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SALT LAKE CITY — Everyone always talks about the crazy pregnancy cravings and how a pregnant woman feels like she's in a constant state of hunger. But what nobody really talks about are the cravings (specifically for sugar) and increased appetite women may experience while breastfeeding.
The truth is, us moms are oftentimes so busy wrangling our children and checking off items on our daily to-do lists that we are left with little time to focus on eating healthy.
What causes sugar cravings postpartum
Here’s a fact that many people don’t realize: Cravings are your body’s way of saying it’s lacking nutrition. When the body lacks a specific nutrient, it naturally craves foods that are rich in that nutrient, according to Healthline. Another big craving that breastfeeding moms struggle with is sugar cravings. These cravings can be intense, like “I need chocolate right now or I am going to have a breakdown” intense.
Well, the science behind these sugar cravings in breastfeeding moms is actually quite interesting. The craving isn’t caused because you need an extra 500 calories a day while breastfeeding; it’s due to sleep deprivation.
Unless you live under a rock, you would know that sleep deprivation is a mama’s middle name. Between your newborn waking up every few hours and your postpartum anxiety getting to your head, sleep just isn’t on the menu for most new moms.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, two hormones that help regulate hunger — ghrelin and leptin — are affected by sleep. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived, the level of ghrelin spikes while the level of leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger.
How to tackle pesky cravings
If you suffer from these cravings, you’re probably wondering if there is a magical cure to it all. Sadly, there isn’t a miracle solution to this issue, but we have gathered some tips and tricks to help get those cravings under control and help you to feel your best.
1. Focus on eating nutrient-dense foods
Everyone will tell you that a healthy postpartum recovery is directly correlated to diet, and providing your body with the proper nutrients it needs can help to prevent those pesky sugar cravings. When your body is nourished, it won’t send out distress signals to your brain causing you to crave something. Some nutrient-dense foods include leafy greens, eggs, berries, avocados, almonds, salmon, etc.
As busy moms, it can seem impossible to focus on your nutrition with a kid attached to you almost 24/7. However, carving out a little time each week to meal prep for your week will give you the opportunity to have nutritious meals on hand at all times.
2. Try to get as much sleep as possible
We know you’re probably laughing while reading this because it is more easily said than done, but hear us out. Sleep does wonders for our bodies. It allows us to recharge and hit the reset button. But just like sleep can give us all of these benefits, a lack of sleep can cause a number of issues. According to Sleep Foundation, not getting enough sleep can cause you to overeat and have pesky cravings.
3. Satisfy that sweet tooth naturally
Ignoring that sweet tooth can seem impossible and leave you reaching for a treat. Try to eat things that are naturally sweet if you feel like you can’t kick the craving. You can try to eat fruits like strawberries, blueberries or whatever you like to give your tastebuds a touch of sweetness without having a candy bar.
4. Drink plenty of water
You’ve probably heard this plenty of times, but water is so important. Drinking water helps to satisfy your body’s needs; and if you don’t drink enough of it, you can leave your body feeling depleted. That depletion can lead to cravings as well, so try to make drinking water a priority to help prevent this.
While it’s best to avoid processed sugars as much as you can, don’t beat yourself up over having a treat every once in a while, mama! Everything is all right in moderation. So don’t go overboard, but a treat here and there won’t hurt you. If you find yourself still having sugar cravings after already indulging in a sweet treat, try out these tips and help combat those pesky cravings.
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