The Modern Chef: How To Eat Healthfully While Breastfeeding

November 11, 2015  |  

Last Friday night, an emergency stop to the ice cream shop where I purchased a vanilla cone with sprinkles and a mustard pretzel saved the day. I downed these items in less than 15 minutes, and I was able to regain my focus, eliminate my headache, and stop Floyd Mayweather-like punches aka stop my hunger pains. The remainder of our family trip heard a lecture from my husband about how skipping meals for the sake of errand running was not a wise decision for a breastfeeding mother of two. This ordeal reminded me how important it is to eat healthfully while breastfeeding.

My first attempt at breastfeeding was a disaster. I committed to “eating clean” postpartum, but my lack of preparation left me eating about 700 calories a day while nursing full-time. No bueno!


Daily Diet (First Attempt)

Breakfast: apple, yogurt, 8 oz. orange juice

Lunch: turkey sandwich, 16 oz. water

Dinner: baked Tilapia, brown rice, 16 oz. water


Since my baby was eating about 500 of those 700 calories, a trip to the emergency room would be a lifesaver. Nothing was physically wrong with me aside from exhaustion and anxiety, but the doctor’s process of elimination forced me to take a two day break from breastfeeding while I “pumped and dumped” the milk contaminated with ct-scan dye. My child ate soy milk formula for a weekend, and I re-engineered my daily diet.

Fast forward to my youngest daughter born five months ago, I refused to endure the same experience twice, so my husband and I came up with a game plan for my nutrition. Experts say that a breastfeeding mom needs to eat an additional 200 – 300 calories more than she did during her last trimester pregnant. This would range to an additional 500 – 600 extra calories per day on average. For me, a woman breastfeeding a 19 month old baby and a five month old, I rounded it off to 1000 extra calories per day.

The website Kelly Mom does a real good job of breaking this information down to a customizable format. Also, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,” a book, by the La Leche League, a nonprofit advocacy organization for breastfeeding mothers, is an awesome table read for any family making strides towards breastfeeding young children.

Prior to having children, I never contemplated breastfeeding. It was our natural childbirth instructor who introduced the idea. Also, documentaries like “The Business of Being Born,” and “The Milky Way” really sold me on the value of breastfeeding for our family.

I have exclusively breastfed our youngest daughter, and we are counting down these last four weeks before we introduce her to food. During the day, she is fed on demand, and at night she sleeps at least 6 – 8 hours without waking. She has regulated herself to cluster feed in the mornings and early evenings. This is great news, but it was not without lots of preparation and strategy focused on my wellness.


Daily Diet (Today)

Breakfast: two waffles, 1 serving of fruit, 1 serving of protein i.e. turkey bacon, 8 oz. orange juice, 16 oz. water 

Lunch: 1 chicken breast or a turkey burger OR romaine lettuce or a turkey burger with a side salad, 16 oz. water, cookies

Dinner: two thicken wings or fish, sweet potatoes or brown rice, string beans or collard greens, 8 oz. fruit juice, 2 16 oz. water (before bed)


I am never worried about my weight, because I eat a pretty healthy diet and the extra calories are used to produce milk for our girls. I take a daily postpartum vitamin that supplements any nutrients that may or may not be present in my food. I also buy orange juice with extra calcium and vitamin D fortified.

Eating consistently like this has been a three year process that began with my first pregnancy, but I still have trouble maintaining it, like last Friday evening. The ice cream and the pretzel served the purpose of jump starting my body after hours of starvation. This, however, was not an ideal source of nutrition. Being consistent about prioritizing our own well-being as mothers is very important. If we are not healthy and well, we cannot provide optimal care for our children. Like they say on the airplane, “put your face mask on first.”


Clarissa Joan is a spiritual life coach and editor-in-chief of The Clarissa Joan Experience. She resides in Philadelphia, Pa with her Husband, their two girls, and a yorkie named Ace. Clarissa is also an expert in impact investing. She is the Communications Associate at Impact America Fund.

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