Nutrition During Breastfeeding

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Nutrition during lactating period is very similar to the needs while you are pregnant with several exceptions of needing lots of fluids for hydration and higher caloric requirement for milk production. It is important to remind yourself not to lose too much weight while you are trying to establish your milk supply during the first 3 months after birth. There’s no special diet to be on while you are breastfeeding. The goal is to eat a balance and variety of foods to get adequate nutrients you and your baby needs.

As you already know, you will need additional 500-700 calories per day when you are exclusively breastfed. On average you probably require between 2300-2500 calories daily when you’ve decided to breast feed. Eat a variety of foods includes good protein sources, fruits/vegetables, whole grains, dairy and good fats. I felt like I was in famine during the first 6 months of breastfeeding. Snacks frequently on healthy snacks in between meals and get adequate rest to help promote good quality milk supply.

There are some food/herbs that are consider galactogogues (food that help milk production), but is it always necessary? The answer is NO. Your body is amazing in recognizing the supply and demand. You just have to be patient and trust what your body can do. Eating a healthy and balanced diet will provide you the necessary nutrients to continue a healthy lactation journey.  If you suspect you have low milk supply, check with your local lactation consultant before trying out home remedies yourself. The problem could be improper latch on, incorrect fitting of breast shield, or pump defects.

If you imagine yourself producing 32-40 oz of milk daily, that means you needed to replenish the fluid loss in your body in addition to what your basic requirement are. So drink and hydrate yourself with lots of water, fruit infused water, milk, soups and juice (limit to two cups per day due to high sugar content).

Calcium continues to be equally important here during breastfeeding. Calcium requirement remains at 1,000 mg for women ages 19-30 and 1, 300 mg per day for teenage girls during lactation. So, make sure you eat plenty of high calcium foods so that you don’t end up developing osteoporosis later on. Continue your calcium supplement if that’s the best way you can get your calcium intake. Remember, food first then supplement if needed.

Recommendation has stated moderation consumption of alcohol (12 oz beer, 5 oz wine) and caffeine (2 cups per day) does not cause major harm to the baby. But, it still carries a certain risk factors. So, this will be up to your discretion as to whether you would like to drink or not. If you asked me, I would have said don’t do it. Alcohol and caffeine can pass through breastmilk. Alcohol in breast milk can cause baby to be drowsy and if you were to drink, wait for couple hours after and pump then discard the milk. Feed your baby fresh milk from earlier pumping session if possible. Caffeine in breast milk on the other hand can make your baby restless, fussier than usual and jittery. Most new mom are advised to stop drinking caffeine when their baby exhibit any of the above symptoms.

I understand as a women, we always wonder: “When will I be able to lose my baby weight?” Gaining maternal fat storage is important because the fat storage is being used up for milk production after birth. Remember that it took you 9 months to gain all those weight, it will take equally as long about 9 months to one year to lose it all gradually as well. Light to moderate exercise 4-6 weeks after delivery is acceptable. If you had a C-section, you’ll have to wait even longer depending on how your wound heals, always check with your OB/GYN. Rapid weight loss of more than 2 pounds per week has been shown to significantly affect the milk supply of a breastfeeding mother.

You only have to limit dairy, spicy or gassy foods if your baby is experiencing more spit up and gassy than normal. Eating a variety of foods will actually expose your baby to different flavor from your milk, which in turn can help foster better eating behavior when they are ready for solids at around 6 months old.

If your baby’s stool has blood tint to it, he/she maybe allergic to the milk protein in your diet. Consult the baby’s pediatrician and ask for a blood test. You’ll then have to eliminate all dairy products from your diet milk/protein allergies were confirmed.


Postpartum Nutrition Care for Mothers


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I often give advice to new mother to remember in taking good care of themselves first before they care for their newborn. I know that the maternal instinct is to focus all your energy on your baby, but the truth is mother’s health comes first. Your baby will gets plenty of love from you and everyone else. Whereas, you, will feel neglected at times, and can easily lead to the postpartum blues or worse case scenario– postpartum depression. If you are not physically or emotionally healthy, your baby will be affected physically and emotionally as well. Therefore, ask for help, rest and sleep when your baby is sleeping, and utilize your friends to bring you food. Yes, you’ll hear that over and over again.

