Having my children was among the most magical events in my life. One thing I didn’t realize at the time was how many extra calories you need while breastfeeding. I breastfed my oldest daughter until she was around 18 months old when she self-weaned, and am currently breastfeeding my youngest. Snacking throughout the day wasn’t just an option — it became a necessity to keep me from becoming one of those animals that devours its own young because I was so damn hungry all the time.
Get Those Extra Calories
The thing about breastfeeding is that your breastmilk will always have the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals for your infant, regardless of what you eat. If you’re not getting enough of these things in your diet, however, your body will start to pull them from internal stores. In the case of things like calcium, that means it’s leaching the mineral from your bones to make sure your baby has enough to grow and strengthen theirs.
On average, a breastfeeding mother needs about 500 extra calories a day, on top of the recommended 2,000 or so you eat to keep your body healthy. Don’t stock up on candy bars and potato chips. Here are some healthy snacks to help your reach that calorie goal without loading you up with junk food.
1. Go Bananas
Bananas are the perfect portable snack. You can throw one in your diaper bag purse no matter where you’re going, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and it is packed full of healthy vitamins and minerals. A single large banana has 121 calories, 3.5 grams of fiber and a ton of potassium, which helps to improve muscle and nerve health.
If you prefer something you won’t smash if you accidentally sit on your diaper bag, you can enjoy dried banana chips for the same benefit without worrying about ending up with accidental baby food in your pocket.
2. Be a Little Cheesy
Calcium is one of those minerals you need a lot of when you’re breastfeeding. Your little one is growing bones, after all! It’s recommended that you get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, but if you can’t stand drinking milk, it’s the perfect time to get a little cheesy. One stick of string cheese contains 20% of your daily recommended intake of calcium, or 200 milligrams.
If you want a bit more flavor, drizzle cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese balls with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with shredded basil for some mini Caprese bites.
3, Go Nuts
Nuts come in more varieties than you can shake a stick at, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one you enjoy. Note — this doesn’t include people who are allergic to tree nuts. Skip to the next snack idea. If you don’t have an allergy to them, nuts are a perfect snack food you can toss in your pocket and forget about until you wash your pants.
No? Just me? OK, moving on then.
Nuts contain fiber, protein and antioxidants, as well as a number of different vitamins and minerals that you might have trouble finding in your diet like copper, magnesium and vitamin E. Flour made from almonds is also a fantastic alternative for moms who have difficulty digesting gluten.
4. Make More Milk
I never had a problem producing enough milk to feed my girls, but I know a lot of people struggle with production. With that in mind, here are some snacks you can enjoy that can help:
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal has a lot of iron in it, which makes it ideal for assisting with milk production. If you don’t have time to eat a bowl, toss a packet’s worth into your morning smoothie to get the same benefits in an easy-to-enjoy package.
- Lactation cookies: Take your favorite cookie recipe and add nutritional yeast, wheat germ and flax seed to create a tasty treat that helps you make more milk.
You can also add barley, fennel or garlic to your meals — all three of these foods help increase production. They even make a mother’s milk tea that contains fenugreek and other herbs. It’ll make you smell like you’re sweating maple syrup, but it’s a useful tool if you’re not making enough milk.
Whether you’re new to breastfeeding or have been at this a while, these snacks can help you get the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need to breastfeed without compromising your own health or stamina.