Eating for Breastfeeding: How to Increase Calorie Density

My tips for consuming adequate calories while breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is hard. In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges of the postpartum period. Eating for breastfeeding to keep up a good milk supply requires a lot of energy. And energy comes from calories. 

The postpartum period is the time when you are TRULY eating for two. How you fuel yourself determines what nutrients your baby is able to get from your breastmilk! Calorie needs actually increase further beyond the third trimester. Often, your appetite will direct that calorie increase (aka: you want to EAT EAT EAT). However, sometimes social pressures of “bouncing back” or shifting hormones or lack of sleep or [insert myriad causation here] can limit our appetite. In this blog, I’ll focus on how to increase the calorie density of your diet to support breastfeeding. 

Woman breastfeeding and eating. Hungry while breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding requires A LOT of energy


  1. Load up on healthy fats. 
  2. More protein/carbs, less vegetables.
  3. Don’t skimp on condiments.
  4. Choose full-fat dairy. 
  5. Consume liquid calories.
  6. Listen to your body! 

It helps when you have some basic meals in mind that are easy to prepare. If recipe ideas are a weak point, check out my (customizable) Family Dinners Recipe Pack! Keep reading, I’ll break down each step in detail…

1. Load up on healthy fats

Fats are particularly energy-dense. That means a small amount can pack quite the calorie punch! They won’t add a ton of volume (space)… so it is easy to throw a bit extra into every meal. Avocado is especially helpful as it is also a sneaky good source of fiber.

How to do it: Add avocado to sandwiches/wraps/bowl meals; Cook vegetables with olive oil/avocado oil/coconut oil; Drizzle extra olive oil/avocado oil on greens; Add olives to salads, Top most meals with seeds/nuts; Add coconut flakes on top of smoothies or oats.

2. Increase portion of protein/carbohydrate, Decrease portion of vegetables

Vegetables can be filling, taking away valuable digestive-space for more calorie-dense options. Plus, increasing the portions of protein or carbohydrates is generally well-tolerated from a gut health perspective. (A double portion of rice is less likely to cause gas/bloating than a double portion of broccoli, for example).

How to do it: Add an extra egg when making an omelette; Have 2-3oz more of animal protein at any meal; Have 1.5-2 servings of carbohydrate at any meal; Skip the celery, cucumber, and peppers (unless you can eat those AND the extra protein/carb).

3. Don’t Skimp on condiments

While there IS a caveat here, if you are smart with your ingredients many condiments will increase the total calories of a meal without significantly changing satiety. It is still best to avoid hydrogenated oils and added sugars! Instead, look for avocado-oil based mayonnaise, salad dressing, and sauces.

How to do it: Use avocado mayo on sandwiches/wraps or as a dipping sauce for veggies; Drizzle no sugar BBQ Sauce on meats; Generously dress any greens you are eating.

4. Consume Full-Fat Dairy

If you (and baby) are tolerating cow’s milk protein, the full-fat version is going to be your best choice. These dairy products not only provide essential nutrients like calcium but also contribute to your daily calorie intake, supporting your increased energy needs during breastfeeding.

How to do it: Opt for whole milk greek yogurt and cottage cheese. Sprinkle extra cheese on salads, pasta, and stir fry. 

5. Consume Liquid Calories

Staying well-hydrated is essential during breastfeeding, but you can make your hydration more calorie-rich by choosing certain beverages. “Liquid calories” are generally less filling than a full meal. Added Bonus: Sipping on a smoothie or drinking a high-fat coffee is easy to do while feeding. 

How to do it: Enjoy a refreshing fruit and vegetable smoothie with added protein to make it a well-rounded snack or opt for a (whole) milk-based beverage like a homemade latte. 

Drink your calories to get more while breastfeeding


Choose Nutrient-Dense Snacks: Snacking smartly can be an effective way to consume more calories without feeling overly full. Opt for nutrient-dense snacks like trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, or a handful of almonds. Greek yogurt with honey and berries is another delicious and calorie-rich snack option. These snacks offer a combination of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates to keep you energized throughout the day.

Eat Frequently: Instead of three large meals, consider having smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. This approach can help you consume more calories without feeling overly full at any one time. For each meal, aim to include a combination of lean protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and plenty of colorful vegetables to ensure a balanced diet that supports both you and your baby’s nutritional needs.

Eating for breastfeeding can feel like a full time job. (..Not that you don’t already have enough on your plate…pun intended) Make it easier on yourself by asking for help from your partner, your family, your neighbors, or other community around you. The postpartum period is a great time to test out meal delivery services or lean into simple one-pot recipes that you can set and forget. It is also a great idea to use Thrive Market– you can easily build your grocery cart online while feeding and get it shipped directly to your door! 

A Few of my Favorite High-Calorie quick Recipes to eat for Breastfeeding:

Here are a few SAMPLE meals from my Family Dinner Recipe Pack. The full recipe pack includes 30 customizable recipes including slow cooker, pressure cooker, and one-pan meals that serve a crowd. Available in my PDF Shop!

Lemon Dill Chicken _Family Meal Idea

Lemon Dill Chicken

with Rice & Kale Salad

Sheet Pan Shrimp _ Family Dinner Meal Plan Idea

Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas

serve with Tortillas, Chips, or Rice

Listen to your body when eating for breastfeeding.

While it’s important to increase calorie intake during breastfeeding, it’s equally crucial to pay attention to your body’s signals. Eat when you’re hungry, and don’t force yourself to overeat. Your appetite may naturally increase during this time, but it’s essential to maintain a healthy and balanced approach to eating.

Remember that every woman’s nutritional needs during breastfeeding are unique, so consulting with nutritionist can provide personalized guidance to ensure you’re meeting your calorie and nutrient requirements while breastfeeding.

By making mindful choices and incorporating calorie-dense options into your diet, you can support your health and your baby’s development during this special time.

Want to work with a nutritionist to personalize your diet?

Let's chat! I offer Telehealth nutrition services all over the US.

ICYMI: New recipe packs

Recipe Pack Plant-Based
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