Breastfeeding Nutrition: Tips for a Healthy Diet
Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to give babies the nutrition they need, but you need the right food and drinks, too! Here are some tips to ensure you have the right amount of nutrients for optimal breastfeeding nutrition so you and your baby can stay healthy.
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What Are the Best Foods for Breastfeeding Nutrition?
When breastfeeding, always eat a vitamin-rich and balanced diet to stay healthy. That way, you’ll be able to produce enough breast milk for feeding your baby. Your body needs about 400 to 500 more calories per day for lactation, but this doesn’t mean 500 calories from added sugar! Make sure to eat whole foods to stay strong and healthy.
Many women naturally lose weight while breastfeeding and don’t really need to make any major dietary changes or calorie restrictions. If you are not one of the lucky few who bounces back to their pre-pregnancy size really quickly, take heart! It takes most of us more time. Be healthy, take your vitamins, stay active, but we don’t recommend crash diets and ridiculously fast weight loss during this time.
Instead, make sure you’re nourishing yourself with a nutrient-dense diet so you’re able to produce high-quality breast milk, should you choose to breastfeed.
While there’s nothing wrong with losing weight after giving birth, remember: your body was preparing for having a baby for nine months. It will also need nine months to recover fully. So give yourself time to regain your old shape. Cutting out nutrients is not the right thing for breastfeeding nutrition. Your body needs macronutrients with high nutritional values from fat, proteins, and carbohydrates so you can produce breast milk.
Which Foods Should I Avoid While Breastfeeding?
Assuming your baby doesn’t have any food intolerances or allergies, you have quite a bit of flexibility in your dietary options as part of your breastfeeding diet.
An old wives tale is that your diet influences the child’s digestion. Since breast milk is made from blood, not your stomach contents, this thought isn’t exactly true. However, many women still believe that certain foods cause flatulence in their baby and therefore refrain from eating them. But it doesn’t matter if you eat onions or coleslaw if you’re in the mood. If your baby is really gassy, it’s usually related to something else. To rule out food intolerance or allergies, consult your pediatrician. Do not exclude any items from breastfeeding nutrition on your own.
Some people try to avoid caffeine or alcohol, but it’s perfectly fine to have morning coffee or a glass of wine in moderate doses. You might feel like you need an extra caffeine boost on a sleepless night!
Is There a Breastfeeding Nutrition Diet I Should Follow?
A balanced diet for nursing mothers isn’t that different than a normal nutritious eating plan. Choose whole-grain products as well as fresh vegetables and fruits. Load up on foods that are rich in vitamins, or find a vitamin supplement that contains many of the essential nutrients you and your baby need. These include calcium, folic acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, iron, omega-3, and DHA.
Many mothers get hungry while breastfeeding and always have a sliced apple or a fresh banana with nut butter within reach. Lactation bites are also a healthy snack for breastfeeding mommies. Ask a friend or family member to prepare them for you.
Here’s a great recipe for them!
Lactation Protein Bites
- 2.0 cups oats (old-fashioned or instant are both fine!)
- 3.0 tbsp brewer's yeast
- 1.0 cup nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew butter are all great)
- 0.5 cup honey (can sub maple syrup)
- 1.0 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup flaxseeds
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Lactation Protein Bites
- Add all ingredients (except chocolate chips) together in an electric mixing bowl and combine together.
- Once combined, stir in chocolate chips
- Roll into 2 inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes, and enjoy!
- Store bites in an airtight container (a large Ziploc bag is great) in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can also store longer in the freezer.
Also, don’t forget your proteins and healthy fats. Half an avocado with scrambled eggs is a perfect and easy lunch. A handful of almonds or walnuts are delicious with your dinner salad.
What Do I Drink for Optimal Breastfeeding Nutrition?
Lactating women also need more fluids. Your body needs to produce a sufficient amount of breast milk, so it’s important to drink enough during the months you’re nursing.
Throughout the day, you should drink 2.5-3 liters (around 100 ounces). If you don’t drink enough, you can significantly impair milk production.
Unsweetened mild fruits and herbal teas are optimal. Many midwives also recommend so-called breastfeeding teas with anise and fennel to stimulate milk production. Peppermint and sage tea, on the other hand, inhibit milk production. Mild juice spritzers are quick thirst quenchers and provide energy. Carbonated water is great but not as hydrating as still water, so opt for still over sparkling.
