Today I'm speaking to all the new mamas out there who are trying to count macros for breastfeeding. Oftentimes, moms think they have to pick between either losing the baby weight OR feeding and nourishing their baby. However, after coaching hundred of breastfeeding women, I find that is definitely not the case. On today's episode, I'm sharing 5 tips for nursing moms who are trying to find that “sweet spot” of losing the baby weight while maintaining their supply.
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You're listening to Biceps after Babies radio episode number 21
Hello and welcome to Biceps after Babies radio. A podcast for moms who know that fitness is about so much more than pounds lost or prs. It's about feeling confident in your skin and empowered in your life. I'm your host, Amber Brueseke, a registered nurse, personal trainer, online fitness coach, wife, and mom of four. Every week my guests and I will excite and motivate you to take action in your own personal fitness as we talk about nutrition, exercise mindset, personal development, and executing life with conscious intention. If your goal is to look, feel and be strong and experience transformation from the inside out, you, my friend are in the right place. Thank you for tuning in. Now let's jump into today's episode.
Hey, welcome back to another episode of Biceps After Babies radio, and today I am talking to all the mommies out there and specifically all the mommies who are breastfeeding. This is a topic that I get asked a ton about. How do you combine macro counting with nursing? And so that's what we're gonna chat about today. I am the mom of four kiddos, and I nursed each of my babies. And so I have some experience. I've nursed babies, and I've taught a lot of people about counting macros and counting macros while nursing. And I feel like we could have a really good discussion today on what that entails.
My History with Kids and Nursing (1:30)
So just a little look into my history. Like I said, I've had four kids. My youngest is now almost five, so it's been five years since I've had a newborn. My kids are almost five, almost seven, almost 10 and 11. So I have kind of a span of kids, and I remember with my very first baby, so my very first baby was a daughter. I had my girl first and then my three boys, but I remember after my daughter was born, and there's so much that you just don't even know going into labor your first time. It's all just, you know, it's all a completely new experience.
So I knew that I wanted to breastfeed, but I didn't really have much idea of what that entailed, and I remember with my daughter it was super painful, like it got to the point where I remember we were in the hospital and I was sitting on the bed and I was like, Okay, Amber, it's time to nurse we gotta a nurse, and so I would I picked her up and I, like, put her near me and I, like, got ready and was ready to, like, put my breast into her mouth. And I just was like wincing. And I just was like, Oh, I know it's gonna hurt. It's gonna hurt. It's gonna hurt. It's gonna hurt. It would like it would hurt and she would latch on. And then once she started sucking, it would get better. But I just knew that like that initial latching was going to be painful. And I just remember wincing every single time she would latch cause I knew it would hurt and some blessed person who I wish I could even remember who who gave it to me. But some blessed person I remember gave me these like gel compress is before I went to the hospital and they were like these cooling like gel compresses. And I remember I used to put those over my breasts plus lanolin. I would like smear lanolin. And those were like my saviors for when I was in the hospital after having my daughter. And obviously it got better. Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. I probably wasn't doing it right. Um, I'm sure I wasn't doing it right. It got better and it stopped hurting.
Started to Work Full Time (3:29)
But I just remember those first couple of days just wincing and just preparing myself, cause I knew every single time she latched, it was gonna be so painful. So I breast fed her for about a year. But there's kind of a wrench thrown into that because when she was seven months old, I went to work. So I graduated with my nursing degree. In fact, I had graduated in May and had my daughter in June. So I graduated, like, nine months pregnant. And so I had my daughter. And so then seven months after that, I went to work as a nurse, and I had wanted to work part time. I didn't want to work full time as a nurse, but I want to work part time. But because I was just a graduate nurse, meaning I just finished my bachelor's degree in nursing and I just taken my and clicks and gotten my RN license that in order to get hired by the hospital, I had to do five months of full time work. So they had this transition program for new graduates, and it required you to do five months of full time before I could go into part time. So I just kind of knew I had to suck it up. I had to get through the full time so that I could go just to part time work.
