Craving sugar while breastfeeding is a very common complaint among nursing mamas.
Surprisingly, there is actually a valid reason why you may be having massive sugar cravings while breastfeeding, which we discuss below.
And if you’re interested in curbing those sugar cravings so you can lose some baby weight, fear not. I was able to lose 25 pounds of baby weight while breastfeeding long-term with a few simple habits, as described below.
So, it is possible to tame the cravings for sugar and breastfeeding can actually help with postpartum weight loss.
The Number One Reason You’re Craving Sugar While B
Many women think that there is a biological reason for their sugar craving while breastfeeding.
While each health issue you encounter should be discussed with your baby’s pediatrician and your OB, research has shown that there is usually one science-backed reason for your sugar cravings:
Sleep? What’s that? You’re a mom to a nursing baby, so you’re probably not getting much sleep!
Studies have shown that lack of sleep will increase your cravings for sweets and junk food and will inhibit your decision-making skills.
This is usually why you want to reach for those gummy bears over that salad.
I know first hand that when I have a bad night of sleep, I have so much more trouble sticking to a healthy diet. It’s like I have zero self-control when I’m tired!
Science has proven it time and time again. The hormone Ghrelin controls our cravings for sweets and carbs (according to this article from MindBodyGreen). When your body is low on sleep, the levels of Ghrelin in your body increase, which increases your sugar cravings.
How To Limit Sugar Cravings When You’re Tired
So, you’re thinking, “yes, I’m sleep-deprived and sleep deprivation causes sugar cravings, so what do I do about it?”
We have some tips below to combat your sleep-deprived sugar cravings, but, knowledge is power. And, now that you know that lack of sleep helps cause you to crave sugar while breastfeeding, that is half the battle.
Getting your newborn to sleep… well, hopefully that will improve over a few month’s time.
Sugar and Breastfeeding: Additional Reasons for your Cravings
Lack of sleep may not be the only cause for your sweet tooth. If it’s really bothering you, you might want to check with your health care provider. However, there are some other reasons below that may be cause for your sugar cravings while breastfeeding.
Not Eating Enough Fat or Protein
Fat and protein are satiating foods — meaning they keep you fuller, longer.
It’s easy to reach for packaged or processed foods when we have zero free time and a crying baby in our arms.
Try eating a few handfuls of nuts or adding a protein shake to your daily diet and this may curb some of your sweet cravings.
Not Enough Volume Foods
On the same topic as fat and protein are high-volume, nutrient-dense foods.
These would be anything that is found unpackaged or miniamally processed.
As mentioned, nuts and protein will keep you very full and satiated. In addition, fruits and vegetables are very filling and nutrient-dense. They also contain a large amount of water, which brings us to our next point…
(See how these all tie together? Healthy eating basics are so important!)
Not Enough Water
Breastfeeding thirst? It’s unreal.
Although the research is surprisingly mixed on whether nursing moms really need extra water, most breastfeeding mamas will tell you that they are constantly thirsty.
Thirst is often confused for hunger for anyone (not just breastfeeding moms), so be sure to chug some H20 before reaching for that candy bar.
For a few days, try increasing your water intake in combination with high-fat/high-protein and nutrient-dense foods and see if this helps your sugar cravings. It may just be a simple diet and mindset shift that will help.
Finally, if you’re having trouble staying hydrated, this Breastfeeding Water Bottle Tracker may help!
How the Stress of M
ommyhood Can Impact your Sugar Cravings
Stress raises the levels of cortisol in your body, which can increase your sugar cravings (source).
What’s more stressful than becoming a new mom or adding another baby to the family?
I’ve done it twice and, while it’s the most amazing experience, it’s also one of life’s biggest stressors.
Don’t beat yourself up too bad during this difficult time. Have a donut and move on. Just remember to get back on track at your next meal. What you do most of the time matters much more than what you do some of the time.
Be sure to talk with your doctor if you feel extremely overwhelmed by motherhood or the stress of parenting.
Is sugar bad for your breastfeeding baby?
According to KellyMom, your diet does not necessarily make your milk and worse or better for your baby. She states:
She goes on to say that a bad diet is worse for you than your baby, which is important to note! It’s important to take care of you so you can take care of
That said, each baby is different and some babies may be more sensitive to large amounts of sugar. Again, it’s a balancing act.
Can I eat ice cream while breastfeeding?
Unless your doctor advises you to avoid dairy
Generally, the only time you would avoid ice cream is due to a dairy allergy or intolerance in you or baby. Some moms have even claimed that certain flavors and brands of ice cream have increased their milk supply, though this is more likely due to the high calorie and fat content of ice cream more than anything.
Will eating too much sugar while breastfeeding
cause me to gain weight?
It’s not necessarily sugar that will make you gain weight, it’s if you eat more calories than your body is expending in energy. That old adage of calories in, calories out is true!
Luckily, when you’re exclusively breastfeeding a newborn, your body burns, on average, 400-700 calories per day.
That number will decrease as you drop feedings as your baby grows older.
Studies have shown that eating lots of sugar makes you crave more sugar, so you may be prone to overeating if you consume lots of sugar.
When it comes to weight gain, it boils down to calories. Luckily, nursing provides a nice calorie-burn cushion for new moms.
If you’re interested in dropping some extra baby weight, read my 50 tips from my 30-pound postpartum weight loss journey.
What foods should you fill up on before sugar?
When you’re craving sugar while breastfeeding, you may tend to reach for
However, try to make it a habit to fill up on whole, nutrient-dense, high-quality foods before sugar. Reach for one of these healthy foods first, and then reach for your sweet snack. It’s all about balance.
These healthy, nutrient-dense foods would include:
- lean meats / grass fed meats
- beans and legumes
- nuts and nut butters
- healthy fats like avocado and olive oil
- unrefined grains and rice
How to lose the baby weight when you are craving sugar and breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is actually a time when your body creates a calorie deficit without you even have to do anything. Automatic calorie burn is vital for weight loss, so this is actually an ideal time to lose body fat — especially if you have a large amount to lose!
Track your calorie intake for a few weeks. You’ll want to track your protein and fat intake, as well, to ensure you’re getting enough of these vital macronutrients.
Once you have a baseline for how many calories you’re eating, try shaving a few hundred calories off of that number each week.
Note: If you notice a drop in milk supply, raise your calories up as soon as possible.
However, if you notice a gradual drop in weight, you’ve reached the ideal calorie deficit! Just keep hitting these numbers and you should start to lose fat.
The great thing about breastfeeding is that you’re already burning 400-700 calories per day automatically, so you may not need to drop your calories too low to create a calorie deficit and lose weight!
Final Thoughts on Craving Sugar While Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is one of the most rewarding but difficult journeys you’ll experience as a mom.
Don’t beat yourself up too bad about excess sugar intake — especially in those early sleep-deprived months! Now you know that your lack of sleep could be one of the biggest causes of sugar cravings!
Just try to fill up on quality food before you reach for the treats. You’ll feel better overall and a few treats here and there will be much more enjoyable.
Happy nursing, mama.