So, let’s focus on good nutrition care after your delivery, whether you’ve decided to breastfeed or using formula. Remember that if you choose to breastfeed, your caloric requirement will increase on an average of 500 calories per day and more if you are feeding multiples.

Fluids, fluids and more fluids. Even though when you are experiencing edema (swelling), it is still important to keep hydrating yourself to pull the fluids back into cells and excrete through urine. It is extremely important to get adequate fluids intake especially when you are breastfeeding.  Always keep a 16 oz glass fluids nearby and drink before, during and after feeding.  This could be water, milk, juice, or soups.

This is particularly important with the amount of blood loss occurs during delivery, this apply to both natural or cesarean birth. You need to make sure to replenish your iron stores if not, you’ll tend to become weaker due to anemia. Make sure to keep up with good iron intake during this period. Iron sources can comes from meat products, vegetables, fortified grains and beans.  Although, do try to avoid eating foods that inhibit iron absorption together. This is due to the phytates compound (an antioxidant) in food such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, coffee and tea binds to the iron content and reduces its availability for absorption.  So, it is recommended to continue taking your prenatal vitamins post delivery as well.

Protein is crucial for strength and recovery especially if you had a cesarean birth. Even though is very common, it is still consider a major abdominal surgery that brings trauma to your body and organs. Protein is needed to heal wounds, re-build muscle and aid in recovery.  Protein also helps you to reach your higher calorie requirement during breastfeeding period.  How much do you need ? It depends on your weight,  it is recommended about 1.1-1.2 g of protein intake per kilogram of your body weight or 0.5-0.55 g per pound of body weight.  For example, a 145 pounds women would need 73-80 gm protein during breastfeeding period.

The requirement for calcium remains the same as during pregnancy, 1,000 mg daily for women ages 19-50. If you are teen mother, your requirement is 1,300 mg daily. There’s some research indicates of bone loss during lactating period but quickly restore during the weaning period. So, be sure to get adequate calcium intake to support good bone health for both mom and baby. Most women doesn’t consume adequate calcium through foods, therefore, it is recommended to continue your calcium supplement while you are lactating unless you are meticulous and knows you get enough calcium through foods, then supplementation is unnecessary.  Make sure that you choose the products that is made from “calcium citrate”, the best form of calcium that are easily absorbable in our body.

Vitamin A & C are the essential vitamins for wound healing because they are the building blocks for collagen and cell formations.  If you had a C-section, epiosiotomy or a vaginal tear during vaginal birth, then you better pay attention on getting adequate Vitamin A & C to help with tissue repair and shorten your recovery time.  If you are not sure what kind of foods has Vitamin A or C, think red, orange and yellow colored foods such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, orange, bell peppers, tomatoes, papaya, strawberries etc.

There’s two types of fat: Saturated Fats (bad fats) and Unsaturated fats (good fats).  We need to focus on good type of fats as they are a major source of calories in helping body meeting the caloric intake to help with milk productions. This doesn’t mean you need to go on a high-fat diet, please don’t do that! Research shows that a high-fat maternal diet actually increases the risk of their baby to become obesity later in life. So, eat and choose your fat intake wisely.  Recommended to have a minimum of 3-4 servings of unsaturated fat daily.  What’s a serving of good fat ? 1 teaspoon cooking oil (olive, canola, safflower),  1 Tablespoon salad dressing, 1/8 avocado and 10 small olives.

Whole grains foods provide good fiber, vitamins and minerals for your body after childbirth and to give you the foundation of energy usage and to produce good quality breast milk. Eat a variety of whole grains daily, at least 8-10 servings per day.

Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy and postpartum. With the increase iron and calcium intake, this can make constipation worse. Making sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to help keeping constipation at bay.  Fruits & Vegetables also provides abundance of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that are good for your during your recovery period.  Eat a least 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Did you know that in Chinese culture, there’s this so called “confinement month” or  “sitting the month” (坐月子). All mother is required to be resting, house bound for 30 – 40 days and she will have a lot of help during that month from her mother, in-laws or a confinement lady to help her with cooking, house chores, taking care of the baby (that’s the good part), and some activities of daily living that are strictly forbidden (not so cool part). I will discuss the “confinement month” in another article if you are interested in reading.