Knowing your macros for breastfeeding and the postpartum period is a complex topic because every pregnancy and baby is different. Today, we’re digging into what you need to consider from a nutrition standpoint if you’re breastfeeding your new little one. 


As a new mom, your body is growing, nurturing, and supporting a new life with very little direction from you.

Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing. However, it extends the period of time when you “share” your body with your little one. This means that what and how much you eat needs to be considered as it impacts your little one’s health.

You’re sleep deprived, you’re learning your baby’s patterns, you’re building new routines, and you don’t need to spend tons of time collecting research, asking the internet questions like,

“What are the best foods to eat when breastfeeding?” 

“How many calories do I need while breastfeeding?

Or, “Does what I eat impact my breastmilk?”

We’re tackling these questions so you can spend less time Googling and more time snuggling your little one. You’ll learn how to determine calories for breastfeeding and general postpartum nutrition needs, macronutrient prescriptions, and weight loss considerations.

Calorie Requirements for Breastfeeding

When a baby breastfeeds, they take energy from your body. So, producing enough milk for the baby requires lactating individuals to consume extra calories to meet the baby’s needs as well as their own. 

The important question then becomes: how many calories do you need when breastfeeding?

Different sources provide varying estimates for these needs—from 500 extra calories per day in the first six months and 400 calories afterward to over 600 cal per day.

Like most things in nutrition, making a single recommendation is unrealistic. The nuances of the postpartum period change from one person to another and can even change for one individual throughout their journey.

That being said, one thing remains the same for everyone: The immediate postpartum period is a time of heightened metabolic demand as your body works to rebuild, heal and, in some cases, breastfeed.

A safe place to start for most postpartum individuals to maintain a healthy milk supply is 400-500 additional calories (above pre-pregnancy maintenance levels) per day.

A caloric intake of fewer than 1500-1800 calories may impact your milk supply. As the days pass and changes are made in your overall nutritional status, you need to consider your weight, milk supply, and infant growth as you adjust calories.

At WAG Nutrition, our coaches have been specially trained to support postpartum individuals through this time to ensure adequate intake for baby while keeping your individual needs into account. They’ll help you monitor all the moving pieces of the postpartum period (mood, energy, milk supply, weight changes, etc.) and personalize a program to your goals. 



Macronutrient Needs While Breastfeeding

Now that we’ve covered calorie requirements while breastfeeding, you may wonder, “What are my protein, carbs, and fat needs?

These are the three macronutrients, and the answer to “what should my macros be while breastfeeding?” will be tailored to each individual. In fact, it is even more individualized than calorie needs as now; individual preference comes into play.

Protein Needs While Breastfeeding

During lactation, you must consume an appropriate amount of protein to maintain your muscle mass while providing adequate nutrition to your infant through breast milk. Protein is considered the building block of life for a reason!

The current Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for protein suggest that healthy lactating individuals (0–6 mo postpartum) should consume an Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) of 1.05 g protein/kg/d.

But, some studies suggest that protein requirements may be even higher than this. Some evidence supports a protein requirement for exclusively breastfeeding individuals (3–6 mo postpartum) closer to ∼1.7–1.9 g/kg/d. From there, needs may increase further based on training style and intensity.

Dietary Fat Needs While Breastfeeding

Fat is delicious AND nutritious—especially while breastfeeding.

Essential fatty acids are critical to an infant's neurological development both before and after birth, so adequate intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding is key. 

Your intake of fatty acids not only affects the fatty acid profile of breastmilk but is an essential dietary determinant of mammary gland function (which impacts milk supply) and healthy infant body fat levels.

DHA and EPA are long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in foods like tuna, salmon, scallops, and clams. These omega-3 fats play a crucial role in fetal and newborn development, including neuronal, retinal, and immune functions.

Suggestions for exact intake amounts are best handled by your OBGYN or an experienced coach. But, in general, we recommend keeping total fat intake at or above a 25-30% range of total calories.

Carbohydrate Needs While Breastfeeding

Carbohydrates are important for breastfeeding as you transfer energy to your little one while facilitating your own physical recovery and milk production.

Eating carbohydrates that are high in micronutrients is ideal for the optimal health of both you and your little one. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are your best bet here.

In terms of carb amounts, this will vary significantly based on things like:

  • Personal preference (if you enjoy higher carb foods more than higher fat foods)

  • If you’re training during the postpartum period

  • Bodyweight of both you and baby

We recommend starting by determining your protein intake, moving on to fat intake, and then filling your remaining calories with carbohydrates.

Each macronutrient carries its own importance and responsibility, which means having a well-balanced diet while breastfeeding is the healthy choice for most individuals. This can look like an even calorie distribution between the three macronutrients or something close to it.

The Best Foods to Eat Postpartum

Now that we’ve covered carb, fat, and protein amounts, you may be wondering what specific foods are essential to focus on in the postpartum period. Use the table below for inspiration.

Breastfeeding and Weight Loss

While your baby is growing inside your body, weight gain is celebrated and encouraged. Once he or she is out in the real world, you may start noticing pressure from social media and other outlets to “get your pre-baby body back.”

The postpartum period can bring up a lot of body insecurity. Your cute belly is gone, and hormones change day-to-day and even minute-to-minute. 

