NUTRITION DURING BREASTFEEDING
WHAT SHOULD A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER EAT?
A nutritious diet is very important after you have a baby for many reasons. Your body needs vitamins and minerals to heal properly after delivery. Although it is important to eat well postpartum, your breast milk always maintains a certain nutritional quality even if your diet is less than adequate. No special diet or foods are necessary, but mothers should try to eat a balanced, varied diet to remain healthy and energetic.
While breastfeeding a baby, you will need to consume approximately 300 to 500 extra calories a day. For most breastfeeding women that means you will need to consume 2000 to 2500 calories per day but this varies depending on your height and weight. There are several important nutrition factors to consider when breastfeeding. Here are some helpful nutritional guidelines:
CALCIUM: Calcium is very important to everyone but especially when pregnant or breastfeeding because studies have shown that calcium is drawn out of your bones during pregnancy and lactation. The recommended daily allowance is 1,600mg daily; which is 2-4 servings of milk products. Some good sources of calcium include yogurt, milk, cheese, broccoli, watercress, oranges, almonds, tofu and dark leafy greens.
IRON: Iron is important during pregnancy and postpartum. A lack of iron in your blood can cause you to feel weak, light headed, tired, have a loss of appetite, or be more likely to get colds and flu. Continuing to take your prenatal vitamins will help keep your iron levels up but the best way to have enough iron in your blood is to eat foods that are high in iron. Here is a list of foods- red meat, lamb, turkey, chicken, pork and fish, kidney beans, dried beans and peas, whole grain breads and iron fortified cereals, greens, broccoli, baked potato with skin, raisins, and dried fruit.
*** High vitamin C foods/beverages along with high iron foods help your body absorb iron easier, so drink a glass of 100% fruit juice with your meal.
FOLIC ACID: Folic acid is very important if you could potentially become pregnant. Folic acid is a B-vitamin, when taken one month before conception and throughout the first trimester reduces the risk of neural tube defects. The recommended amount of folic acid is 400 micrograms daily which can be consumed in a vitamin supplement or by eating foods high in folic acid. Breakfast cereal are especially high in folic acid, many contain 100% of the daily value, enriched pasta, rice, breads, flour and other grains have been fortified with folic acid. Fruits, green leafy vegetables, dried beans and legumes also contain folic acid.
VITAMINS: It is recommended that breastfeeding women continue to take prenatal vitamins. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will also help you get all the vitamins and mineral you need. Vitamin D is important to your baby’s bone growth. It is now recommended that ALL infants and children have a minimum daily intake of 400 IU of Vitamin D beginning soon after birth. Discuss questions and concerns about Vitamin D with your baby’s doctor. Vitamin D is found in fish, milk, eggs and butter.
CAFFEINE: Caffeine should be limited to 2 servings or less daily. Caffeine is found in coffee, soft drinks, tea, some medications and chocolate. If your baby seems unusually fussy or wakeful you may want assess how much caffeine you are consuming.
SUPPLEMENT AND HERBS: The FDA does not regulate supplements and herbs and therefore are not recommended when breastfeeding without consulting your health care provider.
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: There is not evidence that artificial sweeteners are harmful when breastfeeding. Of course there is one exception to this rule for mothers of infants with Phenylketonuria (PKU) as aspartame contains phenylalanine. In general it is always a good idea to keep food additives to a minimum.
FLUIDS: Drinking plenty of fluids is very important when breastfeeding. Eight to ten glasses of fluids are recommended daily. Drink when you feel thirsty. Water, 100% juice and low fat milk are good fluids to keep on hand. Try to always have some water available when you are breastfeeding.
SNACKS: One of the biggest problems mothers face when they have a new baby is finding time for themselves. Make it a priority to take care of your self and find time to eat. It is not only important for you but also for your baby. Here are some quick easy snacks to keep on hand:
- Bagel and cream cheese
- Cheese and crackers
- Cottage cheese
- Fresh or frozen fruit
- Hard boiled eggs
- Cheese cubes
- Dried fruit and nut mix
- Fruit smoothies
- Granola and yogurt
- Raw vegetables and dip
FOODS TO AVOID WHEN BREASTFEEDING: There are no specific foods you should avoid when breastfeeding. If you notice your baby is fussy often you may want to consider what you ate 4-6 hours previously. Some foods that babies can be sensitive to are cabbage, beans, broccoli and some times peanuts, cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, fish, citrus foods and other nuts if there is a strong family history of allergies to these foods.
LOSING WEIGHT POSTPARTUM: Many people are concerned about losing there baby weight postpartum. A good rate of weight loss for a breastfeeding mother is 1/2 to 1 pound per week. Talk to your health care provider before starting any type of exercise postpartum. Fad diets or diet pills are definitely not recommended while breastfeeding your baby. Continue to breastfeed your baby on demand, eat a well balanced diet of at least 1,800 calories per day and drink plenty of fluids when starting an exercise program.
ALCOHOL: Since alcohol has been found to pass into human milk and can interfere with the milk ejection reflex, alcohol consumption should be avoided while breastfeeding. An occasional drink, not exceeding two ounces of alcohol, may be safe, but you should consult your health care provider about the associated risks. Amounts exceeding two ounces should definitely be avoided. One occasional glass of wine or one beer is generally acceptable, but not more. Many mothers often report that a few sips of beer stimulated a letdown reflex of their milk, but too much will inhibit it. Brewers Yeast, a component of beer can also be taken as a supplement when let-down and milk supply is diminished. There is no researched evidence documented of the yeast affect on milk supply. Breast pumping and discarding the breast milk is recommended when alcohol is consumed beyond the limits stated above.
DRUGS IN HUMAN MILK: Some medications (prescription and over-the-counter medications, and all street drugs) will pass into the mother’s milk. Breastfeeding mothers should check with their Lactation Consultant and Physicians before taking any medications.
MEDICATIONS AND MOTHER’S MILK: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology by Dr. Thomas Hale Ph.D, is the current researched source used by Hospital Newborn Nurseries and Lactation Consultants for validating the safety of medications while breastfeeding. Dr. Hale’s manual is updated every two years, and is offered in a parents version and online.