefore breaks down more slowly in the digestive system.
In other words, you will be more satisfied after eating and have more energy. Good fats also contribute to satiety.
Keep Easy Foods Available
You may have difficulty feeding your body if you are not prepared with foods to eat throughout the day, especially if hunger strikes.
It will feel like more obstacles are standing in the way of eating and staying nourished if a recipe is difficult to prepare or requires too many steps.
Your postpartum recovery plan should include easy-to-grab foods that are readily available at any time.
For example, are trail mix, protein bars, hummus with veggies, fresh and dried fruit, crackers and cheese, yogurt and granola or cereal, grass-fed beef jerky, and crackers.
Alternatively, you can use a meal delivery service, just temporarily, so you have food available and don’t have to bother about running out to the supermarket with your infant.
Thanks to many grocery stores offering home delivery, grocery shopping can be much easier.
Cut Down on Things That Make You Lose Energy
While breastfeeding, you may find it difficult to eat enough to sustain your appetite. If this is the case, look at any extra places where you might be expending energy.
In addition to breastfeeding, do you engage in any physical activity or vigorous exercise? Excess energy expenditure can increase your body’s hunger response and, as a result, increase your energy expenditure.
To properly meet your body’s energy needs while breastfeeding, decreasing your exercise intensity, frequency, and duration is a good idea.
Avoid Postpartum Dieting
It is common for new mothers to resort to dieting in order to lose the “baby weight.” In fact, dieting tactics, such as cutting out certain food groups or refraining from consuming certain foods, can be harmful to the mind as well as the body.
When a woman does not eat enough postpartum, her breast milk supply drops, which makes it more difficult to breastfeed.
Furthermore, when you engage in dieting, it becomes difficult to pay attention to, honour and trust your body’s hunger signals when it needs food or nutrients.
Food becomes more chaotic as a result of the dieting rules and guidelines that are often impossible to follow.
When a diet dictates how much food you should eat or should not eat, it is challenging to listen to and honour your hunger.
In addition, when you constantly limit or restrict your food intake, it can also have an adverse effect on your mood, metabolism, and total energy levels. Thus, this can make your life as a new mother (especially) unnecessarily difficult.
Keep in your mind that this is not about perfection. The objective is to maintain conscious self-care by intentionally caring for your body, especially during this postpartum season, where the body requires more nutrition than usual.
Does Breastfeeding Make You Hungry: Summary
Now you already know that breastfeeding can make you hungry and crave sugary things more.
And when you stay hungry for too long as a way to lose weight, you may end up achieving the opposite results. Like you already know, not consuming enough calories or nutrient-rich foods can negatively affect your breast milk and overall health.
It is also no doubt that breastfeeding hunger feels scary since it is more intense and seems unquenchable.
Well, that is the essence of this blog post, for you to be aware of what is happening to you postpartum regarding hunger.
So, right now, there shouldn’t be any cause for alarm since you know that you lose a lot of energy through breastfeeding and as a result, your body craves more calories and nutrients.
So, always try to keep healthy snacks close by, make fast, nutritious foods, or order one. While they help to provide the needed body nutrients and calories for energy, they increase breast milk supply and quality.
If necessary, ensure to include supplements like omega-3s and vitamin D into your routine.
Most importantly, restrict yourself from processed foods, alcohol consumption, and excess caffeine.
Finally, be easy on yourself during this breastfeeding, postpartum period. Always remind yourself of how strong and beautiful you are. And always communicate your concerns to your doctor. With time, you will feel better and bounce back to that banging body.
I hope this blog post assists in answering your question, “does breastfeeding make you hungry?”
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