At WAG, we support our clients in feeling confident and comfortable in their bodies again while celebrating and appreciating the natural changes that come post-childbirth. That being said, “Can I lose weight while breastfeeding?” is a question we get a lot. Let’s dig into it.



Is It Safe to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding?

In short, the answer is yes. Some weight loss is perfectly fine and healthy for most individuals while breastfeeding

The biggest thing to remember when considering postpartum weight loss is that the top priorities are recovery, healing, and milk supply (if you are breastfeeding).

Here are a few weight loss considerations to make during your postpartum period:

  1. Changes in calorie intake to trigger weight loss (and the hormonal changes that occur when body fat is lost) can impact milk supply.

  2. Consider how long you’re planning on breastfeeding. For those who plan to breastfeed for as long as possible, slower, steadier weight loss is advantageous so you can ensure supply stays strong long-term.

  3. Overall recovery from pregnancy and delivery—and the calories needed to facilitate that recovery—change from person to person.

  4. Fat loss is not a linear process—especially during the postpartum period. There will almost always be times when weight goes up or down.

Expectations around postpartum weight loss cannot be derived from societal expectations. Instead, they come with patience (with yourself), flexibility (with the rate of change), awareness (of impacting factors), and a lot of grace. The pressures of caring for a new life are enough without adding stress about weight loss.

Does Weight Loss Impact Milk Supply?

A few small studies in the United States have addressed the issue of whether weight loss influences milk production. Because true experiments on breastfeeding women are unethical (understandably so!), data is dated and limited.

In a 1994 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers observed women who voluntarily reduced their energy intake to 68 percent of their estimated needs for seven days. No differences in infant intake or milk composition were observed. In the week following the diet, women who consumed fewer than 1500 calories experienced a decrease in milk volume.

The Journal of Nutrition published an article just a few years later, in 1998, where researchers ultimately found, “Gradual weight loss (≤2 kg/mo) seems to have no adverse effect on milk volume or composition, provided that the mother is not undernourished and is breast-feeding her infant on demand” and that an “energy deficit of 35%, achieved by dieting or a combination of dieting and increased exercise, results in weight loss >1 kg/wk and does not adversely affect lactation.”

But, the article also states that “further research is required on the longer-term effect of energy restriction and on the effects of energy balance in lactating women with low-fat reserves.” In other words, deeper deficits and/or more aggressive weight loss efforts may adversely affect milk supply.

With all of this in mind, we can say that weight loss is possible while breastfeeding. A modest calorie restriction combined with increases in activity may be effective at helping you lose weight while improving your metabolic profile and increasing fat loss. So yes, you CAN lose weight while breastfeeding; there are more factors to pay attention to.

How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding

A slow and steady approach with a small to moderate calorie deficit is the best place to start when it comes to losing weight while breastfeeding.

Pair this with an exercise routine (once okayed by your OBGYN and, when possible, pelvic floor PT) to maintain your lean body mass and keep tabs on how your supply is doing. Then, adjust calories as necessary to ensure you and baby are getting what you need.

Remember that breastfeeding takes energy and should be considered when calculating a calorie deficit. Get an outline for these calculations HERE.

At WAG, we usually recommend breastfeeding individuals start at or above 1,800 calories/day.  And if you need more personalized advice and support, WAG nutrition coaches are trained to help to breastfeed individuals reach their goals safely and confidently. We’ll help you assess the factors impacting milk production and the best next steps for you.

Other Factors that Impact Milk Supply

Keeping up your milk supply is a dance of give and take (literally). Much of breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis, especially in the first 6-10 weeks of a baby's life.

Then, other factors can impact milk supply besides the baby’s needs. Three leading players may impact your milk production outside of calorie intake.

1. Stress and Breastfeeding

Perhaps the most influential factor impacting milk supply is stress.

The postpartum period is full of change, new routines, lack of sleep (more on that in a second), physical recovery, and more, making it very tricky to manage stress levels. Rising levels of stress hormones—like cortisol—can negatively impact your milk supply and your letdown reflex (aka: your body’s ability to relax and get breastmilk flowing). This means finding ways to minimize or reduce your stress is extremely crucial.

Asking for help, getting sleep wherever you can, surrounding yourself with people you love, and participating in activities that help calm your nervous system will be essential. Try asking for support in household chores like food preparation, laundry, and cleaning up, plus taking a few hours for yourself every other week.

It could look like a solo walk, an hour to practice an old hobby, doing some slow-flow yoga, asking your partner to be on baby duty so you can sneak in a nap or anything else that gives you a sense of, well, you!

2. Sleep and Breastfeeding

Sleep is closely related to stress. When you don’t get enough sleep, cortisol levels rise, which may drastically impact your milk supply.

Because you’re taking care of a little one who is likely waking up many times throughout the night to feed, it can be nearly impossible to get the solid 7-8 hours required for healthy, happy (stress!) hormone balance.

3. Hydration and Breastfeeding

Your hydration level directly impacts how much milk can be produced. Carrying a bottle of water with you, keeping one in the baby’s room (where you breastfeed), or creating milestones such as a glass of water every time you breastfeed can help with remembering to drink and stay hydrated.

Wrapping Up Macros For Breastfeeding

The postpartum period is a challenging, beautiful, and rich period for most new parents. Hopefully, these nutrition tips and clarity on macros for breastfeeding help you confidently take on the postpartum period! And, if you want a little help, we’d love to work with you!