The benefits of a healthy diet during breastfeeding are equally important as a nutritious diet excluding breastfeeding. The major difference between women who are breastfeeding and who aren’t breastfeeding is that breastfeeding mothers need more calories.
You may not know this but a breastfeeding mother requires 450-500 extra calories per day. The US Department of Health and Human Services explains it in detail. Click here to read about it.
Women that wish to lose pregnancy weight after delivery may not need to increase the daily calories while breastfeeding. Also, they should not try any self-made diet without consulting their doctor.
There are certain nutrients such as iron calcium, potassium, and vitamins that are particularly required in a higher amount during breastfeeding. Eating foods that fulfill all of these will result in a healthy diet.
What should you eat while breastfeeding?
There is no single diet that suits everyone who is breastfeeding. The only goal for all such women will be to eat a healthy and varied diet. Ideally, aim for following foods to include in the daily diet.
This information is taken from the circular from the United States Department of Agriculture and is available online. Click here to view it.
All fruits particularly, grapefruits and oranges are the best sources of essential nutrients. The nutrients in fruits help in constipation which is one of the major concerns after delivery. If you add 2 cups of fruits daily with different fruits, it will fulfill your nutritional requirements. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends using several fruits such as cantaloupe, honeydew melon, mangoes, banana, apricot, orange, grapefruit, prunes etc.
The daily recommendation is to eat 3 cups of vegetables. If you are formula feeding, eating 2.5 cups of vegetable is sufficient. Vegetables are a good source of vitamins and antioxidants. Consuming a moderate amount of vegetable will add these antioxidants and vitamins to the daily diet. The recommendation of the Department of Agriculture suggests eating spinach, kale, collards, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and others.
Some of the vital nutrients in brown rice and whole wheat are essential for a healthy metabolic system. The breastfeeding mothers should aim for 8 ounces (oz) per day if they are exclusively breastfeeding. If they are formula feeding, 6 oz is also sufficient.
Some other grains such as quinoa are a good source of protein that is required while breastfeeding. Fortified cereals are also a good option when no other source is available. Make sure that you are not eating any extra sugar.
Breastfeeding mothers also require extra 25grams of proteins per day and a total of 65 grams daily. It is better to add any protein source with every meal of the day. The recommendation of USDA is to use any of the following items in diet.
- Lean Meat
All the protein sources rich in omega 3 fatty acids support a healthy brain development. Selection of fish is important because some of the fish have a high amount of mercury in it. The breastfeeding mothers should avoid fish such as albacore tuna, swordfish, shark, and king mackerel, all of which are high in mercury. Most of the other forms of tuna are safe to eat.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding both require high calcium sources to be a part of the diet. In both these stages, calcium in bones is literally extracted which increase the risk of osteoporosis. If you aren’t taking enough calcium and vitamin D daily, the risk increases even more.
Other than milk, cheese and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium and vitamin D. breastfeeding mothers should aim for minimum 3 cups of dairy products per day. Those who can not eat dairy can get calcium from leafy green veggies, beans, and fortified orange juice. The daily recommendation of calcium per day is 1,000 mg by The National Academy of Sciences.
In most cases, the concept of a balanced diet includes vital nutrients that are required while breastfeeding. Note that taking supplements of these nutrients is not a replacement for a healthy diet. Before you consider taking any dietary supplement, it is necessary to speak with your doctor first.
Which foods to avoid during breastfeeding?
Like the suggested foods while breastfeeding, the food to avoid during breastfeeding is long too. Actually, there is not any particular list that breastfeeding mothers should avoid. It’s just that they should eat food that is nutritious and pay attention to the body changes that show up.
Remember that breast milk is produced from nutrients that are absorbed into the blood. Some best tips to promote healthy eating are as follows.
- Make daily portions of your food items.
- Limit the consumption of seafood high in mercury.
- Limit the amount of caffeine. Taking a huge amount of coffee/tea affects the baby as it may affect their sleep cycle. However, only a tiny amount of caffeine is passed to the baby through breast milk.
- Watch out for the changes in your diet. Pay attention to how your baby reacts to the diet and make relevant changes.
Many health experts warn against gassy foods such as cruciferous vegetables, but most babies remain unaffected by them. Similarly, there is no particular reason to avoid spicy food unless the baby reacts negatively to breast milk.
The recommendation on alcohol has mixed opinions when breastfeeding. It is clear that alcohol damages the development of a baby during the pregnancy. It crosses the placenta and reaches to the baby. But during breastfeeding, the baby only gets the alcohol passed on to the blood of the mother. It means that the blood alcohol content of the breastfeeding mother is the only alcohol that reaches to the breastfeeding baby.
In moderate consumption, this alcohol doesn’t make any harmful effect on the baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests no more than one drink per day if you are a breastfeeding mother. Read more about it by clicking here.