You are what you eat and so is your baby. You may be searching for the best breastfeeding diets, but it’s important to know you don’t have to follow an impeccable diet to produce nutrient-rich breast milk. There’s also more good news: To manufacture Baby’s meals, your body burns about 500 calories a day.
That translates into extra “breastfeeding calories” for you to enjoy, say, a small chunk of dark chocolate at 3 p.m. without gaining weight. No matter the number on the scale, though, it’s important to fuel your body with healthy, nutrient-rich items after giving birth.
Following the food pyramid ensures that you’ll get the right amount of nutritious foods. Each day you should aim for six or more servings of bread and cereal; three or more servings of vegetables; two or more servings of fruit; two to three servings of milk, yogurt, and other dairy; and two to three servings of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and/or beans. You should use sweets and oils sparingly.
Nursing mothers should also maintain a regular eating schedule for their breastfeeding diet. You should never skip meals, even when dealing with a jam-packed busy schedule.
Breakfast might seem like the one meal you just don’t have time for, but there are a few quick, healthy options: sprinkle berries on cereal or oatmeal, top a bagel with cottage cheese, add chopped peppers and carrots to your standard cream cheese bagel, or toss dried fruit and granola into nonfat yogurt. As for dinner, try whipping up healthy entrees in bulk to freeze the leftovers for later (think vegetable lasagnas and soups).
To keep up your energy, snacks are just as important as meals in a breastfeeding diet. Stock your pantry full of healthy, easy-to-eat, and prepared foods. High-fiber cereal, instant oatmeal, microwavable veggies, low-fat yogurt, bananas, and low-fat popcorn all make nutritious snacks.
Another good idea for your breastfeeding diet: Keep smoothie ingredients around so you can whip up a filling, good-for-you mini meal. You may also decide to keep food items in your baby’s nursery. Some easy ones that don’t require two hands to eat: grapes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and squeezable yogurt packs.
Here are some nutritious foods you should eat while breastfeeding:
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, seaweed, shellfish and sardines.
- Meat: Beef, lamb, pork and organ meats, such as liver.
- Fruits and vegetables: Berries, tomatoes, cabbage, kale, garlic and broccoli.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseeds.
- Other foods: Eggs, oats, potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat and dark chocolate.
Additionally in your breastfeeding diet, avoid processed foods as much as possible because they are usually high in calories, added sugars and unhealthy fats.
Make Sure to Get Plenty of These Nutrients
The nutrients in breast milk may be categorized into two groups, depending on the extent to which they are secreted into the milk.
The amounts of group 1 nutrients in breast milk depend on dietary intake, while group 2 nutrients are secreted into breast milk regardless of intake or health status.
Therefore, getting enough group 1 nutrients is very important for both you and your baby, while getting enough group 2 nutrients is mostly important for you.
Group 1 Nutrients
Below are the group 1 nutrients and some common food sources:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): Fish, pork, seeds, nuts and bread.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Cheese, almonds, nuts, red meat, oily fish and eggs.
- Vitamin B6: Seeds, nuts, fish, poultry, pork, bananas and dried fruit.
- Vitamin B12: Shellfish, liver, oily fish, crab and shrimp.
- Choline: Eggs, beef liver, chicken liver, fish and peanuts.
- Vitamin A: Sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, organ meats and eggs.
- Vitamin D: Cod liver oil, oily fish, some mushrooms and fortified foods.
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, seafood, fish, whole wheat and seeds.
- Iodine: Dried seaweed, cod, milk and iodized salt.
The amounts of group 1 nutrients are substantially reduced in breast milk if you are deficient or don’t get adequate amounts from your diet.
For this reason, it is important for you and your baby that you get sufficient amounts of these nutrients from your diet or supplements.
Group 2 Nutrients
Below are the group 2 nutrients and some common food sources:
- Folate: Beans, lentils, leafy greens, asparagus and avocados.
- Calcium: Milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens and legumes.
- Iron: Red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, green vegetables and dried fruit.
- Copper: Shellfish, whole grains, nuts, beans, organ meats and potatoes.
- Zinc: Oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts and dairy.
The amounts of group 2 nutrients in breast milk are unaffected by your dietary intake or body stores.
If your intake is low, your body will take these nutrients from your own bone and tissue stores to secrete into your breast milk.
Therefore, your baby will always get the right amount. However, your body stores will become depleted if you don’t get adequate amounts from your diet.
To avoid becoming deficient, these nutrients must come from your diet or supplements.
You May Benefit From Certain Supplements
You should always be skeptical when it comes to supplements, especially when breastfeeding.
Many supplements contain herbs, stimulants and active substances that may be transferred to your milk.
However, there are several supplements that may benefit breastfeeding mothers. These include:
Some women may lack key nutrients. This may be due to pregnancy-related nausea, food aversions or a habitual lack of variation in the diet.
For this reason, some breastfeeding mothers may benefit from a multivitamin.
Supplementing with vitamin B12 is not always effective. If you are deficient, then talk to your doctor about good methods for increasing your levels.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that is mainly found in seafood, including fatty fish and algae.
