Last Updated on February 8, 2023 by Jada Glover
After you have your baby and 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 are in tune with how it’s healing in the postpartum period. However, when breastfeeding moms crave foods it’s vital to utilize portion control and to pick good quality foods in order to be healthy and get through the postpartum period as easily as possible.
In this post, I will be reviewing the typical causes for breastfeeding cravings and how to kick them to the curb.
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Will Breastfeeding Cravings Cause Me To Gain Weight?
If you don’t eat in moderation and eat all processed foods to satisfy those cravings, breastfeeding cravings could cause you to gain weight. It’s a common complaint I hear a lot in the breastfeeding health world- “I have more cravings breastfeeding than I did when I was pregnant!”
If that is you, know that you aren’t alone. Choosing to satisfy those cravings with the vitamins and minerals you’re likely craving, instead of sugar, will lessen your chances of gaining weight while breastfeeding.
If a Nursing Mom Eats A Lot of Sugar Is It Bad For a Breastfed Baby?
If you eat a lot of processed white sugar, that may upset your baby’s stomach. Some babies are not affected, while others are. Your baby’s digestive system is very immature when he or she is born. It takes time for their stomachs to develop and mature which is normal.
This means that heavily processed foods like white sugar can negatively affect a baby’s digestion and development. Instead of eating a lot of cookies and cakes, for example, or anything that is heavily processed, opt for dried fruits, fresh fruit, or homemade goodies with coconut sugar.
You should also avoid artificial sugars, including stevia and monk fruit extract, in large quantities. These can lead to bloating and gas in both you and your baby. You can keep an eye on your baby for signs of discomfort to see if a specific food may be causing his or her tummy to be upset.
What Causes Food Cravings While Breastfeeding?
Oftentimes we are actually craving specific minerals, an example is needing magnesium when we are craving chocolate. Most of the population is deficient in magnesium, and when you add on the postpartum period, you definitely should be evaluating how much you’re consuming so you can supplement.
Food is always the best way to supplement your diet. Eating a varied diet full of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats (including omega 3s), and wild-raised/caught meats and seafood. If you aren’t getting enough that way, then supplementing is the second-best option.
With all that said, let’s review the most common reasons you have cravings while breastfeeding.
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 every day.
Be sure you’re adding electrolytes to your water like Himalayan salt and a squeeze of lemon or drink a healthy electrolyte drink like coconut water. It’s important to replenish the minerals you are using to make breast milk.
You may need specific nutrients found in the real foods you’re craving. This is a good sign- listen to your body and reach for those quality foods. Here is a helpful food cravings chart from STEPin2 to help you identify what your cravings may mean for your body.
Hormone fluctuations, especially low serotonin levels can lead to cravings. This can happen during those first three months postpartum aka 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. After the delivery of your baby you will have one of the largest drops in hormones you’ll ever experience as a woman.
It’s important to realize this and be sure you are eating and supplementing to make up for this drop. Also, be sure you’re still taking a prenatal or postnatal vitamin. This will help ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.
The following vitamins/minerals should also be considered for supplementation or consumed through your diet to help optimize your hormone levels:
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3
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. Napping when the baby naps is the best advice for trying to catch up on sleep.
You may experience sleepless nights, but if you can recover during the day, you’ll feel better and more well-rested. If you find yourself bored or trying to stay awake by eating while you’re nursing your baby, opt for healthy breastfeeding snack options.
Eating processed sugar can lead to sugar addictions and cravings for more sugar. It signals a dopamine response making you want more. Whether you are breastfeeding or not, eating sugar leads to wanting more sugar.
This is especially true if you’re eating highly processed white sugar. Most store-bought treats contain this type of sugar- cookies, cakes, bakery items, etc. Instead of white sugar, eat or use alternatives like coconut sugar, honey, or maple syrup.
These are considered “real food” and minimally processed which means your body is able to process it easier. These types of sweeteners also have less of a “cravings” effect on your body, which means you won’t be left wanting more every time.
How to Stop Breastfeeding Cravings
Breastfeeding cravings may seem hard to control. This can often lead to weight gain and feeling defeated in your postpartum body. It’s important to realize that cravings are a good sign from your body because it’s your body’s way of telling you it needs something.
Also remember that breastfeeding does get easier in time, and you’ll find yourself better able to sleep in time. The best thing you can do is nourish yourself to help you get through this stressful and tiring time.
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, and 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. You want to say, “I want to eat healthy food,” and then you’ll be able to connect it to your reasons.
If you ask “why do I want to eat healthy food”, eventually, you’ll say, “I want to eat healthy food because I want to be healthy” or “I want to be healthy for myself. I want to feel good. I want to chase my baby around more”. Basically, 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. By keeping those serotonin levels steady, you will help your 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 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.”
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.
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.
4. Change Your Physical State
Sometimes we’re bored or sometimes we’re lonely. To get your mind off the craving, drink a full glass of water, go for a walk, do yoga, or do breathwork. This is especially helpful if you’re feeling tired and hungry if you can’t take a nap, go outside and get some Vitamin D from the sun, or 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 a new mom that is 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. 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 in an optimal state to take care of your baby and family.
Staying Healthy When You Have Sugar Cravings While Breastfeeding
If you’re struggling to eat healthy while breastfeeding, you’re not alone! Many moms struggle with this, which is why I created my Postpartum Weight Loss Program for Breastfeeding Moms. In this program, I show you the exact foods you should be eating and which ones you want to pair together at every meal to get rid of those breastfeeding cravings and leave you satisfied and full.
Inside L.E.A.N. Mamas, you’ll get access to my 4-part L.E.A.N. Mamas framework and 21-Day Sample Meal Guide to get you started on the right path to eating healthy, including foods to swap if you’re craving something sweet, along with recipes, a workout guide, and so much more.
Eliminating sugar cravings is totally possible when you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs. If you’re ready to start feeling better in your skin and more confident as a new mom, you’ll want to check out my Postpartum Weight Loss Program for Breastfeeding Moms.
It’s normal to have food and sugar cravings while breastfeeding. However, it’s important to take steps to curb them in order for both you and your baby to be as healthy as possible.
Recognizing your breastfeeding cravings and learning how to optimize your hormones is essential. Focusing on a healthy state of mind and eating real food can really help to minimize those pesky cravings and leave you feeling more satisfied after eating.