My Daughter Wouldn’t Take a Bottle (4:40)
And so I went back to work at seven months old and my daughter wouldn't take a bottle. And it wasn't even on my radar, really to make sure that she would take a bottle. I don't know what I was thinking, but I just wasn't even thinking about it. It wasn't even like a thing, and so I just I didn't bottle feed her at all. I didn't pump, I didn't do any of that. And so when it came time for me to leave her, she wouldn't take a bottle like would not take a bottle. And so we ended up having to dilute her rice cereal with a lot of breast milk and like, feed that to her and we could get her to take like, a sippy cup at, like, seven months old, so she would do some sippy cups. So when I left her with my friend, she would try to get as much milk under she could through the rice cereal and then also through the sippy cup. And I just remember that being, you know, just kind of a like a big thing to work through. And I was transitioning. I was going to work. I was leaving my new baby and then to top it all off, she wouldn't even take a bottle.
So with my second baby, I was much smarter and was like, Okay, he's gonna take a bottle right from the get go. So I guess I breast fed. But then I would also pump and bottle feed, and I would like feed him at least one bottle a day because I knew that that was the way to get him accustomed to it, so that when I went to work and was working part time, that he would be able to take the bottle. So I ended up breast feeding all four of my babies. Um, around 10 to 12 months for each of the kids.
My Recovery Postpartum (6:12)
Through all my babies, I was able to bounce back pretty fast physically from my pregnancies. And I attribute a lot of that to how active I stayed during pregnancy, but I also just think like my body handles pregnancy pretty darn well, um, I know that there is a vast array of experiences with pregnancy, and there isn't a right or wrong how you experience pregnancy and postpartum period. All I can speak to is my experience. And I stayed very active during my pregnancies and was able to, um, breastfeed well and was able to bounce back pretty well from each of my pregnancies. In fact, with my third child, I remember that I actually taught body pump the morning of when I had my son. So I got up and I taught body pump. And, um, I kind of thought that labor might be kind of starting. And so I remember after body pump, I hopped on the treadmill and just was walking kind of feeling like Okay, like, let's get this thing. Get this show on the road. And I ended up having him that night. So I stayed pretty, um, active during my pregnancies. I still worked out during my pregnancies, and I really think that helped me to bounce back pretty well after I had each of my babies. All this to say is that my this is my experience with pregnancy in postpartum again. It doesn't mean it's bad if yours is a different experience for mine. All I can do is speak to my individual experience, My body does pretty well being pregnant. I feel pretty good afterwards. And if you don't have that experience, it's okay. We can, you know, we can still talk about macros and nutrition and breast feeding. And we can do that even if you have a different postpartum experience from me.
Postpartum Goals (07:58)
But one thing that I hear so often is after women have the baby, they have a goal to be able to get back into the pre pregnancy clothes or to get back where they were pre pregnancy. Maybe you're listening to this now and you're like, Yeah, that's my goal. I had a baby. I love my baby. I want everything in the world for my baby, but I would like to physically feel like I did before I got pregnant. Now I think that we can all agree, and I don't want anybody to misconstrue my words that there's no rush to get your body back. There's no rush to get back to your pre pregnancy size or your weight or your pants. This that it's important for you to take the time that you need to to heal. Okay, so this is not me saying you need to like, have a baby and then the next day be back in your pre-pregnancy jeans or that even like that's a goal for you If that's not a goal for you than cool like, you don't have to have a goal. But I really want us to stress that it's important for you to take the time that you need to to heal and then if you will have a goal that you want to reach, I want to help you get there. But I don't want to say that this should be your goal. Okay, there's no should. I don't like shoulds. If this is something that is your goal, that I want to be able to help you to get there and many women who are at this position or they've had a baby and they want to lose baby fat, they come to me with this concern.
