If you’re currently breastfeeding, or about to start, you may be wondering how to fit in all the nutrients and calories you need to provide for both you and your baby. Here, we’ll look into meal replacement shakes and just how safe they are when breastfeeding.
Why would breastfeeding mums consider meal replacement shakes?
When you’re a new mum, life can be especially busy. With more responsibilities on your plate and less time than ever before, it can be hard to know how to juggle everything. If you’re breastfeeding your baby, your diet becomes particularly important, as anything you consume your baby is also consuming, and you have to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients both you and your baby need.
Breastfeeding requires additional nutrition in terms of both protein and calories. Protein is essential for the production of breast milk: not only does it help the mother with milk supply, but it also serves as tissue building blocks and encourages the healthy growth of the baby. Your baby needs enough protein to ensure it can build, repair and maintain muscles, connective tissue, skin and organs. After giving birth, you also need to ensure you’re getting an adequate amount of protein to help your body repair itself. The World Health Organisation recommends around 17 grams of extra protein per day during breastfeeding, although how much protein each person needs differs according to their individual body.
The CDC recommends that new mums consume an extra 450 to 500 healthy calories a day in order to meet their nutritional needs, as producing milk for the baby also takes a lot of energy and calories. The best way to meet your requirements is to eat a varied diet which can provide vital vitamins and minerals for you and your baby - however, a good quality meal replacement shake can also be a quick and convenient way of boosting those nutrients when you’re low on time.
What are meal replacement shakes?
Although nutrient-dense wholefoods are the best way to pack in your vitamins and minerals, meal replacement shakes can be an easy, quick and portable way for new parents to give both themselves and their babies a nutrition boost. Meal replacement shakes are designed to provide all the nutrients you’d usually get from a full meal, and can serve as a healthy snack or a quick breakfast. There are certain antioxidants and phytochemicals you can only find in plant-based foods so, as a breastfeeding parent who should be consuming more calories than normal, meal replacement shakes shouldn’t really be consumed in place of a full, well-rounded meal.
Lactating women often don’t meet their increased recommended intake of certain nutrients, such as calcium, zinc and magnesium. Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, D and iodine also partially go towards making milk rather than being used for other essential bodily functions, so a good quality meal replacement can help bridge those nutritional gaps.
When you’re looking for a meal replacement shake while breastfeeding, make sure you have chosen a proper meal replacement shake and not a protein powder or supplement, which won’t have all the additional vitamins and minerals you’ll want to benefit from.
Some things to be aware of when you’re choosing your meal replacement shake:
Choose a complete protein source with all 9 essential amino acids (you can learn more about amino acids with this guide)
Opt for a hormone free shake, as you don’t want to be feeding yourself or your child any extra hormones. Plant-based sources of protein are considered hormone-safe.
Free from allergens in case your baby has any food sensitivities that have not yet been discovered
No added sugar
Breastfeeding, meal replacement shakes and weight loss
It may be tempting after pregnancy to try and lose any baby weight as quickly as possible; however, for the sake of both you and your baby, it’s not advisable to just start cutting the calories. It’s also okay to not be thinking about losing weight at all! Everyone’s relationship with their body is different, and no-one should feel pressured to look a certain way after giving birth.
If losing weight is on your list of priorities and you’re mentally ready to do so, relying on meal replacement shakes to get your calories down is not the way forward - you still need to allow for those extra 500 calories to allow your body to produce milk! However, meal replacement shakes can help for those 500 calories to be as nutritious and healthy as possible - if you choose a good quality shake packed full of superfoods and no artificial ingredients, there aren’t many snacks which will match its nutritional value.
The best way to lose baby weight in a sustainable way is to eat nutritious meals that provide your body and your baby with all the nutrients you need, which will also help your milk supply. Eat regular, healthy meals with enough protein, carbs and healthy fats, and you can then give yourself a nutrition boost with a good quality meal replacement. Our WHOLE Vegan Meal Replacement is just 150 calories, but packed full of 22 vitamins and minerals, omegas 3, 6 and 9, a herbal support blend and so much more, so you know you’re getting all the nutrients both you and your baby need.
Of course everybody is different, so before taking any sort of supplement while pregnant or breastfeeding you’ll need to check with a doctor or medical professional.