Your breastfeeding diet is in many ways similar to your pregnancy diet with much more relaxed rules. The basic fat-protein-carb combo of human milk isn’t directly dependent on what you eat. Even women who aren’t well fed can feed their babies well, since if a mom doesn’t consume enough nutrients to produce milk, her body will tap into its own stores to fuel milk production.
How many calories do you need?
In general, most women who are breastfeeding need about 500 calories more than moms who aren’t – that are a total of 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day.The goal when you’re nursing should never be to deplete your body’s store of nutrients. That’s too risky for your short- and long-term health, and it will shortchange you on much-needed energy as well as potentially sabotage your milk supply. While calories definitely count, however, you won't need to count them (unless, of course, your practitioner has recommended you do so). Milk production burns 500 calories a day.
What to eat when you’re breastfeeding
Eating well when you’re nursing means getting a variety of nutritious food. And since a varied diet changes the taste and smell of your milk, it will expose your baby to many different flavors. In fact, expanding your little one’s culinary horizons well before she starts solids might even minimize the potential for pickiness.Here’s what to aim to consume each day to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need and offering your baby a taste for the healthy stuff early on:
A. Snack suggestions
- Sandwiches, bread and raisin toast.
- Milk drinks.
- Cereal with milk.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Cheese and biscuits.
- Dip and vegetables.
Increase your fluid intake. Try to drink 8-12 cups of water a day. Drink to satisfy your thirst, but do not wait till you feel thirsty to drink. Drink a cup of water every time you breastfeed. Keep in mind all fluids count but water is the best source of fluid, so include a large share of your fluids as water.
Good sources of protein are chicken, fish, lean meat, turkey, eggs, dry beans, nuts, and peanut butter.
Choose 6 servings of the protein food group per day.
1 serving =
- 1 serving of lean meat, skinless chicken, fish.
- Eat up to 2 average servings of fish per week.
- 1/4 cup of cooked beans (hummus, beans, lentils, etc.).
- 1 egg.
- 1 tbsp of peanut butter.
Pregnancy uses up your iron stores. During breastfeeding, you need to rebuild your iron stores with iron-rich foods, such as:
- Red meat, chicken and fish.
- Legumes, for example, baked beans.
- Nuts and dried fruit.
- Wholegrain bread and cereals.
- Green leafy vegetables.
E. Folate and vitamins
Breastfeeding also increases your need for:
- Folate: for example, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts.
- Vitamin C: for example, citrus fruits, berries, tropical fruit, tomatoes, capsicum and potatoes
- Vitamin A: for example, dark green and yellow vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and pumpkin.
F. Focus and calcium
Choose 3 cups from the dairy food group.
1 cup =
- 1 cup of milk (3 tablespoon of powder milk).
- 3/4 cup of high calcium milk (21/4 tablespoon of powder milk).
- 1 cup of fortified soy milk.
- 1 cup of yogurt.
- 2 cups of ice cream.
- 8 tablespoon of Labneh.
- 1 cup of custard, rice pudding or muhalabiyeh.
- 45g of Gruyere cheese.
- 45g of Cheddar cheese.
- 60g of Mozzarella or Baladi cheese.
- 60g of Fetta cheese.
- 45g of Halloumi cheese.
- 65g of Akkawi cheese.
- 85g of double cream cheese.
- 3 tablespoon of spread cheese.
G. Fats and Oils
Use around 6 teaspoon a day.
H. Vegetarian mothers
A vegetarian diet can meet the nutritional needs of a breastfeeding mother as long as it includes a variety of foods, such as:
- Eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt.
- Wholegrain breads and cereals.
- Fruit and vegetables.
Check with a dietitian to make sure your diet contains the right amount of kilojoules and nutrients. This is especially important if you follow a vegan diet.
How much water to drink?
Aim for 8 cups every day, especially in the weeks after birth, since it will help your body to recover. To ensure you’re getting enough, a good rule of thumb is to drink a cup of water at every nursing session.Keep in mind your milk supply won’t be affected unless you’re seriously dehydrated, but your urine will become darker and scanter. Not drinking enough can set you up for health issues including urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation and fatigue.
