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How many calories do you burn a day breastfeeding?

Updated July 19, 2017

It’s well known that breastfeeding is best for the baby. Breast milk is a living fluid made individually for each baby, providing her with the most nutritious and healthy food available. Besides providing a solid base for your baby to grow on, breastfeeding helps mom naturally lose weight. She doesn’t even have to jump on a treadmill. The act of making milk itself burns hundreds of calories a day--even if mom has spent the whole day lounging with baby. Breastfeeding has some weight loss benefits to consider.

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Breastfeeding burns an average of 500 calories a day, with the typical range from 200 to 600 calories burnt a day. It’s estimated that the production of 29.6ml. of breast milk burns 20 calories. Studies have shown that breastfeeding mothers lose more weight after pregnancy than bottle-feeding moms--even if the latter group consumes fewer calories. Mothers who breastfeed exclusively have an average decrease in body fat and in hip and lower thigh circumference than bottle feeding moms.

Time Frame

Babies who are exclusively breastfed consume an average of 739ml. of breast milk a day, meaning that moms burn 500 calories a day. The normal range of breast milk taken in by 1- to 6-month-old babies is 539 to 907gr. a day. The amount varies after six months, depending on how much solid food the baby eats.


Because the nursing mom is burning so many calories a day just through milk production, she needs to follow an optimal diet. Breastfeeding moms should consume from 1,800 to 2,000 or more calories a day, or 300 to 500 more calories per day more than those consumed to maintain pre-pregnancy weight. In general, moms should eat when they’re hungry, which may feel like all the time. Mothers should not fill up on junk to make up for needed calories--they should eat a balanced diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables (preferably organic), protein and healthy fats. Whatever a mother eats passes directly into breast milk and, ultimately, into baby, so avoid additives, contaminants and highly processed foods.


It’s a misconception that exercising will interfere with the quality or quantity of a mother’s milk supply. Exercising does increase the level of lactic acid in the body, but this hasn’t shown any negative effects on breast milk. Moderate exercise is key to optimal physical fitness and will help a breastfeeding mom lose weight without posing any side effects to the nursing baby.


Even though moderate exercise is encouraged, don’t overdo it. Breastfeeding mothers can put themselves and their milk supply at risk if they diet or exercise before their baby is 2 months old. This time should be devoted to establishing a healthy milk supply and recovering from birth--not dieting. A sudden drop in calories can reduce a mother’s milk supply and push her body into starvation mode, which can be damaging to a mom’s health. Breastfeeding moms are discouraged from going on extreme diets--such as the no carb diet, the liquid diet and other fads--and they should not take weight loss medication.

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About the Author

Sarah Valek has been a writer since 2006. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and art from Ithaca College. Valek's work has appeared in ModernMom.com, "Mommies Magazine" and "Natural Moms Talk Radio."

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