Can I Lose Fat and Still Feed my Baby? (9:20)
Amber, can I lose fat and still feed my baby? Meaning they know that breastfeeding is a priority. And for many women, if they can't maintain their milk supply while dropping weight, then it's a non starter like they'll just wait until after they wean their baby to be able to try and consciously lose weight. But the answer is yes, yes, yes, yes. You can consciously lose fat by creating a caloric deficit and at the same time, keep your milk supply. It's not like an either, or you don't have to have one or the other because I know with most moms if you had to pick between losing weight and feeding and nourishing your baby, like most moms would say, feeding and nursing my baby is obviously most important. But you can do both. You can do both simultaneously, and that's what I'm gonna talk about today.
So as a little disclaimer, I am not a doctor. I am not a lactation consultant.I am not your doctor or your lactation consultant. I am a nurse. But again, I'm not your nurse and I don't specialize in breast feeding. So I am just a mom of four. I've coached hundreds of women like who are nursing to be able to lose fat while keeping their milk supply. But I'm coming to you as mom who's been there as somebody who has coached other people through this process and not as any like medical professional giving you any medical advice. So, please, if you have any questions, please take that to your nurse. To your lactation consultant to your midwife, to your doctor. Um, I want you to do your own research on this and feel really comfortable about it. I will be sharing my experience and what I have seen. But again, I'm not medically advising you. I'm giving you ideas, things that have worked. But I am far from a certified expert in this area. And if that bugs you, then you should just probably skip this episode. Okay? But I know that there are a lot of women out there asking these questions, and I want to help them get started, and I want to give them ideas and suggestions, and you can take it or you can leave it.
1 – Wait 6 Weeks to Count Macros for Breastfeeding (11:24)
So the first question that I often get asked is, how long until I can jump into conscious fat loss? And my answer for this is I really recommend you waiting six weeks, give your body time to heal and then more importantly even give you and your baby time to get a routine down for breast feeding. You want your milk to come in. You want to get a really good milk supply. You want to get a routine established, and if you do that off the bat and you to make sure that you have a really good milk supply off the bat, then when it comes time to cutting calories, you're gonna be in a much better place. I see so many women who just want to dive right in. They wanna have the baby and then they want to, like, lose the weight right now. And I really, really encourage you to wait until at least six weeks.
Six weeks is usually when your doctor clears you for exercise. By that point, you've established a good milk supply. You are have a good routine with your baby, and you're kind of starting to get a little bit semblance of normality again in your life. So I really encourage you, wait at least six weeks, and if you don't feel ready for it at six weeks, there's nothing saying you have to jump in. But I would encourage you to give yourself at least six weeks before you dive into conscious fat loss and a note for that, too. If you struggle with your milk supply even while you're eating at maintenance, I would not say just diving into a caloric deficit. Make sure that you have a good supply established first. And once you have that key, now we can start talking about creating a caloric deficit. So that's the first thing. Let's wait until you're at least six weeks postpartum, and you have established a good milk supply.
If you're still struggling with your milk supply, focus on that before you dive into a caloric deficit.
2 – Set Your Macros Higher to Include Nursing (13:03)
Number two, set your macros to take into account that your body is burning more calories through nursing. However, I often see people way overestimate the number of calories their body is burning. No, my friend, you are not likely burning 600 to 1000 calories extra date by nursing. You're just not especially if you're a five foot one female who's BMR is only 1000 calories. You are not doubling your caloric expenditure by nursing. Okay, let's just get that straight. So more realistically you're burning somewhere, probably between 200 or 400 calories per day, maybe 500 for some women. But I've yet to have a client who was burning 1000 extra calories per day. And when I'm talking about extra calories, I'm talking about someone who is exclusively nursing, not someone who has a baby who's 18 months old and is still nursing. By that point, the baby is getting a lot of their food or their nourishment from food. And nursing is more of a comfort. They're getting some milk, but it just doesn't take a lot of calories to nurse an 18 month old versus a one month old who is nursing consistently and constantly through the day and is getting all their nourishment from the breast milk.