Getting back to your usual weight
Although breastfeeding burns up a lot of energy (kilojoules), it can take several months to get back to your usual weight, so be a little patient. Some women do have a problem with extra weight. Tips for losing weight include:
- Grill, steam, bake or casserole lean meat, fish and poultry.
- Eat vegetables, at least five servings per day.
- Eat fruit, at least two servings per day.
- Choose skim, low fat dairy products.
- Use butter and margarine sparingly.
- Avoid high fat foods, such as chips, rich desserts or greasy takeaways.
- Limit your intake of sugary foods, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, sweet biscuits, cakes, and lollies.
- Exercise, for example, push the pram around the block. Build up to 30 minutes daily.
- Enjoy healthy snacks to meet your energy needs.
Foods to avoid while breastfeeding
You should avoid the below:
- Excessive caffeine: One or two cups of coffee, tea or soda a day after breastfeeding session won’t affect your baby (and during those early, sleep deprived months, it might be just what you need to keep going). More than that, however, may lead to both of you feeling jittery, irritable and sleepless. Also, excessive caffeine has been linked to colic and acid reflux in some babies.
- High-mercury fish: avoid high-mercury fish including shark, tilefish and mackerel, and limit tuna to canned white, 6 ounces per week.
- Processed foods: As a general rule, check labels and try to avoid processed foods that contain long lists of additives.
What is back on the menu?
Raw fish (including sushi and oysters); unpasteurized soft cheeses; cold cuts that are actually cold; and pink (or even red meat).
Foods to watch out for
There are a few additional foods you should consume with care when you’re nursing:
- Some herbs. stay safe, ask your doctor before taking any herbal remedy, and think twice before drinking herbal tea or breastfeeding brews. For now, stick to reliable brands in varieties that are considered safe during lactation (orange spice, peppermint, raspberry, red bush, chamomile and rosehip). Read labels carefully to make sure other herbs haven't been added to the brew.
- Some sugar substitutes. When it comes to sugar substitutes, the only one to avoid is Sweet ‘n Low (aka saccharine). Otherwise you’ve got plenty of safe choices: Stevia, Nuctresses, Sunett, Splenda, Whey-Low and Equal/Nutrasweet are all considered safe during lactation.
- Non-organic foods. Choose organic fruits, veggies, dairy, poultry, meat, eggs and grain whenever you have the choice and can afford the usually steeper price and you’ll minimize the chemicals your baby is exposed to through your breast milk. But don’t drive yourself crazy — a small amount of pesticides and other chemicals will end up in your diet despite your best efforts, and that’s OK.
Is it safe to smoke?
Smoking does not only hurt you, it also hurts your baby. Smoking, on top of all of its side effects, might decrease your appetite, and decrease your milk production. Smoking also affects your baby. It increases your baby’s risk of developing respiratory infections, and ear infections. We strongly urge you not to smoke if you are breastfeeding. Keep in mind that when you smoke, your baby smokes with you.
What to watch your baby for
While most babies slurp up breast milk no matter the flavor, a few have picky palates right from the start — detecting and rejecting even the smallest hint of garlic or strong spices. You’ll quickly tell which category fits your baby and be able to modify your diet accordingly.Another thing to watch for: It’s not common (and hasn’t been backed up yet by science), but some moms say that certain foods they eat (especially gas-producing ones like cabbage, broccoli, onions, cauliflower, beans or Brussels sprouts) unsettle their little ones’ tummies and temperaments (even causing colic). And a maternal diet heavy in melons, peaches and other fruits may cause diarrhea in some sensitive babies, while red pepper can cause a rash in others. Don’t assume, though, that your baby will have a reaction to what you eat. Keep in mind that what seems like a reaction (fussiness, gassiness) is much more likely newborn baby business as usual. It takes between two and six hours from the time you eat a certain food until it affects the taste and aroma of your breast milk. So if your baby is gassy, spits up more, rejects the breast or is fussy a few hours after you eat a certain food, try eliminating the food for a few days to gauge the response.
References:"Breastfeeding Diet." The Breastfeeding Diet. N.p., 3 Feb. 2016. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.
"Breastfeeding Diet." Breastfeeding and Your Diet. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.