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Why This Doula Tells Her Clients to Eat 4,000 Calories

Nicole Rice is one of the most sought after birth and postpartum doulas in Los Angeles and is the founder of Countertop, an upcoming food startup.

It may be tempting to go on a drastic diet after your pregnancy to achieve that ever elusive, post-baby celebrity bod. Who hasn’t stared wide-eyed at some starlet who has miraculously snapped back to a size zero in 8 weeks flat? But, instead of limiting calories, you should be focused on filling your body with nutrition — lots of it.

In fact, I tell my clients their body needs 4,000 calories a day — yes, that is a 4 followed by 3 zeros — to make a good supply of breastmilk. Though initial reactions range from “you’ve got to be kidding me” to “how could I possibly consume THAT much,” you need that much food to give your body the raw material to make great breastmilk. Between breastfeeding and the physical marathon that is the first months of motherhood, your body is expending a lot of energy. The reality is after pregnancy you need to think even more about nutrition, despite the temptations to slip into your pre-baby diet.

(This message is especially important, given that many women have told me they estimate that 1,000 to 1,200 calories is all you need to get through the day. In contrast, many medical experts warn breastfeeding women to not dip below 1800 calories per day since it could kick start “starvation mode” and seriously hamper your ability to make milk)


How do you hit 4,000?

It’s actually not too hard to get 4,000 in the first 4 weeks. Your body is normally ravenous as breastfeeding and having a new baby at home is exhausting, and your household is still probably in celebration-mode, with family and friends often dropping off lots of good, fatty, calorie-laden food during those first several weeks. Around and after the 6-week mark, you need to really keep an eye on your intake. Most mamas want to start exercising again, lose that pouch, and maybe (MAYBE) even have sex again. So there’s a temptation to ease off the high fatty foods. The days go by fast as a new mum and before you know it, you’re not even eating a complete meal throughout the day, just snacking when you can in between feeding.  

But it doesn’t have to be hard to kick up your calorie intake.


What are the best foods for the 4,000?

Try oatmeal teaming with nuts and dried fruit, rice pudding made with coconut cream, one or two whole avocados every day, and lots of ghee/organic butter/coconut oil. If you don’t have a dairy allergy, amp up to full cream yoghurt and whole milk.

Another tip: Soups, soups, soups. Warm and wet foods are your friends. Keeping things warm and easy to digest makes it easier for new moms to eat more. Eat more chocolate! Enjoy that high fat hot chocolate, add coconut oil to everything (it’s one of the best things for breastmilk due to the high amounts of lauric acid — I mean the coconut almost looks like a breast!).

Enjoy the healthy fats, savor that chocolate. There will always be time to worry about fitting into your old pair of jeans.


If you focus on eating the right foods, it’s amazing how little you need in terms of extra supplements. New moms are often advised to double their DHA supplementation dosage, or even to take pre-natal supplements for one year after giving birth, but if you’re increasing your fat and caloric intake with wholesome, rich foods, you really don’t need the supplements.

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Nicole Rice


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