How to Practice Intuitive Eating while Breastfeeding or Pumping

As a postpartum mom breastfeeding and pumping, I struggled a lot with what, when, and how much to eat. At times my hunger felt out of control, and yet I never seemed to have the time – or energy – to make nutritious meals for myself during times when I was actually hungry. When the baby was finally asleep, I was…trapped under a sleeping baby. Or had nodded off myself. Or really, I just wanted a shower. Or I was so hungry at that point that I was reaching for whatever was quickest or most delicious sounding. Often that meant a lot of foods that left me feeling hungry an hour or two later. 

So how do you eat intuitively when you no longer have the time or motivation to prepare nutritious, balanced meals *and* eat them when you’re actually hungry? Here’s some tips that I’ve picked up as a registered dietitian, as a breastfeeding mother myself, and by talking to many other breastfeeding or pumping moms.

  • Eat frequent, small meals and snacks. It’s okay if your meals don’t look like they used to when you’re breastfeeding a small baby. It’s important to make sure you’re keeping yourself fed and fueled.
  • Remember to stay hydrated – keep a water bottle in the places where you nurse and pump, and add flavorings, fruit, ice cubes, a splash of juice, or anything that makes your water more exciting if it helps you drink!
  • Focus on the quality of your foods as much as you can.
  • Prepare in advance for hunger by prepping snacks for overnight or when you know you’ll be extra-hungry. And put these snacks where you can access them! Keep trail mix, bars, and pieces of fruit wherever you feed your baby or pump.
  • As your baby gets older, they will eat less frequently. When you have pockets of time, meal prep components of food that you can work into meals later. This could mean putting some meat in a crock pot, slicing extra fruit or veggies, or putting in an online grocery order.
  • Make sure you’re getting protein throughout the day. Every time you eat, whether it’s a meal or snack, make sure you’re having something with some protein. This can be a great topic to talk over with a registered dietitian, especially if you have preferences or dietary limitations when it comes to protein!
  • Also, make sure you’re getting carbohydrates throughout the day. Carbs provide energy for you and your baby, and you need it consistently. Don’t skip eating carbs! 
  • When people offer to help, take it – or request specific tasks that would be helpful, like slicing fruit, making a meal, or helping you with meal prep.
  • Talk to a dietitian about your specific needs!

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