What a Breastfeeding Dietitian Eats in a Day for Postpartum Health

What a Breastfeeding Dietitian Eats in a Day for Postpartum Health

Mothering is hard work, and for me, a big part of that has been trying to keep up with the demands of my hungry, hungry hippo. Between breastfeeding and pumping about every two hours around the clock, feeding myself has become both a huge challenge and, at the same time, an absolute necessity. Ever get between a nursing mama and her snack? It’s really best you don’t.

While breastfeeding is often touted as a great way to lose weight, the reality is that weight loss should really not be the goal. Producing milk to feed a child takes a hella lot of calories—typically an average of 500 above what one needs to maintain a pre-pregnancy weight. You’ll also need upwards of about 3.1 liters of fluids a day, far more than the standard 2.2 liters most non-lactating women need.

But now I’m a special breed of lactating mom—I’m a registered dietitian. That means people love to know what I eat in a day, especially since I’ve managed to, somewhat unintentionally, lose a whole bunch of post-baby weight and then some. Don’t hate me: I recognize that this is not the norm. I’m honestly just trying to listen to my ravenous hunger and survive over here. So here’s what a breastfeeding new mom dietitian eats in a day to keep herself (and her kid) alive.

Photo: Abbey’s Kitchen

5:30 a.m. Pre-Breakfast Snack

2 Apple Pie Vegan Protein Granola Cups
1 shot espresso + 2 cups almond milk
3 cups sparkling water

Calories 310
Protein 14 g
Carbs 52 g
Fat 18 g
Fiber 3.5 g

While I’m up pretty much all night long, this is the first time during the day that I emerge from my pumping dungeon (a.k.a. my bed) and try hard not to climb back in. Now, if you think I’m Martha Stewart and baking at this hour, HA! You’ve probably never met a new mom. I actually made a big batch of these little plant-based protein cups in my third trimester and froze them for mornings like this.

They’re loaded with oats, hemp hearts, walnuts, freeze-dried apple, and vanilla protein powder so they give me a little energy (especially when paired with a blessed shot of espresso) that I can use in the gym. I have a treadmill downstairs so I usually use this hour while Baby E is sleeping to move my legs (and obviously, to watch The Handmaid’s Tale).

7:30 a.m. Breakfast

Banana & Coffee Maker Overnight Oats with ¾ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
3 cups sparkling water

Calories 290
Protein 8 g
Carbs 46 g
Fat 7.5 g
Fiber 8 g

Do a quick online search for “foods for breastfeeding,” and oats are probably at the top of every list. While the research supporting this claim is admittedly not strong, I find oats really comforting and calming, so they’ve become my postpartum staple. And yes, I know it’s easy enough to make oatmeal, but in this heat, I much prefer a jar of chilled overnight oats.

I also know I can make overnight oats from scratch, but do you think I have time to sprinkle in a fancy mélange of nuts, spices, dried fruits, and other add-ins every night before bed? Nope. I need all the help I can get right now.

Left to my weeknight schedule, I would be eating raw rolled oats for breakfast, but these pre-mixed Maker Overnight Oats (which you can buy in single-serve jars and refill pouches) make breakfast actually happen for me. I just add almond milk the night before and wake up to a jar filled with organic thick-cut oats, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and spices with no added sugar or salt. And the extra little bit of coffee in the Banana & Coffee flavor doesn’t hurt either.

10:00 a.m. Mid-Morning Snack

KIND Protein Crunchy Peanut Butter bar
1 shot espresso + 2 cups almond milk

Calories 350
Protein 14 g
Carbs 33 g
Fat 20 g
Fiber 5 g

This morning I’m shooting a video for my YouTube channel, which means food often needs to be fast and hand-held. I’ve been stashing KIND protein bars in my purse and babe’s diaper bag because they have a nice, short ingredient list with 12 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. The majority of protein comes from nuts, which is rare for protein bars, making them a filling snack that leaves me full for hours! Oh, and I needed another latte, because breastfeeding and pumping every two hours is EXHAUSTING.

Photo: Joyful Healthy Eats

12:30 p.m. Lunch

Bagged Kale Salad with Berries, Almonds, Feta, Balsamic Vinaigrette + 4 oz Chicken Breast
3 cups sparkling water

Calories 530
Protein 37g
Carbs 30 g
Fat 30 g
Fiber 6 g

When you’re trying to get a video shot in between feeds, there’s no time for a fancy lunch. I just threw together a few cups of pre-washed bagged kale; some berries, almonds, feta; and a splash each of balsamic and oil. I also added a few ounces of chicken breast that I grilled up and froze the week I gave birth. Mom tip: Cook and freeze as much as you possibly can in the weeks (or even better, months!) leading up to baby’s first appearance. Hey, they say fed is best, and that goes for mamas too—so stock up!

