Breastfeeding Burns Calories: Here’s How Many

how many calories does breastfeeding burn

For many mothers, the postpartum period brings the dual challenge of nourishing a growing baby and managing their own post-pregnancy weight. The connection between breastfeeding and calorie burning is a fascinating aspect of this journey.

Let’s explore how this natural process helps mothers achieve a healthy balance between nurturing their child and maintaining their well-being.

How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?

Breastfeeding burns approximately 300-500 extra calories per day. However, this can vary depending on factors like frequency, duration, and individual metabolism. It's a natural way for mothers to support both their baby's nutrition and post-pregnancy weight loss.

The Science Behind Breastfeeding Calorie Burn

Breastfeeding is often referred to as "nature's way" of weight loss. The process of producing breast milk requires energy, and this energy comes from the calories stored in a mother's body. Here's a basic breakdown of the science.

Increased Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body needs at rest to maintain essential functions such as breathing, circulation, and cell production. It's influenced by factors like age, sex, and body composition.

During pregnancy, BMR naturally increases to support the growing fetus. After giving birth, this elevated BMR continues, contributing to the calories burned during breastfeeding.

The key reason behind this increase in BMR is the energy required for milk production. When you breastfeed, your body expends energy to synthesize and deliver milk to your baby. This process demands a substantial calorie investment.

Additionally, breast milk production is an ongoing process that can take place throughout the day and night. Your BMR remains elevated during this time to meet the constant demands of milk synthesis and secretion. The more frequently you breastfeed, the more calories your body burns to maintain this higher metabolic rate.

Extra Calories for Milk Production

When a woman breastfeeds, her body requires additional calories to facilitate the intricate production of breast milk. It’s important to understand how this process affects a mother's energy expenditure.

  • Energy for Milk Synthesis: Breast milk is a complex and nutrient-rich fluid that contains fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. The production of each of these components necessitates energy. Your body uses calories to transform the nutrients from your bloodstream into the specific elements needed for milk.

  • Transport and Ejection: Once the milk components are synthesized, they must be transported to the mammary glands, where they are stored and then ejected through the milk ducts during breastfeeding. This transportation and ejection process also requires energy.

  • Constant Demand: One of the remarkable aspects of breast milk production is that it's a continuous process. Your body is always working to create milk to meet your baby's needs. This means that even when you're not actively nursing, your body is using calories to maintain and replenish the milk supply.

  • The Feedback Loop: Breastfeeding operates on a demand-and-supply feedback loop. The more frequently your baby feeds, the more milk your body produces. This demand for milk stimulates your body to expend more calories to ensure an ample supply for your baby.

  • Variability: The exact number of extra calories required for milk production can vary from one mother to another and even from one feeding session to the next. It depends on factors like your baby's age, size, and appetite, as well as your own metabolism.

Fat Reserves

The role of fat reserves is an intriguing aspect of how the human body adapts to nourishing a baby. When a woman becomes pregnant, her body naturally stores extra fat to provide energy for the growing fetus and to support the demands of pregnancy.

These fat stores are crucial for both the developing baby and the breastfeeding period that follows in the following ways:

  • Energy Source: During pregnancy, your body accumulates fat reserves as a natural response to the increased energy requirements of supporting a developing fetus. Once you begin breastfeeding, your body relies on these stored fat reserves as an energy source to meet the heightened metabolic demands of producing breast milk.

  • Caloric Efficiency: Breastfeeding burns calories not just from the foods you consume but also from the stored energy in your fat cells. This process is highly efficient as it taps into the excess energy your body stored specifically for this purpose during pregnancy.

  • Weight Loss: The utilization of fat reserves for energy contributes to postpartum weight loss. This is one of the reasons many mothers notice a gradual decrease in body weight while breastfeeding. However, the rate and extent of weight loss vary from person to person.

  • Breast Milk Quality: These fat reserves also play a critical role in the composition of your breast milk. Fat is an essential component of breast milk, providing a concentrated source of energy for your growing baby. Your body uses these stored fats to produce the fat content in your milk, ensuring that your baby receives the nutrition needed for healthy development.

Factors Influencing Calorie Burn

The number of calories burned during breastfeeding varies from person to person and depends on several factors.

  • Frequency and duration: The more often you breastfeed, the more calories you'll burn. Babies tend to breastfeed around 8-12 times a day, so this can significantly impact calorie expenditure.

  • Milk supply: The more milk you produce, the more calories you'll burn. Ensuring a healthy milk supply by feeding on demand or pumping can contribute to greater calorie expenditure.

  • Body weight: Your pre-pregnancy weight and body composition will affect the number of calories you burn. Heavier mothers might burn more calories because they have more stored energy to draw from.

Weight Loss and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can be a helpful tool for postpartum weight loss, but it's essential to strike a balance between losing weight and maintaining your health and milk supply. Here are some key points to keep in mind.

  • Nutrition: Focus on consuming a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients to support both your health and your baby's development.

  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is essential for milk production, and it can also help you control your appetite.

  • Don't Rush: Gradual weight loss is safer and more sustainable. Losing 1-2 pounds per week is a healthy goal.

  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your hunger cues and eat when you're hungry. Restrictive diets can harm your milk supply.

  • Exercise: While breastfeeding does burn calories, it's also essential to incorporate safe and suitable exercise into your routine.

My Experience With Breastfeeding

When I began breastfeeding, I noticed my increased appetite, a clear sign my body was burning calories to produce milk. The immediate post-birth weight loss was both reassuring and motivating. As my baby and I settled into a routine, my appetite and weight loss stabilized.

To continue my weight management, I prioritized staying hydrated and consuming nutritious foods. Exercise, like yoga, strength training, and cycling, became a part of my routine. It wasn't just about shedding pounds but also feeling good physically and mentally.

This experience taught me that postpartum weight management is a dynamic journey. It's about embracing changes, making healthy choices for both yourself and your baby, and understanding how your body adapts to the demands of motherhood.


Breastfeeding is an incredible journey for both you and your baby. Beyond its numerous benefits for your child, it also offers the added bonus of helping you burn calories and potentially lose some of that post-pregnancy weight. Remember that the number of calories burned during breastfeeding varies, and the key is to prioritize both your health and your baby's well-being.

As always, consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance on postpartum weight management and breastfeeding. The most important thing is to enjoy this unique and precious time with your little one, and the rest will follow naturally.

Back to blog

Author, Founder @ Latch Luxe

Stefanie Statler

Stefanie Statler is an author and the founder of Latch Luxe, with a loving husband and daughter. She is a dedicated advocate for breastfeeding mothers and understands the challenges and joys of motherhood firsthand. Email me at

View Author

New Products