Raise your hand if you are or have been a nursing mother on the verge of eating your child because you’re so hungry (okay, totally kidding—by child, I mean the entire fridge or pantry). Now, keep that hand up if you also have wondered post baby “why am I not losing weight faster?”

It’s possible that we have too high expectations. Women often lose 10-15 lbs (typically fluid based weight) right after delivering.  So naturally, the hope stays high that the scale will keep providing drastic results, but the reality is (if women are eating proper amounts, to include the extra recommended 300-500 calories per day), weight loss will slow to 1 to 2 lbs per month for the first six months, and then an even slower loss after that (1) . Our bodies take 9 months to gain the weight, and realistically, they need that amount of time to lose it.

Women tend to obsess over this weight loss, or lack thereof, and question their eating habits while nursing. It is important to remember that your body is feeding a baby—like literally all by itself, it is producing nutrients to keep a child alive. Keeping that in mind should help you not only take some of the pressure of weight loss off, but also ensure healthy choices when it comes to your diet.

While breastfeeding, choose the best foods to keep you full and filled with the vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber that you need. Keep fresh fruits and veggies on hand for snacks, opt for whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain pastas), be aware of proper serving sizes, avoid processed foods, and eat smaller meals more often to keep you full all day long. A lot of women get the idea in their head that they need gorge themselves on all the foods, but 300 extra calories a day is nearly equivalent to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich—not a whole pizza.

It’s also important to keep in mind weight gain during pregnancy. It’s obviously much harder to lose weight if you have more to lose.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t have the occasional “I’m so pregnant” pity donut, but it’s a good time to stay conscious of those healthy choices. Pregnant, nursing, or none of the above, we should all be mindful of our eating and ensuring we get enough of the good stuff each day.

While I’ve experienced that insane hunger while nursing and think that the thought of just an extra peanut butter and jelly sandwich per day wouldn’t cut it, I know that nursing mothers are often just as thirsty as they are hungry. It’s imperative to drink all the water while nursing, especially if you’re SLAM’n on the side. This will keep milk supply up and hopefully keep you from making bad choices because you think you’re hungry, when it’s just water your body needs.

With all this being said, don’t deprive yourself, and don’t obsess over how many calories you’re getting in each day—as if it’s not complicated enough, there are also women who under eat and don’t lose weight because their metabolism is so slowed. Listen to your body and if it’s saying you need that huge bowl of pasta which equates to 4 servings, do it. Just be sure to have a salad on the side so you’re benefiting from the good stuff, too.

And if 9 months goes by and you’re not where you want to be, it’s possible you may just have to wait until you’ve finished nursing to lose the rest of the weight.  While nursing, the body produces prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production. It increases appetite and for some it halts fat metabolism (2) .  So instead of focusing on weight loss, focus on getting stronger through exercise, enjoying all those baby “firsts” because they go so fast, and if you’ve still got more babies to be had, lighten up a little because before you know it you’ll be in the pregnant and breastfeeding cycle all over again. Balance Like A Mother!