So you’ve recently come out of a pregnancy that was fueled in large part by deep dish pizza and donuts. But now, in addition to ordering from a restaurant, you’ve become the 24/7 eatery to your hungry little customer. Given the work your body undergoes to sustain another human, why shouldn’t you be able to pack away 8 meals a day, too?
But wait, before you head to the freezer for another scoop of Chubby Hubby, here’s the what the what on breastfeeding and calories:
Evolutionarily speaking, the female body is Darwin’s dream. Give a mother a hungry baby in a pathogen-laden, nutrient-poor environment and watch that woman produce liquid food with her bare breasts.
This talent comes at a considerable cost, however, and we’re not just talking about the need for absorbent breast pads. Lactating women spend roughly 25% of body fuel on milk generation. (We believe another 50% goes to pacing with Yelly McYellerson at 3am, but we’re still waiting on science to prove that one.)
As you might remember from Biology 101, your body’s fuel is measured in calories. Your daily needs usually span 1800-2200 cals depending on your height, weight and amount of exercise. (Consult your doctor or use an online calculator to find a ballpark figure.) This is the amount needed for your body to function normally and carry out all its regular processes, before starting to convert nutrients into breast milk for another human.
When you give your body more calories than your recommended daily amount, you’ll convert the excess to fat. Give your body less than it needs and you’ll burn up your extra energy stores to compensate. Also, hanger.
Breastfeeding requires roughly 500 additional calories per day. This is the caloric equivalent to…
3 of your mother-in-law’s chocolate chip cookies #PumpIfYouLoveCookies
Or 2 tacos at your favorite food truck across from the office
Or even 80 stalks of celery...
...Not that you’d ever eat that much celery when there’s a taco truck across the street.
Put another way, daily milk production burns roughly the same amount of energy as a 5-mile run.
So, if you’re trying to lose those post-pregnancy pounds or you’ve just signed up for a Tough Mudder, you tough mother, you’ll need to adjust your diet accordingly - just not too fast or too drastically. Studies show it’s best for breastfeeding women to still eat at least 1800 calories a day.
Now, here’s where it gets even more interesting: You might’ve noticed us ladies pack on extra fat in female-specific areas such as our waists, butts and upper thighs, especially compared to our male counterparts. If you happen to be trying to get rid of that stubborn inner thigh fat, breastfeeding is the perfect time to do so. As your body tries to feed another human, these gender-specific fat storage areas (whose primary purpose is to supply energy for release in breastmilk) convert more fat into nutrients to be released in breastmilk. Essentially, the adipose tissue - the pinchable fat in your thighs that precludes you from having a thigh gap - provides the building blocks for milk creation. If only this biological phenomena lasted forever, amirite?
So there you go, now you know. Now hurry back to your ice cream before it melts!