Can You Drink Protein Shakes While Breastfeeding?
By Wendy Colson RN, IBCLC, RLC
Moms juggle so many things in their daily lives, and making sure you and your baby are getting enough of the proper nutrients to satisfy your elevated needs during lactation can just be another challenge in a day of doing all the things #momlife requires.
To make things a little easier, it might be time to shake things up with some protein powder! You are probably wondering “Can I drink protein shakes while breastfeeding?”. The answer is yes! But, not all protein powders on the market are appropriate for pregnancy or the lactation stage of motherhood. I will break this down for you to make sure you are choosing the one that's just right for you because a good quality certified organic protein powder is often the only healthy meal busy moms have time for when raising a family.
When should you start adding protein to your diet?
You should have already increased your protein intake while you were pregnant at the recommendation of your health care provider. The American Pregnancy Association recommends eating 75-100 grams of protein a day while pregnant. To put this in perspective, one chicken breast has 43g and 1 cup of lentils has 18g. Protein powders which offer at least 18 grams of plant-based protein are an attractive option in pregnancy when you are feeling nauseated and the thought of eating solids is just too overwhelming. After all, skipping meals is not an option when you are pregnant since you are growing a human inside of you!
During pregnancy, it’s best to keep high sugar, low nutrient foods to a minimum and replace them with lean proteins and high fiber foods. Protein alongside complex carbohydrates supports a stable blood sugar and can help minimize nausea that often accompanies pregnancy (thank you, hormones!). Too much weight gain increases your risk of gestational diabetes which not only interferes with pregnancy, but makes lactation more difficult immediately following delivery.
If you haven’t already delivered or you are considering becoming pregnant, pregnancy is a good time to research protein powder brands which are safe to use in both pregnancy when breastfeeding. Clinical evidence has even shown increased protein during pregnancy helps moms recover faster after giving birth.1 Additionally, keeping your protein intake postpartum and during breastfeeding can support your healing from birth, especially in the case of extended laboring, caesarean birth or damage to your pelvic floor.
Importance of protein for breastfeeding
When breastfeeding, your body will need additional nutrition, both in calorie and protein consumption. Ask any new breastfeeding mom and they will likely tell you how HUNGRY they are! Protein is essential for the production of breast milk and assuring you have enough protein daily will help with milk supply and can help you stay fuller longer. The best way to meet your energy needs during this time is to eat a varied diet consisting of a combination of macronutrients-protein, carbohydrates, and fats which can meet your energy needs and provide vital vitamins and minerals for you and your baby. The World Health Organization recommends consuming an extra 25 grams of protein per day for the first six months of breastfeeding, however the exact amount you need for your body depends on your weight and variety of individual factors.
Protein powders are a quick, easy and healthy way to add protein to your daily routine without having to cook or clean much in the kitchen. And the BEST part is they can be eaten one-handed!
5 ways to incorporate protein powders in your daily routine as a busy mom:
- Have as a meal replacement if you are on the go or short of time making healthy food for yourself- Skipping meals is not an option and your toddlers Goldfish cracker do not count as a meal! Blend into a smoothie drink or bowl alongside some fruit, greens, and healthy fats-nut butters/avocados. Grab your shaker bottle and shake a scoop + your favorite milk (my personal favorites are unsweetened vanilla almond milk or oat milk)
- Add into baked goods such as muffins, pancakes, brownies to provide a protein boost to an otherwise empty-calorie food.
- Take it on the go with you to have a snack between meals, ready in a pinch between errands and park play dates.
- Energize your workouts and use as a pre-workout fuel*.
- Use after a workout as a muscle recovery*
*Note: if your protein does not contain all essential 9 amino acids then #4-5 will not be an added benefit.
What to look for in a protein powder when breastfeeding
- Look for a complete protein: this means it contains ALL essential 9 amino acids.
- Choose one that’s Hormone-free: plant-based protein over the whey ones made from cows because you and your baby do not need anymore hormones right now!
