You’re a new mom who’s ready to shed those extra pounds you gained during pregnancy. Between the lack of sleep and the busy schedule that you’re on, you can’t always find the time to prepare healthy meals and snacks for yourself.
These factors cause many new mothers to ask, “Are meal replacement shakes safe during breastfeeding?” The short answer is that yes, they are safe while breastfeeding; however, there are several things to consider before deciding if they are suitable for you.
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Protein Shakes vs. Meal Replacement Shakes
One of the first things you should understand before using meal replacement shakes while breastfeeding is the difference between them and protein shakes. While these two nutritional supplements are often mistaken for each other, they are not the same.
Protein shakes are precisely what their name suggests – protein. They are used mainly by athletes to promote muscle growth. While some consider them to be relatively safe during breastfeeding, they won’t give you the nutrients that are needed to replace a healthy meal.
Protein shakes do contain amino acids that our bodies need but lack the added vitamins and minerals that you will get from drinking a meal replacement shake. Instead of piling on protein, carbs, and fat, meal replacement shakes can help provide the nutrients that your body and your baby need. As an added bonus, they are lower in calories and usually full of fiber, too!
So, while it probably won’t hurt you or your baby to drink occasional protein shakes, they are primarily for post-workout fuel to help promote muscle healing. You might also use them if you don’t get enough protein from your diet or meal replacement shakes. If you are looking for a way to replace the nutrients that you would generally get from a meal, however, a protein shake isn’t what you need.
What’s in Your Meal Replacement Shake?
It is also essential to know exactly what is in your meal replacement shake. Not all shakes are created the same, and you want to be careful about what you take in while breastfeeding. Artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners are standard in some of these nutritional supplement shakes, but you do not want these for your baby or yourself. You should also be careful to make sure that the shake that you choose doesn’t have weight loss supplements in it.
That said, you also don’t want to choose a meal replacement shake that is full of unhealthy fats and sugary calories. If your shake is high in calories, carbs, and fat, then it defeats the point; you could just as easily grab a donut. Healthy meal replacement shakes should be somewhere around 200-400 calories and, if possible, contain natural sugars and healthy fats. If the healthier shakes are too bland, you can always mix in fruit or nuts to add flavor and nutritional value.
Be Sure You’re Getting Balanced Nutrition
One of the issues that some women have with nutritional shakes while breastfeeding is that they end up eating a meal or heavy snack soon after drinking it. This can lead to an excess of calories and fat, which will provide the opposite effect from the weight loss you’re hoping for.
While some people do well and feel full after a meal replacement shake, others need to go through the process of sitting down, chewing, and ingesting a meal. If this is you, then nutritional shakes might be counterproductive unless you choose low-calorie, low-fat snacks with high nutrition density.
One way that you can avoid this issue and be sure that you are getting balanced nutrition is by having healthy, low-calorie snacks on hand for when that craving hits. Sliced apples, baby carrots, etc., make terrific grab-n-go snacks for those who need that crunch. You might also snack on lean meats and cheese if you need more protein, but be careful because the fat in them can sneak up on you. You can also choose hummus with your raw vegetables and fruits for added protein if you’re vegan.
Fruits and nuts are also excellent for quick snacks to keep on hand. Berries are full of antioxidants and other nutrients that are vital to a breastfeeding mother. Apricots are another good choice because they are full of potassium, fiber, flavonoids, and vitamins. Whole grains, yogurts, eggs, and sweet potatoes are also excellent foods to add. Plain, low-fat yogurt blended with fresh berries is a great dessert idea.
Getting The Proper Calories from Your Meal Replacement Shake
Losing weight requires that you take in fewer calories than you are burning. Even if you choose healthy foods, you will still gain weight if you don’t burn off the calories you consume. For the average dieter, this is a non-issue; simply count the calories going out vs. the calories coming in and make sure you are at a deficit.
However, things are a bit different for a nursing mother. According to the CDC, when a woman is breastfeeding, she will need to consume more calories to meet their caloric needs than before their pregnancy. While you would need to consult with your doctor to decide how many calories you should eat daily, the CDC suggests 330 to 400 more than what you would typically consume.
If you cut your caloric intake too much, it can have a negative effect on your milk supply. If your body “thinks” that it is starving, it will respond by lowering your milk supply and holding on to fat to protect both you and your baby. This will leave you with less milk and a slower metabolism, making it harder to lose weight and breastfeed your baby. It is much better to lose weight slowly while breastfeeding.
With that said, you also have to be careful not to take in too many calories. If you already get enough from your meals, adding meal replacement shakes will put you above your caloric goal and result in gaining weight instead of losing. Your doctor can help you find the “happy medium” that is right for your body’s needs.
Great Lactation Boosters to Add to Your Nutritional Shake
When it comes to meal replacement shakes while breastfeeding, there is a common topic in most discussions: how to boost your milk supply. Studies show that there are many ingredients that will help lactating moms produce more milk.
Water is perhaps first and foremost on the list of essential ingredients for the nursing mom. If you are dehydrated, your body will not be able to produce the breast milk that you need to keep your baby healthy. Aside from your meal replacement shakes, you should drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.
Barley and Chia seeds are also great additives for your nutritional shake. In fact, barley is known to be one full of beta-glucan, which helps boost the hormone prolactin that promotes lactation in humans. Chia seeds contain tons of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, magnesium, and fiber. Whole grains are also beneficial to add.
Other foods which help to encourage lactation in your body are oats, turmeric, and spinach. In addition, nuts and beans are excellent sources of protein. Aside from protein, nuts have calcium, iron, and B vitamins and beans have fiber and phytochemicals, which can activate your immune system and regulate your hormones. All of these can be tossed into the blender with your shake to make it more nutritious and enhance your milk supply.
Avocado is a surprisingly nutritious food because it contains more potassium than bananas, without a high sugar content. They also have more protein than you will find in your favorite yellow fruit and folate, which helps brain health. In addition, amino acids in it will promote cell growth for both you and your baby, making it another great choice to throw into a meal replacement shake for lactating moms.
As mentioned, almost all berries, fruits, and dark leafy greens are excellent additions to your supplement shake. These superfoods add tons of nutrition, from antioxidants to vitamins to fiber and more. Add in coconut water, which enhances lactation, and yogurt to make a delicious homemade meal replacement.
While low-calorie meal replacement shakes with artificial sweeteners and diet enhancers are not considered safe for breastfeeding mothers, there are many products on the market that enhance your nutrition while you lose weight. You might also decide to make your own nutritional supplement shake at home, using natural ingredients to help you meet your weight loss goals without worrying over what you are putting into your body.
As long as you stay well-hydrated, maintain a nutritional balance, and take in fewer calories than your breastfeeding body is burning, meal replacement shakes can be a very healthy way for busy moms to supplement their diets. Remember to talk to your doctor about your body’s individual nutritional needs and make a plan that fits within those recommendations.
I hope this article helps you understand more about using meal replacement shakes while breastfeeding. Please feel free to browse this site for more informative articles for moms and moms-to-be!