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Diet Recommendations for Breastfeeding Moms

Follow Our Tips to Maintain a Healthy Diet for You and Baby

As a new mom, you’re likely concerned about providing your baby with the best nutrition. You may find yourself asking if you need to change your diet to ensure your baby gets all the nutrients they need. The answer to this question depends on the diet you currently have. The Women’s Clinic is here to help you understand more about breastfeeding and provide tips on how to provide for your baby. While you may want to change your diet slightly, you shouldn’t have to make significant changes to what you eat or drink when you’re nursing. Our team will help you evaluate your current diet and figure out what things you should be adding and what you should be cutting out. Continue reading to learn the best tips for healthy breastfeeding, and feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.

Does Diet Affect Breastmilk?

One of the miracles of breast milk is that it can meet your baby’s nutritional needs even when you aren’t eating a perfect diet. However, what you eat can still affect your breast milk. For example, if your diet contains too few calories or consists solely of one food group at the exclusion of others, the quality and quantity of your milk could be affected. Due to this, it’s essential to consult with your doctor if you’re worried your diet may not be sufficient to support your breastfeeding needs. They can give you advice about how you can change your diet to best provide for your baby.

Dietary Needs During Breastfeeding

While everyone’s dietary needs are slightly different, there are still some basic recommendations you should be following. The same goes for new moms who are breastfeeding. You can’t adequately provide for your baby if you aren’t healthy, so the best step you can take is ensuring you are fueling your body with plenty of nutritious foods, including protein, fruits, and veggies. Some basic tips to follow to ensure you stay healthy during breastfeeding include:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet to help maintain your health
  • Don’t become hyper-focused on calorie counting
  • Aim to attain slow and steady weight loss
  • Be sure you’re eating a variety of healthy foods
  • Choose to eat good fats
  • Take extra precautions and try to avoid contaminants
  • Abstain from alcohol if possible, or be sure to limit and time your consumption accordingly
  • Continue taking your prenatal vitamins for the first month or so, then switch to a standard multivitamin

A Healthy Breastfeeding Diet

As mentioned above, every person has different dietary needs, but there are some common rules of thumb that can help you ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to provide an adequate supply of healthy breastmilk for your baby. We’ve put together a simple list of the most important things you should aim to consume each day to maintain a healthy breastfeeding diet. These include:

  • Protein: Three servings
  • Calcium: Five servings, or between 1000 and 15000 mg
  • Vitamin C: Two servings
  • Iron-Rich Foods: One or more servings
  • Whole Grains: Three or more servings
  • Leafy Greens: Three to four servings
  • Other Fruits & Veggies: One or more servings
  • High-Fat Foods: Limited quantities
  • Omega 3s: Two to three servings a week of low-mercury seafood

Foods to Avoid or Limit While Breastfeeding

The foods you eat while breastfeeding directly affect your breastmilk, and therefore, your baby. For this reason, it’s essential to be conscious of what you’re putting into your body. Unfortunately, there are some yummy foods that we can enjoy as adults that may not agree with your baby or could even harm their development. It’s best to limit or avoid these foods and drinks as much as possible until the baby is fully weaned and eating baby or table food. The most important things to avoid while breastfeeding include:

  • Caffeine: We fully understand that those sleepless nights with a newborn often call for a jolt the next day. You won’t have to completely cut out caffeine while breastfeeding, but it is important to limit your intake. You shouldn’t exceed more than three cups of a caffeinated beverage in a day.
  • Alcohol: If you’re up for it, you can completely abstain from alcohol while breastfeeding to ensure you never pass it to the baby through your breastmilk. However, you can still have an occasional drink if you want to. Just be sure you are timing it right. If you ever have a drink and feel even slightly inebriated, you should not breastfeed until the alcohol has cleared your system.
  • High-Mercury Fish: Mercury is a known neurotoxin, which means it can affect the brains of developing babies. For this reason, you should avoid high-mercury seafood, like swordfish, shark, tilefish, or king mackerel. Instead, choose lower mercury options, like shrimp, salmon, pollock, or catfish. You should also limit seafood meals to two per week or about 12 ounces.
  • Common Allergens: It is not unusual for babies to have sensitivities to common food allergens. When mom eats these foods, they make their way to baby through her breastmilk and can cause discomfort for baby. While food sensitivities will vary from child to child, it may be a good idea to avoid common food allergens, like dairy, soy, gluten, peanuts and tree nuts, and eggs, if you notice that baby seems upset or uncomfortable after eating.
  • Strong Flavors: The flavors of the food you eat can alter the flavor of your breastmilk. That means if you eat anything with a strong flavor, like anything that is spicy or flavored with garlic, your baby may taste it when feeding an hour or two later. This isn’t a problem if you regularly ate these types of food while pregnant, as your little one is likely used to the flavors. However, if these flavors are uncommon for you, the baby may not enjoy them.
  • Herbs: Some herbs, like parsley, peppermint, and sage, have been known to decrease breast milk production when consumed in high doses. As long as you limit the amount you’re using, you shouldn’t notice any effects. However, if you notice your milk production decreasing after eating one of these three herbs, you may want to consider avoiding it.

