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How To Gain Weight While Breastfeeding 2022: 7 Simple Steps

Christine VanDoren

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

how to gain weight while breastfeeding

After giving birth, the next thing is to protect the baby by ensuring that they receive adequate nourishment to prevent sickness. One of the ways to do so is by breastfeeding. In addition, breastfed babies[1] develop strong immune systems and experience less constipation, gastroesophageal reflux, and gastroenteritis, amongst others.

Further, the World Health Organization[2] encourages exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. So, no doubt, breastfeeding is vital for babies. But, besides the positive effects breastfeeding has on babies, it can change a  woman’s metabolism, which may result in weight loss.

While not all women lose weight[3] during breastfeeding, it is still fairly common. If weight loss is not your goal and you just want to stay healthy for yourself and your baby, you are in the right place! 

This article will provide valuable information on how to gain weight while breastfeeding. So, it’s time to dive in! 

 7 Tips to Gain Weight During Breastfeeding

  1. Track your caloric intake
  2. Divide calories evenly throughout meals
  3. Eat plenty of healthy high-fat foods
  4. Consume nutrient-dense foods
  5. Snack between meals
  6. Drink smoothies and shakes
  7. Track your progress

Why Are You Losing Weight While Breastfeeding?

Research[4] shows that exclusive breastfeeding has a negligible effect on postpartum weight loss. However, losing weight while breastfeeding is normal, and it occurs due to a few factors.

For example, breastfeeding moms are burning calories faster to ramp up milk production and feed their babies. They are also utilizing the fat cells reserved in their body during pregnancy to provide energy to the baby.

On average, breastfed women burn about 500 to 700 calories daily to fuel milk production. Consequently, weight loss may occur depending on the diet, level of physical activity, genetics, and pre-pregnancy weight. 

If this is happening to you, you might ask, “how can I gain weight while breastfeeding?” Indeed, it is a valid question! Can you gain weight while breastfeeding? Let us find out.

7 Tips to Gain Weight During Breastfeeding

Track Your Caloric Intake

how to gain weight while breastfeeding

The first step to gaining weight during breastfeeding is to monitor your caloric intake. A calorie represents a unit of measurement and measures the amount of energy your body can get from food. 

Your body needs a certain number of calories to operate effectively and produce nutritious breastmilk, but consuming more than necessary can lead to weight gain.

So, when someone desires to lose weight, one of the things they do is to reduce their caloric intake by cutting down on foods that contain them in high amounts; brown rice, macadamia nuts, cheddar cheese, mackerel, chickpeas, and sweet potato are a few examples of foods with high calories. 

However, the reverse is the case with gaining weight during pregnancy. But how can you increase your caloric intake when you do not know how much you eat daily? Counting calories or using a calorie-tracking app like MyFitnessPal can increase your awareness of how many calories you’re consuming so that you can target your portions with weight gain in mind. 

Once you become aware of how much you’re eating daily, the next step is adding in additional calories for weight gain. Breastfeeding moms who desire to gain weight need to consume extra calories. To gain a pound per week, you can add 500 additional calories per day to the amount you need to maintain your weight. 

Divide Calories Evenly Throughout Meals

how to gain weight while breastfeeding

Now that you have discovered a way to gain weight during breastfeeding, it is normal to think you must consume very large meals. However, some women may not be able to do that physically. So, what is the solution? 

First, you can evenly distribute your caloric surplus throughout your food menu daily; doing so can help prevent you from feeling overly full or sick and help you to maintain steady energy. 

In a more practical sense, while observing a 4-hour interval at least, you can eat three meals and one snack daily. On the other hand, you can eat five to six light meals while keeping two to three hours intervals in between. In addition, it would be best to avoid going five hours without having any planned meals. 

In essence, it would help to spread your calories over three to five meals a day. But are these the only ways to gain weight while breastfeeding?  

Eat Plenty of Healthy High-Fat Foods

how to gain weight while breastfeeding

Growing up, or even presently, you must have heard that fats should be avoided as much as possible because they increase cholesterol and lead to health complications. While this is the case with certain fats, you should know that healthy fats exist. In other words, not all fats are innocuous. 

Healthy fats can help you regulate your weight, manage your mood, shred fatigue, and sharpen your mental state. So, they reverse the effects of bad fats you are likely more familiar with.

In addition, one gram of protein or carbohydrates contains four calories. Meanwhile, one gram of fat contains nine calories. As a result, consuming foods high in healthy fats are a more effective strategy for weight gain. A few of these foods include salmon, avocados, nuts, nut butter, and seeds, amongst others. 

Consume Nutrient-Dense Foods

how to gain weight while breastfeeding

As the word nutrient-dense foods[5] implies, these are foods rich in nutrients. Therefore, consuming them is vital for your weight gain journey as a breastfeeding mom. This is because your body requires these essential minerals and vitamins to operate flawlessly, particularly if you desire to gain weight. 

You may find it challenging to gain weight if you’re not focusing on nutrient-dense foods. To ensure optimal body performance, you should prioritize nutrient-dense foods such as seafood, lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables.  

Snack Between Meals

how to gain weight while breastfeeding

Many people avoid snacking between meals for fear of weight gain and other health concerns. However, if you choose nutritious snacks, snacking can easily bump up your daily calorie needs to gain weight. 

