Nutrition While Breastfeeding


Nutrition While Breastfeeding

By Michelle Dudash, RD and Jessica R. Marie, Nutritionists

You made it through nine and a half months of doctor appointments, birthing classes, eating well and doing everything you could to keep you and the growing baby inside you healthy. Now that she’s here, it’s time to shift your focus entirely to taking care of the baby’s needs, right? Wrong. It is equally as important to take care of yourself after the baby is born as it was during pregnancy. A healthy mom is a happy mom.

The postpartum period (the time after giving birth) can be very stressful due to altered hormone levels, disrupted sleep, and an emotional state of mind. Breastfeeding keeps your body at an increased need for nutrients, some even more than when you were pregnant. Following the guidelines below for a well-rounded diet will help to maintain your health during this time.

Goals for postpartum nutrition:

  • Replenish nutrients lost during delivery
  • Achieve a healthy weight gradually
  • Insure nutrient needs are being met during lactation
  • Take in plenty of fluids

To get the nutrients and energy you need during lactation, follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Choose nutrient rich foods: Eat more foods rich in vitamins and minerals and limit high calorie foods that are low in nutrition. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day… 9-11 servings.
  • Eat a variety of foods: Choose from all the food groups to get a well-balanced diet.
  • Choose complex carbohydrates (whole wheat, whole grain) instead of refined sugars (soda, candy). They contain fiber which plays an important role in weight management by making you feel full and preventing you from over-eating.
  • Be sure to get plenty of protein, 45-60 grams per day when not breastfeeding and 60 grams a day during lactation. Poultry, fish, and lean meats are good sources of protein.
  • Fat is an essential nutrient. Choose healthy fats like those found in almonds, olive oil, avocados, fish, and canola oil. Avoid saturated and trans fats by limiting your intake of butter, beef, whole milk, fried or processed foods, and full-fat cheese.
  • Avoid fad diets: Fad diets tend to be very low in calories, which can decrease your milk supply and make successful breastfeeding difficult.
  • Drink plenty of fluids: 88% of breast milk is water. Aim for 1 ½ to 2 liters of water a day to help produce enough breastmilk to meet your baby’s demand.
  • Limit alcohol: While some experts advise women to completely avoid alcohol, some experts give it the green light. If you choose to drink, limit to one drink per day, and enjoy it right after a feeding, but 2 to 3 hours before the next feeding, so your body has time to metabolize it.
  • Limit caffeine: More than one cup of coffee per day can lead to fussiness and disturbed sleep patterns in babies.
  • Take a prenatal vitamin: Taking care of a newborn baby can make eating a balance diet difficult. Prenatal vitamins with DHA and calcium help you meet your nutritional needs, while replenishing nutrients lost during pregnancy, like iron.

Am J Clin Nutr 89: 663S-667S, 2009. First published December 10, 2008; doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26811B
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26811B
Vol. 89, No. 2, 663S-667S, February 2009 Health Promotion Board, An Eating Guide For Breastfeeding Mothers, March 15th 2009.

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