Breastfeeding is healthy for you and your baby, but mothers must take care of their health while breastfeeding. Nutrition is a key part.
Do Mothers Need More Calories When Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding mothers generally need more calories to meet their nutritional needs while breastfeeding, according to the CDC. How many extra calories needed for an individual breastfeeding woman is impacted by her age, body mass index, activity level and extent of breastfeeding (exclusively breastfeeding vs. a combination of breastfeeding and formula feeding). Typically breastfeeding mothers need 500 more calories than when they were pregnant, said Sherita Needom, RN, lactation specialist at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields.
Is There A Special Diet For Breastfeeding Mothers?
"There isn't any special diet for breastfeeding women. They should eat a healthy diet from all food groups," said Jacinta Langley, RN, IBCLC, lactation specialist at Franciscan Health Lafayette East.
These tips should help breastfeeding mothers learn more about their nutritional health.
Eat a balanced diet
Breastfeeding mothers should be sure to eat a balanced diet. A balanced diet may include lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Eat 2-3 servings of calcium-rich foods daily or consider a calcium supplement like calcium citrate or calcium carbonate.
Also, try to consume fiber-rich foods to prevent postpartum constipation.
"Mom should have a good diet to support herself and her body during breastfeeding," Needom said.
Staying hydrated is particularly important for breastfeeding mothers.
"Breastfeeding women should drink lots of water," Needom said. A minimum 6-10 glasses of noncaffeinated beverages each day is recommended; an easy way to remember this is to drink a glass of water for each time you nurse.
Caffeine and alcohol do not need to be completely eliminated, but any consumed should be in moderation after breastfeeding the baby and then waiting a few hours before feeding again.
"Women don"t have to avoid or cut alcohol or caffeine, it just has to be consumed in moderation," Langley said.
Can I Diet While Breastfeeding?
In the attempt to lose baby weight, women may look for quick diets, or fad diets, to try to help them lose some of the pregnancy pounds.
"They should not be eating under 1800 calories a day, and caloric intake can determine milk supply," she said.
According to La Leche League International, eliminating unhealthy carbs like bread, pasta, sugary snacks, junk food, etc. can be helpful for many mothers because carbs generally cause us to feel hungrier and eat more, reducing or eliminating carbs can decrease our appetite.
Should I Avoid Certain Foods While Breastfeeding?
Many times, women think that they need to cut out spicy foods or avoid certain foods like sushi while breastfeeding, but this is not true.
"Eat a variety of foods that have different tastes, this will give the baby a better palette," Langley said. "Moms should not eat a highly restrictive diet or avoid any particular food or food groups for unnecessary reasons."
Needom stated that no foods are necessarily on an avoid list and that there is a stigma around breastfeeding.
"Women think that they must maintain perfect diets in order to breastfeed and that is not the case," Needom said. "We say eat what you like, drink what you like and do it when you like."
There is a very small percentage of babies who will have true sensitivities or allergies to something in moms' diet.
"If they appear to be showing signs and symptoms of a food allergy, we would encourage a mom to eliminate the particular food we think is the culprit for 14-21 days, work with their pediatrician and a lactation consultant, and see if there is improvement," Langley said.
By Ariel Anderson
Social Media Specialist