Do Breastfeeding Mothers Need Extra Calories?
Do breastfeeding moms need to consume extra? Often, we heard about this statement, saying that lactating mothers should eat more than their usual portion in order to breastfeed the baby. But how true is that?
Yes, the production of breast milk does demand extra calories. According to Recommended Nutrients Intake (RNI) for Malaysia 2017, energy needs for mother during breastfeeding for the first 6 months increase by about 500 kilocalories per day.
The addition of this 500kcal can be either from a complete meal or snacks. For a complete meal, eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods is vital for mother’s and baby’s health. As an example, a complete meal consisting approximately two scoops (flat) of plain rice/ bihun/pasta, a serving of lean meat/ fish/ eggs/ dairy/ beans/ lentils, half plate of leafy vegetables and one serving of fruit provides around 500kcal (with minimal fat is used).
However, if a mother finds it is tough to achieve this additional energy by adding a complete meal into her daily diet, it will be more practical to achieve this requirement through snacking. Frequent snacking (2-3 times per day) may help mother to achieve this 500kcal easily in a day.
For example, healthy snacking with ~100 – 200kcal includes one serving of sandwiches, hummus, smoothie, milk, malted drinks as well as nuts & seeds. You can even opt for Popo Mama’s lactation cookies and energy rice bars to fulfil the requirement.
In a nutshell, yes, breastfeeding mothers do require extra calorie intake for breastmilk production, but not to the extent of double up the portion of foods compared with usual intake before pregnancy.
National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition, Ministry of Health Malaysia (2017). Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia.
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Maternal Diet. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html#:~:text=An%20additional%20450%20to%20500,per%20day%20for%20moderately%20active