How Much More Should I Eat When Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

You’re pregnant – yeah, congratulations!

Baby has arrived, and now you’re breastfeeding – yeah, you’re officially a breastaurant!

Eating well during pregnancy and while breastfeeding isn’t just about eating enough, it’s about WHAT you’re eating too!

Let’s peek under that cozy blanket and uncover HOW MUCH you should be eating as well as WHICH FOODS should be included in your pregnancy and breastfeeding daily diet.

PREGNANCY: Eating for two? (not exactly!)

When you’re pregnant, what you eat (and drink) is your growing baby’s main source of nourishment. So, it only stands to reason that you’re going to need a little energetic top-up during the time that you’re busy growing another human inside you! 

While it’s certainly true that your nutrient needs increase as your wee one continues to grow (up to 6-10 pounds on average for full term), your energy requirements actually only increases by 300-500 calories per day for the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

But there’s very little change in daily caloric intake needed in the first trimester considering that baby is only the size of a pea or smaller in those early stages.

Here’s a quick guide for your daily caloric top-up:

If your weight was within normal range and you were moderately active before becoming pregnant, your recommended daily intake was likely to be about 2,000 calories a day. Then, during pregnancy… 

  • First trimester: No extra calories required.
  • Second trimester: Up your daily calorie intake by ~ 300 calories per day.
  • Third trimester: You’ll need up to an extra 500 calories per day.
  • If you’re carrying multiples: You could need an additional 300 calories per day for each baby.

You also require more of all the essential nutrients than you did before, and a healthy pregnancy includes fat storage because your body will need to use it for energy during labour and breastfeeding. 

But, as any savvy health practitioner will tell you: try not to obsess over everything you eat or every pound you gain. If you’re following a healthful, balanced diet on most days, and incorporate your 300-500 calorie top-up in the 2nd & 3rd trimesters – you should do just fine!

The extra food you consume shouldn’t just be “empty” calories either. Choose as many nutrient-dense foods as possible that provide all of the additional nutrients you and your growing baby needs.

BREASTFEEDING: Still eating for two? (still, not exactly!)

Milkies-Mama Fact: 

Milk production burns around 500 calories a day — close to what you might burn on a five-mile run!  

In many ways, your breastfeeding diet should be similar to your pregnancy diet — but with a few of the “rules” relaxed. 

For example – as long as you stayed within your recommended weight gain range during pregnancy (practitioners typically recommend 25-35 lbs for the average woman), and your weight is back in the normal range during breastfeeding, you may even need to up your intake by about 500 additional calories per day than you ate pre-pregnancy (YEAH!). 

>> Try this cool pregnancy weight gain calculator << 

However, due to the various hormonal changes in your body, you may find that you have a bigger-than-usual appetite and be more prone to retaining body fat (Womp, womp). 

If you’re motivated to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans faster while you’re still breastfeeding, please know that restricting calories too much, especially during the first few months, may decrease both your milk supply and energy levels.  

WhatToExpect.com says:  

“The basic fat-protein-carb combo of human milk isn’t directly dependent on what you eat. Even women who aren’t well-fed can feed their babies well, since if a mom doesn’t consume enough nutrients to produce milk, her body will tap into its own stores to fuel milk production. 

The goal when you’re nursing should never be to deplete your body’s store of nutrients. It will shortchange you on much-needed energy as well as potentially sabotage your milk supply.” 

You’ll also want to aim for 8 cups of hydrating fluids every day — especially in the weeks after birth, since it will help your body in recovering from what probably felt like an Olympic event!  

To ensure you’re getting enough, one tip is to drink a cup of water every time your baby breastfeeds. 

So, just to sum up: 

An exclusively breastfeeding mother, on average, needs to take in 300-500 calories per day above what was needed to maintain pre-pregnancy weight.  

Since the recommended added calories during the last two trimesters of pregnancy is 300 calories/day, an exclusively breastfeeding mother will typically need either the same amount of calories she was getting at the end of pregnancy, or up to 200 additional calories per day. That’s the equivalent of adding 1-2 healthy snacks per day.

What are some optimal foods to include in your pregnancy & breastfeeding daily diet?

  • Protein-rich foods like lean meat, poultry, and fish – be advised that it’s suggested to avoid the following fish during pregnancy:
  • Calcium-rich foods like kale, collard greens, almonds and sardines
  • Vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, sweet potatoes, red pepper, and tomatoes
  • Colourful, fibre-filled veggies
  • Whole grains like quinoa, and legumes like chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
  • Iron-rich foods like spinach and lean red meat (in moderation)
  • Good fats like avocado (high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat) and omega-3-rich hemp seeds
  • Plenty of fluids – this includes fruits & veggies with high water content
  • Also ensure that you’re getting adequate amounts of Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid in your diet – either through foods or additional supplementation. B

Be sure to consult with a qualified Health Practitioner if you’re unsure if you and your baby’s nutritional needs are being met, both during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. 

RECIPE 

Want to get in your extra calories for pregnancy or breastfeeding – in the healthiest (and tastiest) possible way? Try this delicious, nutrient dense recipe. 

Plant-based Avo-chickpea Salad Wraps 

Makes 6 snack servings or 3 light meal servings 

Ingredients 

6 collard leaves*

1 medium avocado, ripe

1 ½ cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 medium stalk celery*, diced

½ large red bell pepper*, diced

1 medium carrot*, diced

1 lemon or lime, juiced

¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

½ tsp salt (Himalayan pink or Celtic sea salt recommended)

¼ tsp fresh ground pepper 

* Look for organic produce, and wash well before use. 

Preparation

Scoop out avocado flesh, and mash in a small bowl. 

In a larger bowl, add chickpeas and mash with the back of a fork, until coarsely mashed. 

Add avocado, diced vegetables, citrus juice, cilantro, salt & pepper, and combine well with mashed chickpeas.  

Lay collard leaves flat on a cutting board or clean surface.  

Scoop 1/3-1/2 cup avo-chickpea salad onto the centre of each leaf. 

Roll the leaf up like a burrito (i.e. fold one side in to centre, fold bottom up to centre, then fold the other side into centre). Repeat until all of the salad is used.  

Store salad and/or collard wraps in the fridge (in an airtight container) for 3-4 days.

REFERENCES 

Pregnancy: 

Kids Health – https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/eating-pregnancy.html

WhatToExpect.com – https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/calories-diet/

AmericanPregnancy.org – https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/pregnancy-nutrition/

Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/health-news/dont-eat-for-two-while-pregnant 

Health Canada – Pregnancy Weight Gain Calculator

http://health.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/prenatal-nutrition/pregnancy-weight-gain-calculator.html 

Breastfeeding: 

WhatToExpect.com – https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-diet.aspx

Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/breastfeeding-diet-101

KellyMom.com – https://kellymom.com/nutrition/mothers-diet/mom-calories-fluids/ 

Additional Resource:

The Recovery Village Ridgefield – https://www.ridgefieldrecovery.com/drugs/related/pregnancy-and-substance-abuse/