We often hear that “breast is best” when it comes to feeding your newborn, but it can sometimes be difficult for a tired new mother to maintain a diet that is best for her baby. Breastfeeding allows you to make the food that is perfect for your baby and gives he or she the healthy start that will last a lifetime, but it can feel overwhelming at times. Whether you’re a first-time mom or a veteran mom, maintaining a healthy diet while you breastfeed doesn’t have to be hard. Follow these rules of thumb for good nutrition:
- Increase your calories. Before we dive into nutrition tips, let’s talk about calories. This is not the time to be cutting back. It’s very important to pay attention to your overall calorie intake to maintain your milk supply. A minimum of 1,800 calories per day is recommended for women who are breastfeeding. This may be one of the only times in your life that you can feel good about increasing your caloric intake! Dieting is not recommended during this time. In fact, some individuals may require up to 2,700 calories a day to maintain an adequate milk supply. Speak with your physician to determine your specific caloric needs.
- Maintain good nutrition. When it comes to choosing which foods to eat, it’s essential that a breastfeeding mother consumes healthy foods that will pass on optimal nutrition to her baby. Follow these guidelines:
- Grains: 6 oz. per day. Half of your daily grains should be whole-grained. Cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta are good ways to get your daily grains.
- Vegetables: 2.5 cups per day. Eat dark green veggies like broccoli, spinach, and other dark leafy greens. Orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes are also good choices.
- Fruits: 2 cups per day. Eat a variety of fruit. Choose fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit but go easy on fruit juices.
- Dairy: 3 cups per day. Choose low-fat or fat-free when milk and dairy products. If you don’t or can’t consume milk, supplement your diet with lactose-free products or other calcium sources such as fortified foods and beverages.
- Meats and Beans: 5.5 cups per day. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine by choosing more fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. Eat more dry beans and peas like pinto beans, kidney beans, and lentils.
- Foods to limit: fats, sugars and salt (sodium). You can get most of your fat sources from fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Drink milk in moderation. Some babies are sensitive to the proteins in cow’s milk. Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol, both can affect your baby and your milk supply. Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard, as well as foods that contain these. Make sure to check the Nutrition Facts label to keep saturated fats, trans fats and sodium low. Choose food and beverages low in added sugars. Added sugars contribute calories with few if any nutrients.
- Get plenty of rest. This may sound impossible to a new mother but it is very important to take care of yourself. Rest as often as possible. Try to nap during the day while your baby is sleeping. Your milk-producing hormone, prolactin, increases while you are resting. Sleepiness, illness and stress may lower your milk supply. Remember, this is not the time to be super mom!
There can be a lot to remember when a new family member joins your home. Don’t let breastfeeding nutrition overwhelm you. Simply focus on making healthy choices, this will make a lasting impact on you and your little one.