Prolactin Made Me Do It!


It’s not your fault, it’s the prolactin!

Doula: Can I grab you something from the store on my way there?

Newly Postpartum Client: OMG yes! A gallon of ice cream, a pizza, a bag of oranges, some little snacks with the cream filling inside and a box of Oreos…Just kidding. I just need you here to help with breastfeeding. I am starving though!

So, why does your breastfeeding make you hungry?

The answer is… hormones. Isn’t that the answer to every weird thing in pregnancy and postpartum?

Specifically, the hormone Prolactin. Prolactin is the body’s milk-making hormone. This hormone is responsible for promoting milk production and can suppress ovulation. It is released when a baby breastfeeds.

Prolactin is also an appetite stimulant, meaning it is perfectly acceptable to say, “Prolactin made me do it!” after those middle of the night refrigerator raids.

As doulas, we can support our clients hunger/nutritional needs throughout the day by preparing healthy grab and go meals and snacks. The following are some great ideas:

Post-Birth Energy Drink

No Bake Nut Butter, Oats, and Honey Energy Bites

Sweet Banana Ice Cream

If you would like a starting point for interviewing your clients about their food preferences, the Postpartum Meal Planning Guide is a great resource!

Sometimes, postpartum doula support goes a little deeper than ensuring our clients are well fed. Body image may be a driving force in your client’s infant feeding choice. They may have heard friends and family say:

“If you breastfeed, the weight will beltway!”

“You burn 500 calories per day by breastfeeding!”

“You will get your pre-pregnancy body back quicker if you breastfeed.”

While these things sound great, the post-birth body experience looks more like… large, veiny, sagging breasts, loose skin and a stretch marked belly. For most, weight loss is nowhere in sight.

How do you support your client when they don’t experience breastfeeding’s promised “weight loss” benefits? With the facts!

  • While prolactin stimulates appetite, it also suppresses progesterone and testosterone, which are the body’s natural fat burners.
  • The prolactin release from frequent breastfeeding in the first 3 months, coupled with lack of sleep and the stress of caring for a newborn is not a recipe for returning to pre-pregnancy size, even with the extra calories burned throughout the day.

Navigating these feelings and expectations can be tricky, as infant feeding decision making is closely tied to self-image and confidence.

Becoming a ProDoula Certified Infant Feeding Specialist will teach you the many motivations tied to body image and feeding choice, and how to support your clients as they navigate these expectations and the realities that come with them.

Jennifer del Sol
, Co-Owner, Mainstay Doulas