- Certified Organic by USDA and non-GMO are two MUSTS! (Not just added organic ingredients which implies they cut corners and they cannot pass the rigorous testing required) to avoid environmental and industrial contaminants.
- Beware of serving size: When you see it takes 2-3 scoops to get a serving it’s a sign they have added fillers for marketing purposes only. So skip the fillers and look for ONE scoop brands.
- Free of the Top 8 Allergens: there is no need to add these to protein powders so chose from a brand who understands how a baby may be affected if dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, at the ingredients and ensure there are no fillers or common allergens
- Avoid rice protein: Beware of ‘cheap” fillers in the plant-based protein powder industry like rice protein which is high in heavy metals and has no nutritional value.
- No sugar added, low in carbohydrates, diabetic friendly: Stay away from protein powders filled with sugar, flavorings, preservatives and artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame or other sugar alcohols
- Avoid chemically modified additives
- Do not skip the Prebiotics, fertilizer for your gut flora when breastfeeding: I often see probiotics added to protein powders with NO prebiotics which is a red-flag since the probiotics really benefit you and are listed for marketing purposes only. And the best part about why you want prebiotics is to help you feel full up to 4 hours after drinking our protein shake.
- Consider your other medications/over-the-counter vitamins prescribed by your OB/midwife. You are already taking a prenatal and postnatal vitamin: protein supplement brands who add these do not understand pregnant or lactating women enough to know that exceeding your daily values of these in powders can be dangerous for both mom and baby. That’s why I only added Vitamin D3 because most vitamins are 6,000mg too short in this essential vitamin for pregnancy & lactation.
- Look for Probiotic blends which contain >10 different healthy bacteria which specifically target your gut, vagina, weight, skin and hair.
- Added Milk-boosting: Choose protein powders rich in lactogenic superfoods* called galactagogues: a food, herb, or medicine known to increase milk supply. *Don’t worry- superfoods such as moringa and chia seed do not make milk if you are not removing milk and lactating.
I know there are thousands of protein powders available on the market, so be particular and selective in your choice mama. Our Boobie Body Superfood Meal Replacement Shake was uniquely designed to provide busy moms with the cleanest and most nutrient-dense nutrition in the protein industry. Why did I design it like this? Because I am a working mom of three, a breast cancer survivor, and have made women’s wellness in pregnancy, lactation, and later in menopause my career. It sounds like a cliche to say, when mama ain’t happy….but the truth is, if mama doesn’t feel well then her #1 one job as a mother will be harder than it needs to be. One of the reasons you chose to breastfeed your new little one was to provide them with optimal nutrition to support health for a lifetime. Boobie* superfoods are designed with the needs of today's busy moms in mind so you can feel good about what you are providing for your body, your baby and your family in the years to come.
When adding any supplements to your diet while breastfeeding, it’s always good to get the green light from your doctor or healthcare professional since they know your medical history best and every pregnancy is different. Boobie Body is recommended to use in the pregnancy stage, lactation stage and beyond….when you are needing the clean energy it provides when raising your family. We even have dads, partners, and grandparents who love their body along with our mama customers.
- Brown, J. Nutrition through the Life Cycle (5th Ed.)
- "Boobie*" https://www.boobiesuperfoods.com/. Accessed 8 Feb. 2021.
By Wendy Colson RN, IBCLC, RLC
Wendy Colson, a registered nurse (RN) and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), is the Founder and CEO of Boobie* Superfoods. Throughout her career, Wendy has dedicated her time to helping other women conquer motherhood with ease. She helped thousands of mothers breastfeed their babies or receive their mother’s pumped milk during hospitalization. In addition, she has successfully developed a line of innovative, solution-based supplements & products for each stage of motherhood including pregnancy, lactation, and raising a family. Wendy currently lives in sunny San Diego with her 3 daughters and husband. She spends her leisure time devouring chips and salsa and planning new ways to overcome the challenges of motherhood.