Being a mom to an infant has its rewards, but it's also exhausting. When you're breast-feeding your baby, you need to be available 24-7. While you do need to eat more to meet both your and your baby's nutritional needs, you want to make sure your food choices are healthy and nutrient-rich. Those cravings for sweets and fatty foods you're having are most likely related to your lack of sleep, not so much the nursing.
Sleep Deprivation and Cravings
As a mom of a little one, your nighttime sleep is often disrupted, which affects not only the amount of time you get to sleep but also the quality. Sleep deprivation impairs your ability to make decisions and increases your desire for rewards, according to a 2013 study published in "Nature Communications." These alterations in brain activity increase your desire for unhealthy foods, the researchers found. Your cravings for sweets and fats may be related to changes in brain activity due to your baby's needs trumping your need for sleep.
Get Enough Calories
While there's not too much you can do about lack of sleep until your baby gets a little older, making sure you get enough calories may help decrease your desire for unhealthy foods. A nursing mom uses 500 calories each day to make enough breast milk to feed a baby up to 6 months of age, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Two-thirds of those calories come from the food you eat, while the rest is from the weight you gained during your pregnancy.
Fill Your Diet With Healthy Food
When breast-feeding, the food you eat affects not only your health but your baby's as well. Including a variety of foods from all the food groups can help you meet those needs and keep you feeling satisfied, which may help with cravings. A healthy nursing mom's diet should include lean sources of protein such as chicken, fish and beans; an array of colorful fruits and vegetables; whole grains such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice; and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods. Drink a glass of water every time you breast-feed to make sure you're meeting your increased fluid needs, recommends the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Control the Cravings
Make sure you eat regularly to tame hunger and keep energy levels up to help fight off those cravings. Also, try drinking a glass of water when you want to eat something sweet or fatty. Sometimes dehydration is mistaken for hunger. If none of this works, it's OK to give in, but try to keep your portion small or substitute a healthier option, such as a frozen fruit bar or baked fries.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Losing Weight While Breast-Feeding
- University of California, Berkeley, News Center: Sleep Deprivation Linked to Junk Food Cravings
- Nature Communications: The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Food Desire in the Human Brain
- PLOS One: Longitudinal Change in Sleep and Daytime Sleepiness in Postpartum Women
- Healthfinder.gov: Eat Healthy While Breastfeeding: Quick Tips
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Coping With Food Cravings