Caloric intake for a breastfeeding mother

All Woman

Dear Donovan,

I am breastfeeding, and I'm seeking advice on how many calories I need each day to support my nursing needs. Currently, based on my calorie counter, I take in about 2,500 calories per day. How much of an increase do I need?

Breastfeeding provides the perfect early bonding for mother and child. In addition, the breast milk provides the ideal nutrients for infants. It is a balanced mix of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, antibodies and everything else that the baby needs to grow and be healthy. Also, infants that are breastfed are more likely to be at their right weight compared to bottle-fed children, who are often obese. It should also be noted that the antibodies which are present in breast milk help the baby to fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding also provides closeness to the mother and the child, allowing skin-to-skin and eye contact. This contact usually leads to the baby feeling more secure.

It should also be noted that breastfeeding burns extra calories which helps the new mother to lose pregnancy weight faster. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin which helps the mother's uterus to get back in shape. Feel-good hormones are also released during breastfeeding. In addition, studies have shown that breastfeeding can lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Your major concern is whether you are getting sufficient calories for breastfeeding. You are not alone. Many new mothers frequently wonder if they should be consuming more calories while breastfeeding.

As a rule of thumb, you could actually take in about the same number of calories you did before you became pregnant. This is really a good way to lose weight after pregnancy. However, I must point out that while the calorie intake is important, it might be even more important to make sure you are consuming healthy foods for you and your child.

You will need a personal meal plan based on your activity levels, amount of breastfeeding you are doing, age of the child, your age, your metabolic rate, and other factors. Your goal in terms of losing weight or remaining at the same weight should also be taken into consideration.

For an idea of the calories necessary, the dietary guideline for Americans suggests that the calorie intake for breastfeeding women between 19 and 45 years of age are based on the following:

•Sedentary mothers — 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day.

•Moderately active mothers — 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day

•Active breastfeeding mothers — 2,200 to 2,500 calories per day.

For breastfeeding mothers who are not trying to lose weight, 450-500 calories should be added to each group.

Special consideration should be give to breastfeeding mothers who are poorly nourished and mothers with a nutrient deficiency. However, in general, before increasing or decreasing your calorie intake, a medical professional could be consulted.

Good luck!

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight, or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com.

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