why does breastfeeding make you hungry

An Appetite For Answers: Why Does Breastfeeding Make You Hungry?

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Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful way for mothers to bond with their newborns and provide them with all the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and development. However, many new moms often find themselves feeling ravenously hungry and thirsty while breastfeeding! This is a completely normal experience that can be attributed to breastfeeding hunger and the body’s increased need for calories and nutrients to produce breast milk.

During pregnancy, the body stores up fat and nutrients to prepare for breastfeeding. Once your baby is born, your body starts producing breast milk, which requires a significant amount of energy and nutrients.

This increased demand for energy can cause new moms to feel constantly hungry and thirsty, as their bodies work hard to maintain all other life-sustaining functions while producing breast milk.

In fact, for many women, it is estimated that producing breast milk takes up to 25% of the body’s energy.

While feeling hungry and thirsty while breastfeeding is completely normal, it is important for new moms to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to ensure that they are getting all the necessary nutrients for themselves and their babies.

Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, can help new moms maintain their energy levels and support their body’s production of breast milk.

In this post, I’ll discuss why breastfeeding moms feel constant hunger, which healthy foods to eat as a breastfeeding mom, and why it is important to produce milk that is plentiful and nutritious for your baby.

Why does breastfeeding make you hungry?

Breastfeeding is an amazing act that helps provide your baby with all the necessary nutrients they need to grow and develop. But it can often leave breastfeeding women ravenous! In this section, we will explore the science behind why you feel hungry while breastfeeding, hunger signals and cues, and how to manage your appetite while nursing.

The science behind feeling hungry while breastfeeding

Producing enough breast milk supply for your baby is a complex process that requires a lot of energy. In fact, it is estimated that lactation can increase a woman’s energy expenditure by up to 400 calories per day. This energy cost of lactation is mainly due to the production of milk, which requires more food intake containing a significant amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Additionally, hormones like prolactin and oxytocin play a role in milk production and can affect hunger levels.

Hunger signals and cues

It is important to pay attention to your increased hunger signals and cues while breastfeeding.

Hunger signals – include feelings of the physical sensation of emptiness or a growling stomach

Hunger cues – include fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Eating nutrient-dense, balanced meals that include the food groups protein, healthy fats, and fiber can help keep your blood sugar stable and prevent hunger pangs. Snacking on fruits, vegetables, protein shakes, or even lactation cookies can also help keep you satisfied between meals.

Managing your appetite while nursing

To manage your appetite while nursing and maintain a good milk supply, it is important to stay hydrated and eat regularly throughout the day.


  • Increase your water intake by drinking plenty of water to keep you hydrated. Consider a breastfeeding-friendly drink too for variety.

  • Consume foods rich in vitamins and minerals to stay energized (caring for a new baby is tiring at the best of times after all!). Consider adding a breastfeeding-friendly protein shake – ideal for busy moms on the go.

  • Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day to help prevent overeating and keep your metabolism active. Consider lactation cookies to increase your milk production.

  • Get enough sleep and exercise to aid in regulating hormone levels and improve your energy levels.


  • Resort to snacking on empty calories when hunger strikes.

  • Consider postpartum dieting or trying to lose weight in those first few weeks while at the beginning stages of your breastfeeding journey.

  • Ignore hunger – your body will tell you when it needs more calories to help with the milk supply to your baby.

  • Neglect your mental health – exhaustion can cause low mood and by paying close attention to your own body you can recognize when you need more energy.

  • Just eat more food for extra calories – breastfeeding women need sustained energy-release foods from complex carbs and other nutrient-rich foods, especially if your baby is cluster feeding. Read my post about protein shakes for breastfeeding here.

Breastfeeding can make you feel hungry all the time due to the energy cost of lactation and hormone levels.

Paying attention to your hunger signals and cues, eating nutrient-dense, balanced meals, and staying hydrated can help manage your appetite while nursing.

Remember to listen to your body and eat intuitively to meet your unique nutritional needs.

What to eat while breastfeeding

When it comes to breastfeeding, nutrition is key. Eating a balanced diet that is rich in nutrient-dense foods is essential for both you and your baby. Here are some important things to consider when planning your meals:

Nutrient-dense foods

Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Try to incorporate a variety of colors and types of produce into your meals to ensure that you are getting a wide range of nutrients. Berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, are especially high in antioxidants and can be a delicious addition to smoothies, yogurt, shakes, or oatmeal.

Whole grains are another important source of nutrients and fiber.

Opt for whole-grain bread, pasta, and brown rice, instead of their refined counterparts. Quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta are all great options.

Protein is also important for breastfeeding mothers.

Lean meats, such as chicken and turkey, as well as fish and seafood, are excellent sources of protein. Vegans can get their protein from sources such as beans, lentils, and tofu. Greek yogurt is another great source of protein and can be a tasty addition to smoothies or used as a dip for fruits and vegetables.


Staying hydrated is essential for breastfeeding mothers. Drinking water throughout the day can help ensure that you produce milk plentifully and can also help prevent constipation.

Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water per day, and more if you are exercising or spending time in hot weather.

Protein and fat

In addition to being a good source of protein, lean meats, and fish are also high in healthy fats.

Avocado is another great source of healthy fat and can be added to salads, sandwiches, or used as a spread on toast. Including healthy fats in your diet can help keep you feeling full and satisfied.

Enzymes and probiotics

Dairy products such as yogurt and kefir contain enzymes and probiotics which can help aid in digestion and support a healthy gut.

If you are lactose intolerant, look for lactose-free options or try non-dairy sources of probiotics such as sauerkraut or kimchi.

