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.


What Not to Eat During Pregnancy

Congratulations on your pregnancy!

“Now what can I eat?” you ask.

There are a lot of things you have to be careful about, especially since the food you eat directly affects the outcome of your pregnancy. My advice is to think to yourself, “Would I feed a baby that?” If the answer is “no,” then don’t eat it while you are pregnant.

Let’s review the “Don’t” List:

Stop Smoking / Using Illicit Drugs
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised how many babies have mothers who are smokers and drug users. If you can’t quit these activities, knowing you are pregnant, it’s time to seek professional help. You are exposing your unborn baby to toxic chemicals and restricting their intake of valuable nutrients needed for fetal development.

Say “No” to Alcohol
Alcohol is rapidly absorbed in the bloodstream and can cross the placenta to affect the baby. Baby’s liver is not capable of breaking down alcohol, increasing the risk for a miscarriage, preterm labor, and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), an alcohol spectrum disorder that can lead to growth problems, developmental delays, learning disabilities, and deformed facial features.  The research on occasional, light alcohol intake (one to two drinks per week) during pregnancy remains very limited. Though no serious side effects have been reported, it’s always good to play it safe. Alcohol  used for culinary purposes (cooking wine or sherry, shaoxing wine, or rice wine) is relatively safe at this time.

Avoid Raw / Undercooked Fish and Raw Shellfish
It’s advised to avoid all raw seafood products, if possible, due to potential viruses, parasites, and bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. This includes sushi, raw oysters, and all other undercooked seafood or shellfish. There’s some controversy about eating sushi during pregnancy as most Japanese women still eat it during their pregnancy and no adverse side effects have been reported. However, eating any raw food products always poses a risk, and therefore you should be extra cautious during pregnancy.

Avoid High Mercury Fish
Mercury can cause birth defects and the larger the fish (especially the predatory type), the higher mercury levels it contains. If you regularly consume fish with high mercury level, excess mercury will accumulate in your blood stream and cross over to your baby, causing damage to their brain and nervous system. Fish high in mercury include swordfish, tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, king mackerel, and shark. It’s still safe to eat other types of fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, cod, pollack, Atlantic or Pacific mackerel and catfish. Tuna should only be eaten in moderation, about three ounces per week.

Stay Away from Cold Cuts
Deli meats have long been known to be contaminated with a bacteria called Listeria. Listeria has been linked to miscarriage and can cause serious blood poisoning and infection. Since Listeria can cross the placenta, it will threaten the safety of your baby. The bacteria can be killed through heat, so if you still want to eat deli meat during pregnancy, be sure to heat the meat until it’s steaming.

Say “Bye-Bye” to Soft Cheeses
Soft cheeses (especially imported ones) may also contain Listeria because of unpasteurized milk. Unless it’s clearly stated the cheese is made from pasteurized milk, it’s best to avoid it altogether. This includes: Brie, feta, Gorgonzola, Camembert, Chaource, Limburger, and Paglietta.

Be Mindful About Kelp Usage
Kelp is a type of seaweed that’s used in many Asian cultures for soups and stews. It is high in iron and very high in iodine. Routine consumption of kelp during pregnancy can lead to congenital hypothyroidism (a type of thyroid disease) that can contribute to cognitive delays and growth retardation. One to two tablespoons of kelp can contain as much as 1,500-2,000 micrograms (mcg) of iodine. The upper tolerable  limit set by the National Institute of Health is 1,100 mcg for adults. Nori, the most common seaweed wrap used in sushi, or seaweed sheet snacks are safer alternatives (e.g. the sheet snacks only contain about 280-300 mcg of iodine per pack).

Beware of Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Herbs are widely used to make tonics and teas and found in supplement form. The safety of herbal use during pregnancy still largely unknown. American Pregnancy Association has published a list of unsafe and likely unsafe herbs for pregnancy. They include: Rosemary (in medicinal doses), saw palmetto, goldenseal, blue cohosh, black cohosh, dong quai, ephedra, and yohimbe.

Don’t go Overboard with Caffeine
Caffeine has been associated with miscarriage, especially during the first trimester. So coffee and black tea drinkers take note and limit your daily intake to about 200 mg (about one cup). Also, beware of energy drinks and sodas that contain caffeine.