You should drink some drinks sparingly when breastfeeding. Caffeinated drinks, black and green tea can make your baby restless if you overdo it. When you’re not used to drinking coffee, it can also affect your blood pressure.
Can I Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?
While breastfeeding, there are a few things you should really do without. These include nicotine and drugs of all kinds. Only consume alcohol in minimal quantities, and wait until your child is older and no longer exclusively breastfed. You might want to try some delicious mocktails while you’re breastfeeding!
That means a small glass of wine to toast with at your girlfriend’s wedding is perfectly okay. But go easy on the booze. If you do choose to have a few drinks, you can use a system like MilkScreen that will measure the alcohol in your breastmilk, so you know whether or not it’s safe to feed that to your baby. You can always “pump and dump” if you need to.
Also, you should wait at least two hours between drinking alcohol and breastfeeding. Many women don’t drink alcohol at all during the months of breastfeeding, as the risk of irreparable damage to the child is simply too great for them. La Leche League, for example, states: “Alcohol abuse (excessive drinking) by the mother can result in slow weight gain or failure to thrive in her baby. The baby may sleep excessively or may not suck effectively, leading to decreased milk intake. The baby may even suffer from delayed motor development.
Can I Still Take My Medication While Breastfeeding?
Just like cigarettes and alcohol, medication can also affect a nursing child. However, Dr. Thomas Hale states in his 2017 book Medications and Mother’s Milk that “most drugs do not enter milk in levels that are hazardous to a breastfed infant.”
So be careful that the medicine causes no harm to your baby. Unfortunately, many doctors and pharmacists aren’t sure which medications are safe for breastfeeding. They rely on the package insert, which almost always cautions against prescribing the medication to pregnant or lactating mothers. To find medication safe for breastfeeding, it is important to check reliable sources for up-to-date research-based information.
The Infant Risk Center of Texas Tech University has a huge database of medication that is safe to take during pregnancy and lactation. Another great source is LactMed®.
How Much Does a Newborn Drink?
As much as your nutrition matters, it’s helpful to consider all of the nutrition you’re providing your baby. Every child has unique nutritional needs, but when thinking about how much milk a newborn should drink, as a general rule, they’ll need about 2-3 ounces every 3-4 hours. By one month, they’ll often have 4 ounces every 4 hours. As your baby’s body weight increases, you’ll notice that they won’t need as many feedings but will be consuming more ounces each month.
If you’re breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding, you probably won’t think much about questions like, “how much does a newborn drink?” Or how much should a newborn drink? You’ll just let your baby eat when they’re hungry. Moms with formula-fed babies, or who use bottles in general, might be more conscientious of these measurements. How else would you know how many ounces of infant formula they’ll need or breastmilk they need to express? I knew one mother who chose formula feeding over breastfeeding for the simple reason that she wanted to know all the specific measurements.
Even though this question seems daunting, the first few weeks are the hardest. As long as you’re feeding yourself well and getting the right vitamins and nutrients, and staying consistent with the early doctor visits, you’ll help set a good nutritional foundation.
Can I Get the COVID Vaccine While Breastfeeding?
This is a great question to ask your doctor! At this point, there haven’t been enough clinical trials on lactating women to make a conclusive statement. But there’s no evidence of risk to the baby from breast milk after receiving the vaccine or those similar to it, so many pregnant and nursing mothers have been vaccinated.
Can I Breastfeed if I Have COVID-19?
According to the CDC, current evidence shows that there’s a very low risk of passing COVID-19 to your baby through breast milk. So most breastfeeding mothers continue nursing during this time. To keep their baby and others safe, they should be sure to wash their hands frequently and wear a mask while feeding their little ones. Babies and children under two should not wear masks, even if they’re around a parent with COVID.
In most cases, when you have any illness, your body will produce antibodies that will protect your baby. So feeding your baby with breast milk, even when you’re sick, can help them stay healthy.
Breastfeeding Diet and Nutrition: You Can Do It!
Figuring out the right breastfeeding diet to boost your milk supply can be challenging at times! Be sure to get advice from family members and friends who might have fantastic tips and advice. Ask your doctor, doula, or midwife if you have additional questions or concerns. But by nourishing yourself, you’re setting your family up for success.