For example, you can add ½ cup cottage cheese[6] or ½ cup oil roasted mixed nuts in between your meals. While the former contains 220 calories, the latter has 453 calories. Later, we will dive deeply into more examples of the healthy snacks breastfeeding moms can consume for weight gain. 

Drink Smoothies and Shakes

how to gain weight while breastfeeding

Remember that liquids have calories too! So, having drinks shakes, or smoothies are a great way to bump up calories, especially if you have difficulty eating enough solid food or feel full easily. If you have difficulty eating due to being full or something else. It can make gaining weight seamless. 

It would be best to drink more nutrient-dense liquids such as protein shakes and smoothies. Tasty and beneficial ingredients include protein powder, berries, spinach, almond milk, nut butter, and Greek yogurt.  

Track Your Progress

how to gain weight while breastfeeding

After following the steps above, start tracking your progress to see how much weight you have successfully gained. 

Have I gained weight? Is the process hectic? Am I still losing weight? One way to answer these questions is by stepping on a scale at least once a week. 

Stepping on a scale helps you to determine whether your caloric surplus is enough or not. It is also a form of encouragement. When you see the weight gain journey going smoothly, it is motivating and makes you want to keep going.  

However, if you discover that there has been no improvement, you can retrace your steps to see what may have happened. 

Maybe you didn’t eat enough of the right types of food. And as a breastfeeding mom, it can be difficult to know what you can eat to gain weight.

What to Eat While Breastfeeding to Gain Weight?

So far, you have learned seven steps for gaining weight while breastfeeding. What are the best foods to gain weight when breastfeeding? Here are some of the best. 

Calorie-rich nutritious foods[7]:

  • Whole grains – Whole grain bread, pasta, oats, potatoes, and brown rice
  • Full-fat proteins – Pork, red meat, salmon, chicken breast, eggs, cheese, full-fat yogurt, and whole milk
  • Healthy fats – Avocados, olive oil, nuts, flax and chia seeds
  • Snacks – Low sugar, whole grain cereals, yogurt, smoothies, and cheesiest of all, breastfeeding moms should eat calorie-rich healthy foods[7]. For carbohydrates, you can consume whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, potatoes, or brown rice. For cereals, frosted wheat, raisin bran, and low-sugar granola are all solid options.

Is There Anything Breastfeeding Moms Should Avoid?

Drinking alcohol can lead to weight gain[8], but this can be detrimental to your baby. However, if you choose to drink in moderation,  it is recommended to first pump and reserve that milk for your baby before drinking alcohol.

Likewise, breastfeeding moms should also limit caffeine[9]. It would be best to avoid drinking more than three cups of caffeinated drinks daily. Too much caffeine exposure can make your baby more agitated and restless and disrupt their sleep. 

Though seafood is nutrient-dense, you should be careful since most contain mercury. In addition, excessively consuming mercury can upset the normal development of your baby’s nervous system. So, it would help to avoid mercury-filled seafood such as tilefish, King mackerel, and swordfish.

The Takeaway

When discussing how to gain weight when breastfeeding[10], it is vital to pinpoint that adopting a healthy diet is necessary first and foremost.  Although the aforementioned foods above are high in calories, they also benefit the body by supplying it with vital nutrients. So when it comes to healthy weight gain, it’s not just about the quantity of food but also the quality

It is quite easy to eat plenty of fast food and junk food to amp your calories up, but this can lead to increasing your risk of various ailments due to unhealthy weight gain. By focusing on nutrient-dense, higher-calorie foods, and a few additional snacks, you’ll be on your way to healthy weight gain in no time!


+ 10 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Cleveland Clinic. (2018). Benefits of Breastfeeding: For Baby and Mom. [online] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15274-the-benefits-of-breastfeeding-for-baby–for-mom
  2. World (2019). Breastfeeding. [online] Who.int. Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_1
  3. Mayo Clinic. (2022). Why are breast-feeding and weight loss connected? [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/expert-answers/breastfeeding-and-weight-loss/faq-20094993
  4. Jarlenski, M.P., Bennett, W.L., Bleich, S.N., Barry, C.L. and Stuart, E.A. (2014). Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among U.S. women. Preventive Medicine, [online] 69, pp.146–150. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.09.018.
  5. National Cancer Institute. (2022). NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. [online] Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/nutrient-dense-food
  6. Uwhealth.org. (2019). Patients & Families | UW Health. [online] Available at: https://patient.uwhealth.org/healthfacts/549
  7. Cleveland Clinic. (2020). High Calorie Foods: Snack Ideas for Weight Gain. [online] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16555-snack-ideas-for-weight-gain
  8. Vic.gov.au. (2013). Alcohol and weight gain – Better Health Channel. [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Alcohol-and-weight-gain
  9. Nih.gov. (2022). Caffeine. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501467/
  10. Mayo Clinic. (2022). What to eat while breastfeeding your baby. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breastfeeding-nutrition/art-20046912‌
Christine VanDoren

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her passion is helping others learn how strong and healthy they can become by transforming their daily habits. Christine spends most of her time in the gym, hiking, painting, and learning how she can influence others through positivity!

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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