Q&A: Hungry while breastfeeding

New mom A writes:

"I get so hungry while I'm breastfeeding my baby. Is this normal? Am I ever going to lose the pregnancy weight?"

Yes, A, it's totally normal. I can still remember how ravenous I was when nursing a newborn, both times. For me it seemed to even out after a few months, but think about it: You're producing enough milk to grow another human being. Your body is working hard. It completely makes sense that you need extra calories.

One thing to be aware of, though, is that sugar cravings can be masking your real needs. According to a lactation consultant who ran the new mom's group I went to nine years ago, sometimes a sugar craving is actually a sign of dehydration or lack of protein. So if you're craving sugar, drink a glass of water. If you're still craving sugar ten minutes later, eat some protein. If you're still craving sugar ten minutes later, eat whatever sweet thing you were craving.

And yes, you will lose the baby weight if you make it a priority (by that I mean eating decently and getting some exercise). Some nursing moms find that the weight all comes off right around month nine (it makes sense that it takes nine months to go on so it takes nine months to come off), while others find that they're always carrying around an extra 5-10 pounds while they're nursing, and then it comes off when they wean. If you start *gaining* weight while nursing (and you haven't changed your eating habits), pee on a stick, and then if that's negative, talk to your doctor about getting your thyroid levels checked.

Oh, and all the myths about exercise being bad during nursing are false. But watch out for low-carb diets, as they can make your milk supply plummet. So if you're cutting out starches, make sure to leave in some good ones (whole grains and vegetable and fruit starches) so you still have enough milk for your baby.

Who else was a very hungry caterpillar during nursing? How long did it last?