Also, if you haven’t noticed, I drink a lot of sparkling water. Hydration is absolutely key if you’re breastfeeding, so I do whatever I have to do to get more water in. I prefer sparkling, so I use a Soda Stream to keep myself motivated to drink up all day.

3:30 p.m. Mid-Afternoon Snack

Cottage Cheese + Blueberries + Powdered Peanut Butter
2 cups Mother’s Milk tea

Calories 134
Protein 16 g
Carbs 13 g
Fat 3 g
Fiber 3 g

This is one of my favorite high-protein snacks, and it helps get me through that last leg of the day when I’m out for a walk to prevent the kid from having a meltdown during “witching hour.” I also take a to-go mug full of Mother’s Milk tea, which is made up of a special blend of herbs like fennel, fenugreek, and blessed thistle that are thought to improve milk supply. I’ve done a deep dive into the literature, and there aren’t a lot of quality studies on its efficacy so who knows if it actually works. But hey, I see it as a flavorful way to get in more water, and I actually like the taste, so no harm, no foul, in my book!&

Photo: Abbey’s Kitchen

6:30 p.m. Dinner

Cabbage Roll Enchiladas with Steamed Green Beans and Quinoa
1 glass dry California Chardonnay

Calories 561
Protein 30 g
Carbs 46 g
Fat 22 g
Fiber 14 g

Again, while I don’t usually have time to cook, I do need to eat (well!!). These babies are the love child of a cabbage roll and an enchilada, and OMG they are good. I made a quadruple batch and froze them in little tin containers so all I have to do come 6 p.m. is warm them up. I serve them with some green beans (that I just throw in some boiled water) and a scoop of quinoa I prepare at the start of each week.

As for the booze, don’t judge me! Research suggests that the whole “pump-and-dump” recommendation is a bust, and the occasional drink is really no big deal. The amount of alcohol that’s passed along to the baby is negligible at best and steadily drops after about 45 minutes after a glass. That’s not a recommendation to get smashed: Intoxication is still a huge risk for falling with your baby, and you should never bed-share when you’ve had something to drink. But I don’t think my modest occasional glass of mom-juice is a big thing.

7:30 p.m. Bedtime Snack

Halo Top Peaches & Cream

Calories 160
Protein 10 g
Carbs 32 g
Fat 4 g
Fiber 6 g

OK, so like every other millennial, I am obsessed with Halo Top. I try to portion them out (my freezer only has so much space now with the breastmilk in there), so I eat about ½ a pint most weeknights. My all-time faves are Peanut Butter Cup, Mint Chip, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, but I’m currently loving the new seasonal Peaches & Cream. It’s got just 320 calories and 20 grams of protein per pint, so really, why not.

MegaFood Baby & Me 2 Supplement

Calories 0

It’s recommended that all expectant moms take a prenatal vitamin, but a lot of women don’t realize they should ideally continue its use after birth (especially those that are breastfeeding). Not only is baby dependent on me getting all the necessary nutrients to pass onto him, but I kinda need to not look malnourished too. Also, have you heard of postpartum hair loss? EEK. A lot of experts believe that continuing to take that prenatal multivitamin can help.

I love the Baby & Me 2 prenatal supplement by MegaFood because, like all of its products, it’s made with organic or sustainably grown whole foods and combines the optimal levels of iron, methylated folate, B vitamins, vitamin D, and choline for nursing mamas like me.

1:30 a.m. Midnight Snack

18 Crunchy Dill Quaker Crispy Minis Rice Chips
3 cups sparkling water

Calories 135
Protein 1.5 g
Carbs 22 g
Fat 3.75 g
Fiber 1.5 g

You thought I was done, right? HA! A mother’s day is NEVER done! I always keep these mini rice cakes by my bed to get through some of the nighttime feeds. They’re pretty low in calories and fat, but most importantly, they taste like chips and give me something to look forward to in the dark hours of the night. This and a TON of water. Honestly, every time I wake up during the night, I start chugging water like I’ve been stranded in the desert for days.

Daily Total

Calories 2470
Protein 130.5 g
Carbs 274 g
Fat 108.25 g
Fiber 47 g
3.47 L water

This is the first time I’ve tracked my caloric intake postpartum, but it’s about what I would expect. While I am breaking it down for you, I’m mainly doing so to make the point that you should not worry about counting calories and put yourself on a restrictive 1,500-calorie diet you read about online.

Breastfeeding is a serious workout, and fueling the beast means eating—a lot! In fact, there are days (like on the weekend) when I plow through a nacho platter and have cheesecake for dessert and don’t think anything of it. Listen to your body, fuel it well, and the rest will work itself out if and when the time is right.

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