Your Breastfeeding Diet

EVER WONDERED IF YOU SHOULD CHANGE YOUR DIET WHEN YOU'RE:

- PREGNANT or
- BREASTFEEDING 

Tired of getting advice (whether you want to listen or not) from everybody who claims to be an "expert"?

Then you’ll be happy to hear that your breastfeeding diet is in many ways similar to your pregnancy diet — with much more lenient guidelines.  The saying "you are what you eat" might be true, but your breast milk isn’t so much.

The basic fat-protein-carb of human milk isn’t directly dependent on what you eat. Even women who don't eat well can still produce enough milk because her body will tap into its own stores to fuel milk production. That means a lot of your favorite foods are back on the menu.

HOW MANY CALORIES DO YOU NEED?

The goal when you’re nursing should be a diet which will fuel your much-needed energy as well as your milk supply.
While calories definitely count, you won't need to count them as milk production burns 500 calories a day — the same you'd burn when doing a 5km run, all without leaving your lounge chair. If you haven't put on excessive weight during pregnancy,  you might even need more than 500 calories daily calories, which is a blessing while breastfeeding.

WHAT TO EAT WHEN YOU’RE BREASTFEEDING

Eating well means getting a variety of nutritious food.  Since a varied diet also changes the taste and smell of your milk, it will expose your baby to many different flavors, which will help when they start with solids.

Recommended Daily servings of the following: 
* Protein: 3 servings
* Calcium: 5 servings (or 1,500 mg—especially important since breastfeeding draws from your calcium reserves)
* Iron-rich foods: 1 or more servings
* Vitamin C: 2 servings
* Green leafy and yellow vegetables/fruits: 3 to 4 servings
* Other fruits and veggies: 1 or more servings
* Whole grains and complex carbohydrates: 3 or more servings
* High-fat foods: Small amounts (you don't need as much as you did during pregnancy)
* Omega 3s: 2 to 3 servings per week, to promote baby's brain growth (that’s 8 to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish like wild salmon and sardines; you can also get omega 3s in DHA-enriched eggs)

* Your prenatal vitamins: Daily

HOW MUCH WATER TO DRINK

Stick to minimum of the normal recommended 6-8 glasses of water. If not,  you could dehydrate and even get a urinary tract infection. It will also affect your milk supply.

FOODS TO AVOID WHILE BREASTFEEDING

While breastfeeding, the following guidelines should help you, of what to avoid or take less of:

* Excessive caffeine: One or two cups of coffee, tea or soda a day won’t affect your baby, it might be just what you need to keep going. But too much caffeine has been linked to colic and acid reflux in some babies.

* High-mercury fish: The same guidelines on fish safety that apply to pregnant women also apply to breastfeeding women: avoid shark, tilefish, shellfish, mackerel, too much tuna  or any raw fish like sushi. 

* High-fat dairy and meat: Pesticides and other chemicals are stored in animals’ fat, so generally it’s best to stick to lower-fat varieties. When eating higher-fat dairy, poultry and meat, choose organic, since producers cannot use antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides or other chemicals when they produce free range animals.

* Processed foods: it is better to use fresh or frozen vegetables and as little as possible processed foods.

What is still not on the menu?

Raw fish (including sushi and oysters); unpasteurized soft cheeses; raw cold cuts, and pink (or even red) meat.

ALCOHOL AND BREASTFEEDING

Looking forward to pouring a glass of wine at the end of a long day? Go for it! While some alcohol does find its way into your breastmilk, it’s considerably less than what you drink. Wine, beer and hard liquor are all safe to drink in moderation, the guideline is not more than one measure of your choice. A few tips:

* Nurse first, drink later. Aim to sip right after you’ve nursed rather than before, if possible, to allow a couple of hours for the alcohol to metabolize.

* Aim to limit yourself to a few drinks a week. Heavy drinking can make baby sleepy, sluggish, unresponsive and unable to suck well; in very large doses it can interfere with breathing. It can also impair your own functioning so you are less able to care for your baby, and can weaken your let-down reflex.

RELATED: Medication while breastfeeding.
Any medication chronic or for any acute symptoms should be advised by your GP or specialist.

FOODS TO WATCH OUT FOR

There are a few additional foods you should consume with care when you’re nursing:

* Some herbs. Few studies have been done on the safety of herbs, so little is known how they affect a nursing baby.  Safe guidelines: always read labels of all brews you buy, or ask for info at your health shops/chemists.

* 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, Nutrasweet are all considered safe during lactation (but again, in moderate amounts. 

* 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. 

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 - modify your diet accordingly.

Especially gas-producing ones like cabbage, broccoli, onions, cauliflower, beans or Brussels sprouts can unsettle the little ones’ tummies and temperaments (even causing colic). 

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. 

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.

ALLERGIES IN BREASTFED BABIES

A very few babies (two to three in 100) are actually allergic to foods in their moms’ diets. The most common offender is cows milk; others are soy, nuts, wheat and peanuts. In addition to extreme fussiness and crying, babies who have a real food allergy will display other symptoms, including:

* Occasional to frequent vomiting
* Loose, watery (or mucousy) stools (possibly tinged with blood)
* Lack of weight gain
* Eczema, hives, wheezing and/or nasal discharge or stuffiness

If you think your child might have a food allergy, and especially if you have a family history of allergies, talk to your doctor. He or she will likely recommend eliminating a potential problem food for two to three weeks to check if it’s truly the culprit.

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