Be Sure You’re Getting Enough Calories

Many women are concerned with losing excess weight they may have gained during pregnancy as soon as the baby is born. However, your body needs time to heal and recover, so you need to be sure to treat it kindly following birth. This includes fueling it with proper foods for both you and baby. While you shouldn’t be hyper-focused on the number of calories you’re eating every day, you should keep in mind that your body burns about 300 to 500 extra calories a day while you’re breastfeeding. For this reason, you should be sure you’re taking in enough calories to sustain a healthy supply of breastmilk. If you cut down on your calorie intake, the quality and quantity of your milk could be affected.

Increase Your Water Intake

When you’re breastfeeding, your body will need plenty of fluid. However, you shouldn’t stress about reaching a certain number of ounces every day. Rather, the best guide is to drink to satisfy thirst, meaning be sure to drink whenever you feel like you need to. If water intake is difficult for you to remember, you can make it easier by drinking a cup of water at every nursing session. This will help keep you on track without getting obsessive about it. It’s also important to remember that you can get fluid from other sources, too, like fruits and vegetables. Your milk supply won’t be affected unless you become seriously dehydrated, so just be sure to drink when you’re thirsty.

How Alcohol Can Affect Breastfeeding

Drinking alcohol can affect your breastmilk, so you need to be limiting your intake or abstaining altogether. If you want to have a drink, timing is everything. It takes about two to three hours for you to eliminate the alcohol in one serving of beer or wine, so if you choose to have a drink, time it for right after a feeding. This way, your body will have time to break down the alcohol before your baby’s next feeding. Excessive drinking can cause higher levels of alcohol in your breastmilk, which could be damaging to the infant’s development, growth, and sleep patterns. If you’re going to indulge and have a cocktail, be sure you limit it to one.

Should I Be Taking Vitamins?

While breastfeeding, you should continue taking your prenatal vitamins through the first month of feeding. After that, we suggest switching to a standard multivitamin to ensure you are getting all the helpful vitamins and minerals you need. It’s important to note that taking a supplement will not make up for a poor diet, so you should continue eating healthy foods and well-balanced meals as much as you can. We suggest talking to your doctor at your first postpartum visit to better understand your individual needs and what vitamins will help you provide the best nourishment for your baby.

How to Address Allergies in Babies

Though not very common, babies can be allergic to foods in their moms’ diets, which can result in unpleasant symptoms for newborns. The best way to address these issues is to talk to your doctor, who can help you identify the suspected cause. You’ll likely have to eliminate the potential problem food for two to three weeks to be sure that it is truly the culprit for your baby’s adverse reactions. Be sure to visit a doctor at the first signs of allergies, which can include extreme fussiness and crying, occasional or frequent vomiting, lack of weight gain, eczema, hives, wheezing, or nasal discharge, as well as loose, watery, or mucousy stools.

Contact Us for Additional Guidance on Breastfeeding

If you are currently pregnant or you’re a new mom, it’s vital that you have the support you need as you face and overcome many new challenges in motherhood. At The Women’s Clinic, we are here to provide that support for patients in Northern Colorado. We have a full team of healthcare professionals to provide the care, advice, and attention you need, including support for breastfeeding and lactation. Please reach out to us today for more information or to schedule an appointment.