It is an important component of the central nervous system, skin and eyes. DHA is vital for healthy brain development and function.
Adding DHA to baby formula has also been shown to improve vision in babies.
If your intake is low, then the amount in your breast milk will also be low.
Early-life omega-3 deficiency has been linked to several behavioral problems, such as ADHD, learning disabilities and aggressiveness.
Therefore, it is recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women take at least 2.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and 100–300 mg of DHA daily.
Vitamin D which is mainly found in fatty fish, fish liver oils and fortified foods. It’s very important for overall health, especially bone health and immune function and is a great breastfeeding diet.
Vitamin D is usually only present in low amounts in breast milk, especially when sun exposure is limited.
Therefore, vitamin D drops are usually recommended for babies from the age of 2–4 weeks.
Women who have very high intakes of vitamin D (more than 6,000 IU daily) are more likely to provide their babies with adequate amounts of it from their breast milk. Note that this amount is much higher than the recommended daily amount.
Furthermore, a vitamin D deficiency can have serious consequences. You may experience muscle weakness, bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
A vitamin D deficiency in early childhood may cause seizures, rickets and muscle weakness. It is also linked to the development of several diseases.
Drink Plenty of Water
It’s normal to be thirstier than usual when you are breastfeeding, due to an increased amount of the hormone oxytocin.
When your baby latches onto your breast, your oxytocin levels increase. This causes your milk to start flowing.
This also stimulates thirst, so that you drink enough water to meet the increased requirements for milk production.
There is no set amount of water you should drink daily.
As a rule of thumb, you should always drink when you are thirsty and until you have quenched your thirst.
However, if you feel very tired, faint or as if your milk production is decreasing, you may need to drink more water. The best way to tell if you are drinking enough water is the color and smell of your urine.
If it is dark yellow and has a strong smell, then you may have to drink more water.
The general rule is that you can eat anything in moderation while breastfeeding.
However, some flavors from food, spices or beverages may be reflected in your breast milk. If you find that your baby becomes fussy or ill shortly after a feeding, it may be because of something you ate.
Nevertheless, you should not make any significant changes to your diet without consulting a doctor or registered dietitian / nutritionist.
Below are a few things that should only be consumed occasionally or cautiously when you are breastfeeding.
About 1% of the caffeine you consume is transferred to breast milk. It takes babies much longer to metabolize caffeine.
Moderate amounts of coffee and caffeinated beverages have not been shown to cause harm, but they may affect the baby’s sleep.
Therefore, it is recommended that breastfeeding women limit their coffee intake to about 2–3 cups per day.
Alcohol also makes its way into breast milk. The concentration resembles the amount found in the mother’s blood.
However, babies metabolize alcohol at only half the rate of adults.
Alcohol consumption is usually measured in units, where one unit equals 10 ml of pure alcohol. The alcohol units of common drinks are:
- A small glass of wine (11–13%): 1.5–2 units.
- A large beer (4–5%): 2–2.5 units.
- One shot of spirits (40%): 3.3 units.
On average, it takes your body about 1–2 hours to clear each unit of alcohol.
Therefore, you’ll want to wait a few hours for each drink you’ve consumed before breastfeeding your baby.
Approximately 2–6% of children may be allergic to cow’s milk protein from their mother’s diet, and may develop rashes, eczema, diarrhea, bloody stools, vomiting or baby colic.
The only cure is to exclude all cow’s milk protein from your diet for 2–4 weeks if you wish to continue breastfeeding.
If your baby’s symptoms improve, try eating high amounts of cow’s milk protein again for one week. If the symptoms don’t return, then the baby may have outgrown its intolerance to cow’s milk protein.
However, if the symptoms do return, then you will have to eliminate cow’s milk from your diet and supplement with calcium until the baby is 9–12 months old.
If the symptoms are severe, then you should always consult with a doctor.
What Not to Eat When Breastfeeding
Spicy Foods: If you love spicy foods, it’s fine to continue eating them while you’re breastfeeding. Keep in mind, however, that some infants fuss or cry if their mom has had something spicy (like a curry), or “gassy” such as cabbage, onions, or broccoli.
Typically fussiness only lasts a few hours. You may need to play around with your diet to figure out the foods to avoid when breastfeeding.
Alcohol: You can drink alcohol, but not habitually, and one drink is the max. Alcohol does get passed to your baby via breast milk. And there’s no benefit; tales about beer increasing your milk supply are false, and alcohol won’t necessarily help your baby sleep.
One drink (a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce wine, or ounce of hard liquor) two hours or more before your next breastfeeding session is your best bet for reducing how much baby will receive.
Caffeine and sugary drinks: To cut back on liquid calories, limit the amount of sweetened beverages you drink. Nursing mothers can also have a little bit of caffeine, but stick to less than 5 ounces per day so Baby doesn’t become jittery or irritable.
Am certain that after going through this article, you must by now be aware of the recommended breastfeeding diet (s) for you as a nursing mother.
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