5 Tips to Stop Breastfeeding Cravings
After you have your baby and you begin breastfeeding, you may notice intense breastfeeding cravings. Cravings are our body’s way of telling us we need food, nutrients, water, or something else. Not all cravings are bad, especially when we listen to our bodies, and we are in tune with how it’s healing in the postpartum period. When we crave foods, and we don’t utilize portion control, or eating in moderation, and don’t reflect on the quality of foods we are eating, cravings can be dangerous for our lifestyle and body’s state of healing.
So Why Do We Get Breastfeeding Cravings?
I wanted to share why you may be experiencing breastfeeding cravings first.
Often you’re dehydrated before you’re hungry. Your mind may think you’re hungry when you’re thirsty. So drink lots of water. A good rule of thumb is to drink when your baby drinks, or drink half your body weight in ounces.
You may need specific nutrients found in the real foods you’re cravings. This is a good sign- listen to your body and reach for those quality foods.
Hormone fluctuations, especially low serotonin levels can lead to cravings. This can happen during those first three months or the fourth trimester. The first three months after your baby’s born, your hormones are all over the place and often depleted. You may experience a dip in serotonin levels for various reasons, and that can cause sugar cravings and carbohydrate cravings.
A state of tiredness, stress, anxiety, boredom…all of those feelings play into what you’re craving and when you’re craving it. So you must eat lots of nutrients.
Eating processed sugar can lead to sugar addictions and cravings for more sugar. It signals a dopamine response making you want more.
How to Stop Breastfeeding Cravings
1. Focus on Transforming Your Mindset
I believe mindset is a huge part of whether or not you can stick to any sort of healthy lifestyle. When we change our focus, and we let go of the negative feelings that are attached to eating those foods we feel guilty for eating, we can break the negative thought process cycle. Instead of thinking, “I will not eat chocolate, I will not eat chocolate” over and over again, say, “I want to eat healthy food.” You want to put your emotional energy into a positive state and focus on the positive aspect of food. Food isn’t inherently bad, but when we eat the wrong kinds of “food” (processed), or we overindulge time and time again, it can become a bad habit.
Sometimes the negative energy you associate with food can enable the image to grow so strong that at some point, you just suddenly feel like you have to cave in, and then you eat the food. So instead of focusing on what you want to avoid, you want to focus on what you want to achieve over and over again.
So you want to say, “I want to eat healthy food,” and then you’ll be able to connect it to your reasons. So why you want to eat healthy food. And then eventually, you’ll say, “I want to eat healthy food because I want to be healthy.” “I want to be healthy for myself. I want to feel good. I want to chase my baby around more,” whatever your motivating factor is.
You’ll want to be the gatekeeper in your mind for these negative thoughts. Anytime one crosses into your mind, recognize it, accept that it came, reframe it, and pitch the negative version back out.
2. Keep Your Serotonin Levels Steady
Eat plenty of serotonin-boosting foods like sunflower seeds, chickpeas, sesame seeds, spinach, meat, eggs, and dairy. All of those are high in the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to trigger serotonin production in your body. Serotonin supports lactation, too, by promoting the production of prolactin, which you need for milk production.
So keeping those serotonin levels steady will help you with your milk supply and keep your hormone levels stable. This will prevent those sugar and carb cravings.
Eating a balanced diet with a balanced ratio of real, quality foods containing proteins, carbohydrates, and fats can help your hormone levels remain stable.
3. Recognize the Breastfeeding Cravings and Break the Cycle
If you recognize your cravings as a habit because of your lifestyle, the time of day you snack typically, or being bored at night, you’ll want to fill your emotional cup with other activities that leave you satisfied but break the cycle of always wanting to eat “just because.”
So how do you break the habit of eating and reaching for food constantly? Preschedule your meals and snacks while you’re learning to listen to your body’s hunger cues. If you find yourself grazing all day long, what I want you to do is schedule your three meals. Plus, two snacks in between, and then maybe one after dinner, if you feel like you still need something else to eat after dinner. Preschedule them, so you stick to this schedule and make sure you include a healthy balance of real foods with omega 3s, calcium, and other vital nutrients in the postpartum phase. You can learn more about what vitamins and nutrients you need when breastfeeding in my mini-course- Breastfeeding Nutrition Mini-Series: The Truth About Your Diet When Breastfeeding.
4. Change Your Physical State
Sometimes we’re bored; sometimes, we’re lonely. To get your mind off the craving, drink a full glass of water, and go for a walk, do yoga, breathwork. Especially if you’re feeling tired and hungry, if you can’t take a nap, go outside and get some Vitamin D from the sun and take your baby on a walk in the stroller.
You can also call a friend and laugh on the phone. Chances are, if you’re lonely, you may have a lonely friend. So just pick up the phone and give that friend a call to redirect your thoughts and take your mind off of the food cravings.
5. Focus On Your Sleep
Sleep quality is so, so important. When you’re tired, you crave energy. When you’re tired, you want to have more energy naturally. This makes sense! If you’re not getting that energy from sleep, you may look to food for energy, and that’s natural. You want to make sure you’re giving your body as much sleep as it needs.
On average, that’s seven to nine hours per night. I know sometimes that can be difficult as new mamas that are breastfeeding. My son nurses at night, but if I’m ever feeling tired early in the evening, then I try to go to bed early, and he’s usually tired too. I try to listen to those bodily cues. Take a minute to recognize what you’re feeling versus numbing the tired feeling by eating.
When you need to focus on sleep, your support system can come in handy. If you’re in the first few months after delivery, you want to try to sleep when the baby sleeps. Your partner can do other things to help you too. Check out my post here about partner support- How Your Partner Can Help You After Birth.
As important as it is to be eating healthy foods, it’s equally important to make sure you’re getting quality sleep because that will also help your body repair and heal itself.
Remember that taking care of yourself should be your first priority, so you can be on an optimal state to take care of your baby and family.