Vitamins and minerals

Breastfeeding moms have increased nutrient needs, including B12, calcium, and iron. Incorporating foods such as leafy greens, nuts, and seeds can help ensure that you are getting enough of these important nutrients.

In summary, eating a balanced diet that is rich in nutrient-dense foods, protein, healthy fats, and hydration is essential when breastfeeding.

By incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your meals, you can help ensure that you and your baby are getting the nutrients you need.

Type of nutritionExamples
Fruits and vegetablesSpinach, broccoli, carrots, blueberries, apples, organges
Whole grainsSpinach, broccoli, carrots, blueberries, apples, oranges
ProteinLean meats (eg chicken, turkey), eggs, greek yogurt, legumes (eg lentils, chickpeas, black beans), quinoa, nuts and seeds (eg almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds)
Healthy fatsAvocado, nuts, seeds, fatty fish ( eg salmon, mackerel, sardines), olive oil, full fat yogurt
Enzymes and probioticsYogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, papaya
Viatmins and mineralsB12 (eg fish and lean meats), calcium (eg leafy green vegetables, almonds), iron (eg red meat, spinach), vitamin D (eg egg yolks, cheese), folic acid (eg legumes, beans), zinc (eg oysters, dairy products)
Table of nutritious food examples ideal for breastfeeding moms

Managing hunger while breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can make you feel ravenous, and it’s essential to manage your hunger to ensure that you’re consuming enough nutrients to support your body and your baby. Here are some tips for managing hunger while breastfeeding.

Intuitive eating

Intuitive eating is all about listening to your body’s hunger signals and eating when you’re hungry. When you’re breastfeeding, it’s essential to tune in to your body’s needs and eat when you feel hungry. This approach can help you avoid overeating and ensure that you’re consuming enough calories to support your body’s needs.


Snacking, when done right, can be an excellent way to manage hunger while breastfeeding. Choose nutrient-dense snacks like fruits, veggies, and protein bars that can help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you feeling full between meals. Avoid sugary snacks like cookies that can cause a spike in blood sugars and leave you feeling hungry again soon after.

Take a look at my post: 75 healthy, quick and easy after school snacks for 2023. Make extra snacks for you and your kids!

Meal planning

Meal planning can be a game-changer when it comes to managing hunger while breastfeeding. Plan balanced meals that include protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional needs. Incorporate plenty of veggies and fruits into your meals to provide fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.

When meal planning, consider prepping meals and snacks in advance to make it easier to eat healthy when you’re busy taking care of your baby. Having healthy meals and snacks on hand can help you avoid reaching for less healthy options when you’re short on time.

Check out my book Plan Save Eat: A 6 month family meal planning notebook for busy mums on a budget to help you plan your meals.

Remember that managing hunger while breastfeeding is all about balance. Your body needs extra calories and nutrients to support breastfeeding, but it’s important to ensure that you’re not overeating and gaining too much baby weight. Listen to your body’s hunger cues, eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods, and stay hydrated to support your body’s needs while breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding is an amazing way to bond with your baby and provide them with all the nutrients they need. However, it is common for new moms to feel constantly thirsty and hungry while nursing, which can be frustrating and confusing. In this article, we have explored the reasons behind breastfeeding hunger and how to manage it.

One of the main reasons why breastfeeding makes you hungry is the energy cost of lactation.

Producing breast milk requires a lot of energy, which burns calories and depletes hydration.

This is why it is important to stay hydrated and eat nutrient-dense, balanced meals that include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Eating small snacks throughout the day, such as fruits, veggies, nuts, and protein bars, can also help stabilize your blood sugar and keep your hunger cues in check.

It is also important to listen to your body’s hunger signals and practice intuitive eating. This means eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full, rather than relying on external cues or strict diets designed for weight loss. This can help you maintain a healthy weight and meet your nutrient needs, including vitamins, minerals, and B12.

In addition to nutrition, other factors such as sleep, exercise, and hormone levels can affect your appetite and energy level.

Lack of sleep, high cortisol levels, and low estrogen can all contribute to feelings of hunger and fatigue. On the other hand, oxytocin, the hormone that is released during breastfeeding, can help you bond with your baby and feel more relaxed and content.

Overall, breastfeeding is a unique and amazing experience that requires patience, love, and attention to your body’s nutritional and emotional needs.

By staying hydrated, eating nutrient-dense foods, practicing intuitive eating, and taking care of your overall health and well-being, you can enjoy this special time with your baby and feel confident in your ability to nourish them with breast milk.

Final thoughts

Like many women, I remember that feeling of constant hunger when I was breastfeeding my 2 children. I am guilty of worrying about weight gain post-pregnancy and was keen to burn calories to get back to my pre-pregnancy body.

But I quickly learned that the most important thing was to pay attention to my body regularly and, more specifically, my body’s energy levels. So whenever I felt that intense hunger I made sure to delve into my healthy breastfeeding snack supply, mentally plan a healthy meal and, of course, drink loads of water!

Don’t forget to read my other related posts:

How to Increase Milk Supply Quickly: Tips and Tricks for Breastfeeding Moms

16 of the Best Breastfeeding Tips for Newborns: Master the Art of the Boob

When does breastfeeding get easier? And how long should you breastfeed for?

Are protein powders safe for breastfeeding?


Have questions? I have answers.

Breastfeeding can make you feel hungrier due to the increased energy demands of producing milk.

To manage hunger while breastfeeding, eat small, balanced meals frequently, and include protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich foods.

Breastfeeding can burn an additional 300-500 calories per day, depending on the baby’s age and milk intake.

While breastfeeding, it’s advised to eat regularly, at least three meals and two snacks per day, to maintain energy levels and support milk production.

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