Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy.
Your breastmilk needs to feed another person, and your body needs to spend energy making that milk.
No wonder you always feel hungry!
But if you're like most new mothers, some days you're lucky to eat at all since your time is consumed by your newborn baby's care.
Therefore, healthy and nutritious breastfeeding snacks are crucial.
Experts recommend eating an extra 300-500 calories each day if you're breastfeeding a newborn.
Don't focus too much on calories though. Aim for around 2000 each day, but keep in mind that eating too few calories (1500-1800 per day) can lead to low milk supply . Now isn't the time for extreme dieting! Keeping your portions under control, eating healthy foods, and enjoying healthy breastfeeding snacks will keep you feeling fit.
The Benefit of Breastfeeding Snacks
Because eating meals can be challenging with a new baby in the house, breastfeeding snacks can fill the void. They help to keep hunger at bay while not taking up too much of your time for food prep. Here are 8 super-easy, super-healthy breastfeeding snacks any breastfeeding mother can enjoy — maybe even one-handed while holding baby at the breast in the other hand!:
Snack Idea #1: Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
What's easier than pulling an apple out of the fridge and snacking without any prep work?
Bananas, pears, berries, carrots, sugar snap peas — whatever is in-season and inexpensive can make an easy snack for a new mother. Wash some grapes and keep them in a bowl in the fridge. A basket of washed apples and pears on the table are easily accessible — meaning you're more likely to grab them for a quick snack. Carrots or celery can be cleaned and kept refrigerated, maybe with some low-fat ranch dressing or hummus for dipping (add some tahini to your hummus and you may even boost your supply). You can even keep some dried fruit in the nappy/diaper bag for a quick and yummy treat when you're out and about.
Just remember: if you take the skin off fruit to eat whole or in a smoothie (like apple), you're removing the fibre that will fill you up. In addition, you'll be consuming the sugars in the fruit. So to feel fuller and to consume less sugar, eat fruit and vegetables with the skin, where appropriate.
Snack Idea #2: Nuts
Almonds, walnuts, and cashews can be a great source of protein, iron and healthy fats. Grab a handful and snack away – nuts will keep you feeling full and satisfied.
While raw nuts are healthiest to eat, roasted and lightly salted nuts may satisfy your craving for snacks. Add some to the dried fruit you're carrying in your nappy bag for an instant trail mix.
Consider nut butters, too. Apple slices dipped in almond butter makes a great mid-afternoon breastfeeding snack. If you like, sprinkle a little cinnamon, and yummo!
Snack Idea #3: Natural Yoghurt
Natural yoghurt (ideally organic) is a convenient source of calcium and protein, as well as health-promoting bacteria (probiotics). Jalna is a great brand available in Australia. You may like to try Greek yogurt because it's thicker and you may feel like it's more decadent – just watch the sugar content! Add fruit or granola to your yogurt to add nutritional value, which will make this breastfeeding snack keep you feeling fuller, longer.
Snack Idea #4: Cheese
Buy some prepackaged (but not processed) cheese cubes for an easy snack you can grab from the fridge and eat one-handed. Cheese will provide you with plenty of calcium and protein, as well as B vitamins. Cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss — whatever you like best. Enjoy it with whole-grain crackers like Ryvita for even more nutritional punch.
Snack Idea #5: Hard Boiled Egg
Boil a few eggs and keep them in the refrigerator for a quick, filling snack. High in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, eggs also provide all 9 essential amino acids along with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. To get perfect boiled eggs every time:
- Place eggs in a small pot and cover with water
- Bring water to a rolling boil over medium heat
- Turn off heat, cover pot and allow eggs to sit for 10 minutes
- Drain and rinse eggs with cold water; cool and enjoy
Snack Idea #6: Whole Grains
Munch on some whole-grain toast. Spread low-fat cream cheese or egg salad on whole grain crackers. Buy some brown rice cakes and top with cottage cheese, honey and cinnamon. Enjoy a cozy bowl of oatmeal or bake some lactation cookies — this comfort food may even boost milk supply. Lactation cookies do contain a bit of sugar to counteract the bitter ingredients that boost supply, so have these in moderation.
Go easy on these snacks, as grains do convert into sugars if you don't burn them.
Snack Idea #7: Virgin Coconut Oil
While this may not count as a breastfeeding snack in and of itself, virgin coconut oil can be added to lots of other foods for increased nutritional benefit. Look for virgin coconut oil – organic if you can find it. Add it to your smoothie, mix it in your hummus, spread it on crackers or breads, stir it into soup. Coconut oil is high in beneficial fats and calories, and has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Snack Idea #8: Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are another great addition to foods like natural yoghurt, smoothies and oats. Considered as one of the healthiest foods on the planet, chia seeds pack a nutritional punch! You’ll benefit from the fibre, protein, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and many other important nutrients, including calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Everything in Moderation
Keep the mantra ‘everything in moderation' in mind when choosing breastfeeding snacks. Is it a catastrophe if you eat a few chocolates? Is a bag of chips going to sabotage your supply? A resounding ‘no’ to both questions. As long as you aim for a varied diet of healthy foods, you'll be fine with the occasional treat.
Another Quick Breastfeeding Tip
Drink to thirst — there's no need to overdo it with water. In fact, some studies show that drinking too much water can actually lower supply. But don't let yourself get dehydrated.
It's also a myth out there that you need to drink cows milk to make milk – it's simply not true. If you love milk, it is a convenient source of calcium and vitamins D and A (if it's fortified), but you can get those nutrients in other foods, as well. Opt for full cream, organic milk, from grass fed cows if you can.
While your body will take what it needs from your stores to make just the right milk for your baby, you may suffer from not eating well. Poor diet can lead to fatigue and lowered immunity — two things you don't want to experience when caring for a newborn. Adding healthy breastfeeding snacks throughout the day will keep you on the path of wellness.
Want to learn more about how foods can impact breastfeeding?
Hilary Jabobson's book Mother Food: A Breastfeeding Diet Guide with Lactogenic Foods and Herbs discusses lactogenic (milk enhancing) foods perfect for the breastfeeding mother. Also, the US Institute of Medicine has produced a volume called Nutrition During Lactation that can be found online here.
What breastfeeding snacks do you enjoy? Share your favourite snacks in the comments section below!