When breastfeeding, how many calories should moms and babies consume?
Many new mothers wonder if they need to consume more calories (also called energy) during breastfeeding, but the answer is no. You can take in the same number of calories that you did before becoming pregnant. This strategy helps with weight loss after birth.1
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) for caloric intake for all women 19 to 50 years old are based on activity level, as follows:2
Sedentary: 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day
Moderately active: 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day
Active: 2,200 to 2,400 calories per day
The increased caloric need for women who are breastfeeding is about 450 to 500 calories per day.3 Women who are not trying to lose weight following pregnancy should supplement the above DGA calories per day by 450 to 500 calories. Often an increase in a normally balanced and varied diet is enough to meet your body's needs. Whether or not to increase caloric intake during breastfeeding is a decision that should be made with the assistance of a health care provider.
Poorly nourished mothers, those on vegan diets or other special diets, and those with certain health conditions may require a supplement of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in addition to multivitamins to ensure complete nutrition for breastfeeding.4
Women also can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) My Plate Daily Checklist for Moms to develop a personalized food plan based on their activity level, amount of breastfeeding, age, and other characteristics.
The estimated energy requirements (in calories per day) for infants are based on their age, size, and sex. Estimated energy requirements developed by the USDA are as follows:5
The DGAs for infants increase as the infants get older. By the time that children are 2 to 3 years of age, daily calorie needs are 1,000 to 1,400 calories per day, depending on the child's activity level. For children who are older, see the 2015–2020 DGAs.