So when you're setting your macro, simply add 200 to 400 calories onto your TDEE, your total daily energy expenditure. And once you do that, the rest of the setting process is the same. You're going to still break down your individual macros the exact same way you're just gonna adjust your TDEE to account for the fact that you are nursing. If you want a free guide to be able to set your macros, you can go to www.bicepsafterbabies.com/21, and you can download my free guide there, and you'll know what I'm talking about when it says TDEE. That's what you would put in there. You would take your calculated TDEE,add on 200 to 400 calories extra for nursing and then continue with the calculations as normal. I will also have that free guide linked onto the show notes for this episode, which is just www.bicepsafterbabies.com/21.
Now, if you're asking the question okay, so Amber, you gave me an average 200 or 400 calories. Where do I fall in that? Well, that's where a little bit of experimenting can come in. So is it okay to assume that you're burning 400 extra calories per day? Sure, like toss that in and give it a shot and see how it goes. For a lot of women, that may be too many extra calories. But you know what's the worst thing that's gonna happen is you're gonna go two weeks and you're not going to see a loss. And you're gonna know I'm probably not burning as many calories as I thought with nursing, but you could reassure yourself. Hey, but I'm keeping my milk supply up, and then you can slowly start to drop the calories from there until you're seeing progress. So it doesn't hurt you to start on the higher end, Um, of the assumption that yeah, I'm burning, you know, 500-400 calories a day and add that onto your TDEE and then adjust down. If that's the case and you don't end up seeing fat loss occur.
3 – Adequate Protein Intake (16:12)
OK, so number one was to wait till you're six weeks postpartum to get started. Number two is to add 200 or 400 extra calories per day to account for the fact that you're nursing and number three. And here's the key. I have found that working with many nursing moms that most can maintain a good milk supply in a caloric deficit if there's one thing in place, and that is adequate protein intake. Meaning, I found that milk supply really depends more on your protein intake than your overall caloric intake. So when I hear from women who are like, Oh, I tried to lose weight last baby and I lost my milk supply and they're like it's because I, like, drop my calories down. What they're not really associated with is they are not understanding that when they cut their calories, they weren't paying attention to how much protein they were getting. And so they invertedly cut their protein as well. So if you can keep your protein up, even if your calories are low, if you can keep your protein up somewhere in that 0.8 to one gram per pound is a right ballpark, and again I walk you through that in my setting macros guide. But keeping your protein intake up is going to help you to maintain that milk supply, even if your calories are in a deficit so that protein intake is super important, especially when you are a nursing mom.
4 – Food Quality Really Does Matter (17:41)
The fourth key point is that food quality really does matter. And while your body composition responds much more to your overall macros and that less to the quality of your food, I have found that with nursing moms, it is vitally important that your food is really nutrient dense. You're gonna do so much better if you're eating fruits and vegetables and most of your carbs air coming from whole sources and your fats are leaning towards those healthier mono and saturated fats. So as a nursing mom pay attention to that food quality that it doesn't mean that you can't have a cookie or you can have some ice cream. You can just really, really make sure that most of the food you're consuming is really nutrient dense. Think like 80% clean eating, and I found that that really does make a difference for nursing moms being able to maintain their milk supply. You can also focus on the natural foods that boost the milk supply, like fenugreek and oatmeal and brewers Yeast. If you can just do a Google search, there's like tons of recipes using those ingredients and others that are supposed to help women increase their milk supply.So it's definitely worth investigating that and adding some of that If you feel like your milk supply is struggling a little bit again, don't get started on a caloric deficit If you're struggling with your milk supply, definitely wait until you have milk supply established. But adding those those things like fenugreek, oatmeal and brewers Yeast can be helpful in helping you to maintain your milk supply.
