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.