When you’re breastfeeding, you’re providing nourishment for yourself and for your baby, so it’s especially important to choose the right diet. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life, following a balanced diet while breastfeeding will help ensure both you and baby are getting the nutrients you need. It will also promote a good milk supply and give you enough energy to take care of yourself and your baby. What mom doesn’t need that?
Did you know that baby is already learning to like the foods you’re eating right now through your breastmilk? So bring on the veggies, because exposing him to a variety of healthy foods now can lead to a less picky eater later.
Here are some basic tips for a balanced breastfeeding diet:
- Make half your plate veggies and fruits. They provide the vitamins and minerals you and baby need.
- Make a quarter of your plate protein. This includes meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Protein is vital because it builds and repairs tissue. Many protein-rich foods are also a good source of iron.
- Make a quarter of your plate whole grains. This can be anything from whole-wheat breads to brown rice to whole-grain cereal. Whole grains have fiber, vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, which is important for baby’s development.
- Don’t forget the dairy. Dairy has calcium and vitamin D, which are important for healthy bones. Add cow’s milk, cheeses and yogurt to your diet. If you don’t eat dairy products, then be sure to get these nutrients from other sources. Options include spinach, kale, tuna, salmon or other foods fortified with these nutrients, such as soy milk.
Breastfeeding requires extra calories; after all, you are feeding another human being. You may find yourself hungry during the first few months, especially if baby is nursing a lot. Aim to add about 500 extra calories a day until baby starts eating solids (usually around 6 months), and then the need for extra calories will decrease.
Even if your meals don’t always belong in a health magazine, your breastmilk will still provide your baby with all of the nutrients she needs. But do keep in mind that when your diet is lacking in certain nutrients, your body will prioritize the nutrients you do have for your baby, and you won’t be left with much good stuff for yourself. Eating a balanced diet while breastfeeding will ensure that both you and baby have the nutrition you need.
When you’re breastfeeding, you have more of a need for some vitamins and minerals. While vitamin and mineral supplements aren’t a replacement for a healthy diet, a prenatal vitamin is generally recommended. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor.
Most moms don’t have to worry about which foods they can and cannot eat during pregnancy, but you may have heard that you should avoid certain foods, such as broccoli or beans because they can make your baby gassy. However, a gassy baby doesn’t necessarily mean he’s reacting to something you ate. After all, formula-fed babies can get gassy too. If your baby is gassy, try these tips first before eliminating healthy foods from your diet:
- Burp him more frequently. Extra air causes gas.
- Be sure baby isn’t getting anything other than breastmilk or formula. If your baby is still a newborn, his digestive system can only handle breastmilk or formula, and anything else can lead to an upset stomach. For older infants who have started solid foods, the only other drink they need besides breastmilk or formula is water.
- Be sure he isn’t gulping air while he eats. Your milk flow may be faster than he can handle. If this is the case, try unlatching as you have a letdown, and re-latch when the flow slows. You can also try a different position.
If you still feel as though your baby’s gas is being caused by something you are eating, try keeping a log of what you eat and how baby feels. Some foods that can cause trouble include: foods with caffeine, milk and dairy foods, soy, peanuts and more. Try eliminating a suspected food and see what happens. And if you see any signs of a food allergy (such as inconsolable crying for long periods of time, rash, hives, eczema, wheezing, or stools with blood or mucus), call your baby’s pediatrician.
You don’t need to drink milk to make milk, but you do need to drink a lot of water! Not only is it important for your health to stay hydrated while nursing, but being dehydrated can decrease your milk supply. We recommend carrying a water bottle with you at all times to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need.
If you have any questions about alcohol or caffeine while nursing, talk to your doctor.