5 – Pay Attention to How Your Body is Responding (19:13)
Fifth and last, you gotta pay attention to how your body is responding and how your milk supply is doing, and so you really want to monitor it. And if that means for you pumping one bottle a day to give you reassurance and peace of mind that your supply isn't decreasing, then that could be a really good way to go. But pay attention, does your baby seem like he or she is hungry? Are they, you know, not seeming like they're getting enough milk. Sometimes it can be difficult to ascertain if your milk supply is decreasing, so if you are worried about it, start pumping a bottle a day and just kind of see and monitor how that's going and how it's doing. And here's the thing. You can always change your macros. I talked about in Episode 11 about how to set your macros, and I also talked about the fact that they aren’t magic and we have to do the same thing here. Maybe you start out really conservative and you're really nervous. And so you add 500 extra calories to your TDEE to count for nursing, because you're really worried about losing your milk supply. And so you do that for two weeks, and while your milk supply is doing well, you're not seeing any change on the scale or your measurements or your progress pictures. Then, like I said before, that's likely a sign that you haven't created a caloric deficit. So you drop your calories 100 or 200 you try again, and by doing that, you're going to find that sweet spot where you see fat loss and where you can also keep it pure milk supply up.
It Is Possible to do Count Macros for Breastfeeding (20:38)
It is possible, ladies, you can do both. If you do start to notice your milk supply decreasing, my recommendation would be to just start to bring your calories back up. It's not worth it to lose your milk supply in order to lose a couple extra pounds. For most women if you want to breastfeed and that is an important thing to you, then pay attention. If you start to see that milk supply decreasing, it's okay to build your calories back up and get to a place where you know you're able to at least maintain and feed your baby. But here's the thing. I've coached hundreds of women like hundreds of nursing moms, and I have never had a woman that we have not been able to find a sweet spot where she's able to do both where she's able to lose fat and maintain her milk supply at the same time.
So it may take some tweaking, and it may take some adjusting. But there is a sweet spot, and one of the keys, again is keeping that protein intake up. If you keep that protein intake up, even if you're in a caloric deficit most times you're going to be able to find that sweet spot where you can have the best of both worlds and you can reach your goals, and you can also feed your baby along the way.
So as a recap, there are five tips that I gave you nursing mothers who are trying to find that sweet spot with your macros and nursing.
Number one. Wait until you have an established milk supply at least six weeks postpartum. Give yourself time to heal. Give yourself time to establish a milk supply, and then you can go into trying to have conscious fat loss and reaching some goals. Number two account for your nursing by adding between 2 to 400 calories extra per day. Number three. Make sure your protein stays high between 0.8 and one gram per pound is a good place to start. Number four. Food quality matters. Make sure that you are including a lot of whole nutritious foods into your diet. Even if you can fit it into your macros doesn't necessarily mean it's going to help support your nursing and number five adjust where you need to to be able to find that sweet spot where you can lose fat and still nurse your baby and have the best of both worlds.
Conclusion on Counting Macros for Breastfeeding (22:51)
So that's it. That's my tips for all of you nursing moms who are wanting to count macros or who are wanting to lose the baby weight. Give yourself some grace. Don't hop into this just because you feel like you should or because other people want you to. Or because you hate how your body looks. But if you are desiring to have conscious fat loss, I'm all about supporting that, and I want to help you to get really good information. To be able to do that, take these five tips and run with it and go on in here goals that's gonna wrap up this episode of Biceps After Babies radio.
Remember, if you want to download my free guide to setting your macros, that's at www.bicepsafterbabies.com/21 or www.bicepsafterbabies.com/setmymacros
and you can get that free download there.I'm Amber Now go out and be strong because remember, my friend, you can do anything.
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Katie Clements says
I’m a nutrition coach just beginning and I have a breastfeeding client – she’s past the 3 month mark. Normally I set my clients to a 40/30/30 macro ratio for weight loss – but I know my BF client needs higher protein. What ratio would you suggest for her carbs/protein/fat?? Any advice is welcome! Thanks so much, I follow you on IG and had no idea you had podcasts! Thanks for all you do!
I don’t actually suggest setting clients macros based on ratios. The body doesn’t see ratios but rather the overall amount of each macro. That’s why I set macros by the gram rather than by the ratio. You can get my free guide to see how I do that here: http://www.bicepsafterbabies.com/setmymacros