The nutrients your little one is receiving during nursing come from the nutrients you put into your body.
So how are you preparing for milk production and feeding? Understanding your own nutrition habits is critical to producing healthy breast milk. Below are some tips.
1. What should you eat? Eating an additional 400 to 500 calories per day can help you keep your energy up while nursing, but that doesn’t mean eating a whole additional meal.
• Some healthy nutrient-rich choices with 400 to 500 calories include a slice of whole grain bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a medium apple or banana and eight ounces of yogurt.
• It’s also important to eat protein rich foods, such as lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, and seafood low in mercury, a variety of whole grains, and fruits and vegetables (wash them to avoid exposure to pesticides).
• Eating a variety of different flavors while nursing changes the flavor of your milk, which exposes your baby to different tastes. This may help him/her more easily accept solid foods in the future.
2. What should you drink? It’s important for nursing moms to drink frequently — before you get thirsty. Have a water bottle or glass nearby to sip while you’re breastfeeding. Be wary of sugary or caffeinated drinks as well. Consuming too much pop or sugary juice can affect losing baby weight and contribute to weight gain instead. And as tempting as a coffee is after a night with no sleep, avoid caffeine in high amounts. Two to three cups per day should be the maximum. Caffeine in your breastmilk can agitate your baby or even affect sleep patterns, which will in turn affect yours even more.
3. What should you eat as a vegetarian? It’s important to choose foods that are rich in iron, protein and calcium.
• Foods rich in iron include lentils, enriched cereals, whole grain products, peas, leafy green vegetables and dried fruit.
• Foods rich in protein include eggs, dairy products, soy products, meat substitutes such as tofu, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
• Foods rich in calcium include dairy products, dark green vegetables, calcium-enriched and fortified products such as juices, cereals, soy milk, soy yogurt and tofu.
Additionally, vitamin C found in citrus fruits or dark leafy greens is important to add to your diet, as vitamin C helps your body absorb iron.
If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, consider taking supplements as well. Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products, so taking a daily supplement will help fulfill your need. In winter months, vitamin D can be hard to come by as well, but is available as a daily vitamin. Your baby needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Too little vitamin D could cause rickets, a softening and weakening of the bones.
4. What should you watch out for? While most food and drink are safe for you to consume while nursing, there are a few things to look out for.
• Alcohol. Consuming any amount of alcohol isn’t safe for your milk or baby. If you do drink, wait to nurse or pump until the alcohol has left your system. It typically takes two to three hours for 12 ounces of 5-percent beer, 5 ounces of 11-percent wine and 1.5 ounces of 40-percent liquor. Pumping and dumping does not speed up the elimination of alcohol from your system.
• Seafood. Seafood can be a strong source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but can also contain mercury or other contaminants. Excessive mercury can damage your baby’s developing immune system. Seafood high in mercury includes swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.
There’s no need to create a special diet while you’re nursing. So long as you eat healthy and feel healthy, your baby will reap the benefits.