Your nutrition when breastfeeding is vitally important for both you and your infant. To make plenty of quality milk for your precious little one, you need to make sure you have a healthy diet. Also, always follow your doctor’s advice.
Get the Best Nutrition when Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding women have a high need for calories, vitamins and minerals. The USDA makes the following diet recommendations for breastfeeding women:
1. Get enough calories.
In general, you need 300-500 calories more each day when breastfeeding than you did before pregnancy. This is an average – your needs may be different, depending on your fat reserves and on how much you breastfeed.
If you don’t get enough calories, you can put your milk supply at risk.
Check out these helpful resources to make sure you’re eating right and getting proper nutrition when breastfeeding:
2. Include seafood in your diet.
The nutrients in seafood are particularly important during early development. The USDA recommends that breastfeeding women eat 8 oz-12 oz of seafood each week, but should limit types that are high in mercury.
- Limit the amount of white tuna (labeled as “albacore”) to no more than 6 oz per week.
- Do not eat tilefish, shark, swordfish or king mackerel – these are high in methyl mercury.
3. Keep track of calcium intake.
Breastfeeding women should consume 1,000 mg of calcium each day, the same amount recommended for all adults age 19-50.
Some sources of calcium:
- Dairy products
- Chinese cabbage
- Canned sardines
- Canned salmon
- Calcium-fortified foods
- Calcium supplements
4. Stay well-hydrated.
Drink eight glasses of fluids a day, or more if you are thirsty or perspiring a lot. Liquids that contribute to your fluid intake include water, juice, milk, tea and coffee (decaffeinated is better), broth and soup.
Limit your intake of fluids that are high in sugar, caffeine and salt.
Tips for good hydration:
- Keep a bottle of water near your usual nursing spot so you and baby can both quench your thirst.
- Limit caffeinated beverages to no more than one or two per day. Caffeine can cause calcium to be excreted in urine, reducing the amount available to you and your baby.
- Alcohol can have a dehydrating effect. Some experts advise breastfeeding women not to drink alcohol; others consider an occasional alcoholic beverage to be acceptable. If you have an alcoholic drink, wait at least two hours before nursing.
March is National Nutrition Month – see the tools and resources USDA has to help you eat healthy here.
Are There Foods You Shouldn't Eat?
Are you wondering if you should avoid any particular foods when you’re breastfeeding?
Research shows that a mother’s milk is affected only slightly by the foods she eats, so you do not need to avoid particularly strong or spicy foods. In fact, babies love the flavors of foods that come through in breast milk.
And What About Allergies?
For allergy concerns, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, mothers who breastfeed do not need to avoid foods considered to be highly allergenic. There is no conclusive evidence that avoiding these foods will prevent their babies from developing food allergies.
Sensitivity to Foods
Your baby may be sensitive to something you eat, such as milk and cheese. Babies who are highly sensitive usually react to the food within minutes of nursing or within four to 24 hours afterwards.
Look for these symptoms:
- Green stools with mucus and/or blood, diarrhea, vomiting
- Rash, eczema, dermatitis, hives, dry skin
- Fussiness during and/or after feedings
- Crying for long periods without being able to feel consoled
- Sudden waking with discomfort
- Wheezing or coughing
These signs do not mean your baby is allergic to your milk itself, only that he or she could be sensitive to something you ate.
For more information on various health and wellness topics, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Breastfeeding: Nutrition and Bonding.