Breastfeeding and Diet
Our previous article, Breastfeeding 101, provided you with ample starter information if you’re interested in breastfeeding. If you’ve decided to breastfeed, you’re probably now wondering how to maximize your breast milk. You may be curious if you can and cannot eat foods, if certain things you eat change your milk, and if certain foods can amplify or slow down milk production.
Breast milk is called “liquid gold” for a reason. It assists with reducing many medical conditions in your baby. That’s because it’s filled with numerous nutrients that help your baby develop. It makes sense to wonder how diet can impact its production. It’s essential to eat healthy, nutrient-rich foods during and after pregnancy because it makes us moms feel great and recuperate even better. Breast milk has all the nutrition your baby needs for their first 6 months of life, and it changes over the months (and years) as you feed2. But still, how does what we eat affect breastfeeding? Let’s dig in.
Our bodies are brilliant. It’s so smart that even if your diet isn’t the best, your body will do what it needs to do to produce top-notch milk from your body. Hearing this may make you feel like you can relax and just eat whatever you want. However, your body is tapping into its resources to create milk1. So while it may know how to sort it out for your milk, you may be at a disadvantage if you don’t eat well. You will end depriving yourself in the short and long term if you don’t eat healthily.
If you want your child to be a well-rounded eater, you have to set the example by exposing him or her via breast milk. Here’s a recommendation1 of what you can eat daily to create a balanced pallet for your little one:
- 3 to 4 servings of leafy green and yellow vegetables and fruits
- 1 or more helpings of additional fruits and vegetables
- 2 servings of vitamin C
- 1 or more helpings of iron packed foods
- 3 servings of protein
- 5 servings of calcium
- Small amounts of high-fat foods
- 2 to 3 servings of Omega 3s
- Daily prenatal vitamin
As you’re eating from the above list, you may be wondering about calories. Research suggests our bodies burn 300 to 500 calories from breastfeeding. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, it’s around 450 to 500 calories. You don’t need to count your calories to compensate for this number, but it’s something to keep in mind. If you feel hungry, eat. If you find yourself eating more than usual, consider adding a nutrient-dense meal. As always, speak to your doctor to ensure your postpartum weight is in normal ranges1.
If you’re burning 300 to 500 calories, it’s a high demand on your body, just as it would be if you were exercising to burn those calories. Replenish yourself adequately by eating foods such as these2:
- Fruits and vegetables (berries, kale, cabbage)
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, flaxseeds)
- Healthy fats (avocados, coconut)
- Fibrous starches (squash, lentils, quinoa)
- Seafood (seaweed, salmon)
- Poultry and meat (chicken, beef)
- Other foods (kimchi, dark chocolate)
What About Water?
You may be surprised to find out that your water intake won’t severely impact your milk supply unless your urine is dark and scant. If you’re experiencing UTIs, fatigue, or constipation, or decreased milk production, you may be dehydrated.
Staying hydrated doesn’t have to just come from water. If you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, you’re getting water, too. Tip: before, during, or after nursing, drink a cup of water if you’re concerned you’re not getting enough1 and if you ever feel thirsty.
Should I Avoid Certain Foods?
Certain foods can cause adverse reactions in your baby. It’s important to note if certain foods cause specific reactions. Here’s what to watch out for:
- Alcohol: if you’re going to drink, do so after nursing because alcohol can get into your breast milk. If you drink beforehand, wait 2 hours before breastfeeding. One drink a few times per week is okay if you follow the suggested guidelines above and the AAP’s recommendation of 0.5g or less per kilogram of body weight2.
- Too Much Caffeine: 300mg of daily caffeine from coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate is considered safe1.
- High Mercury Fish: Tuna, mackerel, shark, swordfish, marlin, and tilefish should be avoided3.
- Cow’s Milk: About 1% of breastfed babies are allergic to the protein in cow’s milk, which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and more2. Ask your doctor when is the best time to introduce cow’s milk.
- Meat and Dairy High in Fat: pesticides and chemicals get stored in animal fat. Low fat, organic, and chemical-free kinds are best1.
- Processed Foods: Chemical additives, calories, added sugars, and fats are plentiful in these kinds of foods, so choose fresh or frozen at peak freshness when able3.
- Herbal Supplements: the FDA does not regulate supplements, and there isn’t enough supporting research. So, ask your doctor before ingesting any supplements.
We’ve covered the importance of eating various foods because it helps your baby learn different flavors. Plus, having well-rounded nutrition is good for moms in the long run. You learned about breastfeeding and calories, to not stress it but simply focus on nutrient-dense foods. We provided two lists: one covering the recommended servings and one with suggestions to consume. We also went over keeping yourself hydrated is more than just about drinking water.
To top it off, we offered a list of foods to stay away from. Overall, this article provided enough information to bring you an intermediate understanding of how breast milk and breastfeeding affects diet. We’ll be back next week with more information to prepare you for a happy and healthy breastfeeding journey.
How Can KeaBabies Help You with Breastfeeding?
Our award-winning and versatile Multi-Use Covers make excellent nursing covers, yes, but they can be used as a car seat canopy, shopping cart cover, blanket, changing mat, and even an infinity scarf. Our 360 degrees covers come in eight cool and modern designs made from breathable and stretchable cotton-rayon.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Nadia Rumbolt
Nadia Rumbolt is a mom of many trades, including creative writing, blogging, van life, minimalism, veganism, the beach, nature, and the occult.