Protein shakes for breastfeeding moms
Postpartum nutrition can be complicated, especially when you’re breastfeeding. Along with making sure that you’re getting enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals, you also have to worry about calories and protein.
For many moms, life is busy. Meeting those calorie and protein requirements isn’t always easy. Protein shakes seem like a quick and convenient way to help you reach your daily nutritional goals.
But if you’re like most other moms, you’re probably asking: Can I drink a protein shake while breastfeeding? Let’s find out.
What are Protein Shakes?
Before we talk about whether it’s okay to drink protein shakes while breastfeeding, it’s important to understand what protein shakes are.
Protein shakes are blended drinks that contain either a protein powder supplement or high-protein food items, like:
- Peanut, almond, or some other nut butter
- Raw, unsalted nuts
- Cottage cheese
Protein powders are the most common ingredient in protein shakes. The protein in these powders can come in the form of:
- Plant-based blends
Whey is one of the most common types of protein used in protein shakes. It’s a natural product derived from dairy foods, like milk. But plant-based proteins, like pea, rice, hemp, and soy, are also increasing in popularity. These products often contain a blend of plant proteins to ensure that you get the amino acids you need to use the protein.
Aside from the main protein sources, protein shakes may also include other ingredients, like:
- Non-dairy milks (almond milk, coconut milk, etc.)
- Cow’s milk
- Seeds, like chia seeds or hemp seeds
- Sweeteners, like honey or sugar
- Flavorings, like vanilla extract or cinnamon
- Vegetables, like spinach or kale
Protein shakes are a quick and easy way to get a high-protein snack, and recipes are flexible, so you can add whatever you have on hand. It’s a quick and convenient way to get a nutritious meal on-the-go.
Protein Shakes and Breastfeeding
Protein is a vital nutrient that every new mom – and new baby – needs. It helps build muscle and tissue while helping your baby grow.
While many new moms have no issues getting enough protein from their daily diet, some need a little extra boost.
Many new moms lead very busy lives, so it’s far more convenient to make a protein shake than to cook a full meal. Other new moms may have physical limitations. For example, if you just had a caesarean section, you may not be able to move around as much. Protein shakes are a convenient and simple way to make sure that you’re getting the nutrients your body needs while breastfeeding and recovering.
While protein is an important nutrient, it’s also important to make sure that you’re eating a variety of foods to meet all of your nutritional needs. Shakes shouldn’t be the only thing you’re eating while you’re breastfeeding, but they can help ensure that you meet your daily calorie and protein requirements.
Foods like whole grains, vegetables, healthy fats, fruits, and calcium-rich foods are essential.
Does Protein Help Produce Breast Milk?
Protein is critical for producing breast milk, and this key nutrient will pass through the milk to your baby to foster growth.
Breastfeeding women require an additional 25 grams of protein each day to support breast milk production. High protein intake has been linked to greater milk volume.
Research also shows that eating more protein can help speed up recovery after birth and help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.
Protein Shakes for Weight Loss While Breastfeeding
Many new moms drink protein shakes to help kickstart their postpartum weight loss journey. While shakes are a great way to do this, it’s important not to reduce your calorie intake by too much. Your body still needs some additional calories to produce milk.
How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?
Breastfeeding itself is actually a great way to help you maintain or lose weight. On average, breastfeeding moms burn an extra 500 calories per day while lactating.
Milk production is an energy-intensive process. That’s why breastfeeding moms need to consume additional calories each day to keep their milk production at a healthy level. For example, if you’re at a normal weight and typically consume 2,000 calories per day, your doctor may recommend increasing your calorie intake to 2,500 while you’re breastfeeding.
The number of calories you need really depends on your age, how often you’re breastfeeding and your activity level.
How Protein Shakes Can Help
If your doctor says that it’s okay for you to drink protein shakes while you’re breastfeeding, they may help jumpstart your postpartum weight loss.
It may be okay to reduce your calorie intake slightly (talk to your doctor about this) and use protein shakes to help you do that. Shakes are a great way to reduce your calories while still feeling full. Protein helps you stay satiated and requires more energy to breakdown. Not only can a protein shake help you feel fuller for longer, but it can also help you burn more calories overall.
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Protein Shakes to Gain Weight While Breastfeeding
While many new moms want to lose weight after their pregnancy, there are some breastfeeding women that need to gain weight. If you’re not consuming enough calories, your body will have a difficult time producing enough milk for your baby.
Protein shakes can be a great way to help you get those extra calories while fueling your body with essential nutrients.
The average protein shake, with no added ingredients, has about 100 calories per scoop. A two-scoop shake is a quick way to get an extra 200 calories into your diet. Eating multiple shakes per day or adding extra healthy ingredients to your shakes can help increase the calories even more.
For example, adding a tablespoon of peanut butter to your shake can add an extra 94 calories. Adding a cup of non-fat Greek yogurt will add about the same number of calories.
Is It Safe to Drink Protein Shakes While Breastfeeding?
Because protein shakes are so convenient, many new moms wonder whether they can drink them while breastfeeding. The answer? It depends on your unique situation.
Whether you plan to make homemade, from-scratch shakes or use a protein powder, it’s important to talk to your doctor first.
Typically, protein shakes are perfectly fine to drink while lactating and make it easier for new moms to keep up with their nutritional needs. However, you should still talk to your doctor about any changes to your diet. If you have a protein powder in mind, show the label to your doctor to see if it’s safe for you to drink.
Choosing a high-quality protein powder is key.
It’s not so much the source of the protein itself that’s the concern with protein powders. It’s the added ingredients.
Some protein supplements have artificial flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners. There’s also a risk that traces of heavy metals or banned substances may make their way into these supplements when they’re being manufactured.
That’s why it’s so important to choose a quality protein powder that’s independently tested for purity and contains few added ingredients.
Best Protein Shakes for Women While Breastfeeding
If it’s safe for you to drink protein shakes while breastfeeding, you’ll find that you have a huge variety of options when it comes to protein powders and shake ingredients.
If you want the best protein shake for breastfeeding moms, there are a few things you need to consider:
When choosing a protein shake, it’s important to consider the source of the protein.
- Whey: The most common type of protein powder. It’s a natural product derived from milk products. If you’re lactose intolerant, look for products with whey isolate, which is lactose-free.
- Casein: A slow-digesting protein. Like whey, casein comes from milk. Because it takes longer to breakdown, casein is a good option for late-night meals.
- Plant-based protein: If you’re trying to avoid all animal products (like milk), plant-based proteins may be a good option. Typical protein sources include seeds, grains, and legumes. Pea and soybean protein are popular options. If you’re concerned about GMO soy, opt for organic protein powders instead.
- Egg: You can also find egg white protein powders, which are highly versatile. Along with shakes and smoothies, you can also use egg white protein in cooking recipes (as long as they aren’t flavored).
- Collagen: While not as popular, collagen protein powders are available. Along with providing protein, collagen can also support joint health and digestive health.
Choose protein sources that best fit your personal preference, lifestyle, and body needs.
Vitamins and Minerals
Along with the protein source, you also need to consider the vitamins and minerals the supplement offers.
Some protein powders are fortified with nutrients, like calcium. Check to see what each type of powder offers nutrient-wise.
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One of the main concerns with protein powders is the extra ingredients. Some have artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, and other ingredients that may not be beneficial for breastfeeding moms.
Check the ingredient label to see what types of additives, if any, are in each protein powder you’re considering.
Make sure that you consult with your doctor about any protein powders you’re considering. Your healthcare provider’s opinion may be the deciding factor in helping you choose a supplement for your protein shakes.