Balancing Macros In A Breastfeeding Meal Plan

  • Urja Malhotra Master of Science - MS, Global Health, University of Glasgow
  • Anusha Suresh BClinPharm, PGDipClinPharm, PGDipBusinessManagement, University of Auckland
  • Linda Nkrumah Biological Sciences with International Year, University of Birmingham, UK


The journey of motherhood is a remarkable and transformative experience, marked by boundless love, sleepless nights, and a whirlwind of new responsibilities. Amidst this whirlwind, the nutrition of a breastfeeding mother becomes paramount. As you nourish your little one, you must also prioritize your own well-being. 

Breastfeeding is a beautiful journey that brings a unique set of nutritional needs for both mother and baby. As a nursing mother, your body is working overtime to provide your little one with the best start in life. To support this incredible effort, it's essential to maintain a balanced diet that includes the right proportion of macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats

In this blog, we'll delve into the world of macros and explore how to create a breastfeeding meal plan that fuels your body and supports your baby's growth.

The role of macros in a breastfeeding diet

Meeting caloric needs while breastfeeding

When a baby nurses, they derive energy from your body. Consequently, ensuring an ample milk supply for the baby necessitates individuals who are lactating to increase their calorie intake. This adjustment is vital to fulfil both the baby's nutritional requirements and the energy needs of the breastfeeding individual.

The pivotal question that arises is: how many calories are required during the breastfeeding phase?

Numerous sources offer varying estimations for these demands—ranging from an extra 500 calories daily during the initial six months and 400 calories thereafter, to exceeding 600 calories per day.

In the realm of nutrition, advocating for a single universal recommendation is impractical. The intricacies of the postpartum period differ from person to person and can even evolve within an individual's journey.

However, a constant factor exists for all: the immediate postpartum phase constitutes a period of heightened metabolic requirements as the body undertakes reconstruction, recovery, and, in certain instances, breastfeeding responsibilities. 

For most postpartum individuals aiming to sustain a healthy milk supply, a prudent starting point is an additional 400-500 calories per day (in addition to levels maintained prior to pregnancy).

It's noteworthy that a caloric intake falling below 1500-1800 calories might influence your milk production. As time progresses and modifications are introduced to your overall nutritional status, a comprehensive evaluation becomes crucial. Elements such as your weight, milk production, and infant growth should be factored in as you fine-tune your caloric intake.

In essence, understanding and accommodating your unique nutritional needs during the breastfeeding phase empowers you to nurture not only yourself but also your growing baby optimally.

Optimising macronutrient intake during the breastfeeding journey

Macronutrients, often referred to simply as "macros," are the essential nutrients that our bodies need in relatively large quantities to function properly and maintain overall health. These nutrients provide the energy required for various bodily processes and activities. 

Having delved into the realm of calorie necessities during breastfeeding, you might find yourself pondering, "What about my essential protein, carbohydrate, and fat requirements?"

These three macronutrients form the core of your nutritional needs, and the response to the query, "How should I balance my macros while breastfeeding?" is a distinctly personalised one. In truth, this aspect of nutrition is even more finely tuned than caloric demands, as it now involves catering to individual inclinations and preferences.2

Fulfilling protein requirements during breastfeeding

Sustaining muscle mass while nourishing your baby through breast milk demands a sufficient intake of protein during lactation. After all, protein is hailed as the fundamental building block of life!

According to the current Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for protein, it's advised that healthy individuals who are lactating (within 0–6 months postpartum) consume an Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) of 1.05 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

However, emerging research indicates that the protein needs might extend beyond these recommendations. Some studies advocate for a higher protein intake, especially for those exclusively breastfeeding (between 3–6 months postpartum), suggesting a range closer to approximately 1.7–1.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. It's important to note that these requirements could further escalate based on factors such as your exercise regimen and its intensity.

In essence, prioritising ample protein intake is not just about nurturing your own body; it's about fueling your baby's growth and development through the power of breast milk. As you navigate the delicate balance of motherhood and nutrition, recognizing the significance of protein can be a transformative step toward holistic well-being.2

Fulfilling fat requirements during the breastfeeding phase

When it comes to nutrition during breastfeeding, fat not only tantalizes the taste buds but also offers substantial nourishment.

Vital fatty acids play a pivotal role in the neurological development of infants, both before and after birth, underscoring the significance of adequate intake throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Your consumption of fatty acids holds a dual impact: it shapes the fatty acid composition of breast milk and serves as a fundamental dietary factor affecting mammary gland function, which, in turn, influences milk production and the infant's healthy body fat levels.

Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids like DHA and EPA, present in foods like salmon, tuna, clams, and scallops, are paramount. These omega-3 fats wield a transformative influence on fetal and newborn development, fostering functions ranging from neuronal and retinal activities to immune responses.

As for precise intake recommendations, consulting your OBGYN or a knowledgeable coach is the optimal route. However, as a general guideline, maintaining a total fat intake that hovers around 25-30% of total calories is advisable. Striking this balance aids in nurturing both your well-being and your baby's developmental journey. 3

Nurturing carbohydrate requirements during the breastfeeding journey

Carbohydrates assume a crucial role in the realm of breastfeeding, acting as conduits of energy to your little one while concurrently facilitating your own physical recovery and milk production.

Prioritising carbohydrates that are enriched with micronutrients emerges as the ideal approach, nurturing the optimal health of both you and your precious baby. Embrace whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to form the cornerstone of this nourishing strategy.

When it comes to determining the precise quantity of carbohydrates, numerous factors come into play:

  • Personal preference: Your inclination toward higher carbohydrate or higher fat foods will significantly influence your choices
  • Postpartum training: If you're engaging in physical training during the postpartum phase, your carbohydrate needs might be impacted
  • Bodyweight considerations: The body weights of both you and your baby play a role in determining your carbohydrate requirements

The beauty of individuality shines through in these considerations. As you traverse the path of breastfeeding, embracing a carbohydrate intake that resonates with your body's unique demands and preferences fosters not only your well-being but also the nourishment of your little one.2,4


Is it safe to lose weight during breastfeeding?

In a nutshell, the answer is yes. Shedding some pounds is generally considered safe and healthy for most breastfeeding individuals. However, it's crucial to keep in mind that when delving into postpartum weight loss, your primary focus should be on recovery, healing, and sustaining milk supply.

Here are several factors to contemplate when embarking on postpartum weight loss:

  1. Balancing caloric intake: Be mindful that modifying your calorie intake to initiate weight loss, and the hormonal shifts accompanying fat loss, can potentially impact your milk supply, especially if you're breastfeeding
  2. Duration of breastfeeding: Consider the length of time you intend to breastfeed. For those aiming for extended breastfeeding, opting for gradual and consistent weight loss proves beneficial, as it helps maintain a robust and sustainable milk supply over the long term
  3. Personalized recovery: Recognize that the process of recuperating from pregnancy and childbirth, alongside the caloric requirements to support this recovery, differs for each individual. It's imperative to tailor your approach to align with your unique journey

Ultimately, your postpartum weight loss journey is an intricate interplay of factors. Balancing your health goals with the well-being of both you and your baby is paramount, guiding your decisions as you tread this transformative path. Consulting healthcare professionals and nutrition experts can provide personalised guidance that honours the diverse needs of your body and nourishes your aspirations for a healthy postpartum phase.


Every macronutrient bears its distinct significance and function, highlighting the importance of embracing a well-rounded diet while breastfeeding, a choice rooted in health consciousness for the majority of individuals. This could entail striving for an equitable distribution of calories across the trio of macronutrients or adopting a similar approach.

Balancing macros within a breastfeeding meal plan establishes the bedrock for comprehensive nourishment, reaping benefits for both you and your baby. Give prominence to whole, unprocessed foods and heed your body's cues. Enlist the aid of healthcare experts or nutrition professionals to customize your meal plan according to your specific requirements. Remember, nurturing yourself is an expression of love, and a well-nourished mother is better equipped to nurture her burgeoning child.


  1. Brittany, MD, et al. The definitive breastfeeding meal plan [everything you need to know] - postpartum trainer, md [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2023 Aug 25]. Available from:
  2. Kominiarek MA, Rajan P. Nutrition recommendations in pregnancy and lactation. Med Clin North Am [Internet]. 2016 Nov [cited 2023 Aug 25];100(6):1199–215. Available from: 
  3. Marshall NE, Abrams B, Barbour LA, Catalano P, Christian P, Friedman JE, et al. The importance of nutrition in pregnancy and lactation: lifelong consequences. Am J Obstet Gynecol [Internet]. 2022 May [cited 2023 Aug 25];226(5):607–32. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Urja Malhotra

Master of Science - MS, Global Health, University of Glasgow

Urja is a dedicated Global Health advocate with a passion for Gender and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) projects. With a rich background in designing Health & Social Interventions and conducting Qualitative Research, Urja brings a wealth of expertise to her work. Backed by years of experience, she excels in creating captivating content that spreads awareness and drives action, particularly in promoting the "One Health" approach.

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