Eating Expectantly: Best for Breastfeeding Diet
Confused about what you should eat while nursing your baby? Don’t worry- we’ve got you covered!
The Best for Breastfeeding Diet contains a range of 2,100 to 2,300 calories and meets the needs of the average breastfeeding woman. (It’s about the same as the Eating Expectantly Second Trimester Diet.) Keep in mind that you may need more or fewer calories.
First let first me say that there is really no need to count calories.
Your calorie needs during breastfeeding can vary a lot and there is much debate among the scientific community about how many extra calories you actually need while breastfeeding.
It depends on:
- How much body fat you accumulated during pregnancy
- The amount of milk you’re making
- Your activity level
For example, you may need just 200 extra calories above your pre-pregnant needs, if you only nurse a few times a day and you’re not very active. However, if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you have very little body fat and you are active, you might need 500 calories more than before you were pregnant.
The bottom line: follow your appetite—eating like you did in the second trimester with 6 small mini-meals a day may be ideal. Your body will definitely tell you when you need more food.
The first weeks with baby are often chaotic, and you may have a hard time getting in sync with your new schedule. In fact, many new moms (including me) have found it difficult to squeeze in a shower. And some women rely on high-fat snack foods to get them through—which can pack on pounds instead of help lose them! So be sure to keep some easy–to-eat-with-one-hand foods, (fruits, vegetables, fruit and nut bars, healthy sandwiches and wraps) and take advantage of all those friends who offered to cook for you.Confused about what to eat while #breastfeeding? Check out our #EatingExpectantly… Click To Tweet
How Much Fluid Do You Need?
For fluid, drink to thirst. However, if the weather is hot or if you are exercising, drink more fluids rather than just relying on your thirst. You’ll know if you aren’t drinking enough if your urine becomes darker than usual (or if you become constipated.) Sometimes it’s easy to ignore thirst if there is nothing close by to drink of if you’re just too busy.
So, it’s a good idea to sit down with a glass of something, preferably filtered water, when you nurse. But other fluids can hydrate you too. More than likely drinking 12 cups (3 liters), including all types of fluids, will meet most women’s needs.
One thing you do need to know about fluid—drinking more will not necessarily increase milk production. Drinking less will not help with engorgement, either.
Other Nutrient Needs
Overall, your nutrient needs on the Best for Breastfeeding Diet are similar to those in the second trimester, with a few exceptions.
You’ll need about 71 grams of protein per day, which is the same as during your pregnancy. Strive to have different types of protein each day from beans, nuts, eggs, seafood, lean beef, poultry, and pork, and low-fat dairy. They all have something good to offer, but when it comes to animal protein, choose the leanest possible and trim visible fat. Make a point to eat fish and seafood–about 12 ounces a week.
It’s one nutrient that changes in your milk according to your diet. Note that it’s the type of fat rather than the amount that’s important. Continue to keep saturated fat to a minimum and avoid trans fats. The fat you packed away during pregnancy is now used to make milk, so your previous diet also affects your milk now. Besides supplying calories, DHA (an omega-3 fat) is the building block of brain and eye tissue, which both continue to grow—a lot—during the first year. Continue to have a source of DHA in your diet, either through cold water fish or from a DHA supplement of 200-300 mg as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Although alpha-linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid found in walnuts and flaxseed) is also important in the diet, a DHA supplement or eating adequate DHA-fortified foods is necessary if you are vegetarian.
About half your calories should come from carbohydrate-rich foods. As during pregnancy, choose smart carbs and eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Vitamins and Minerals
While you need less of some nutrients compared to pregnancy, you need more of these: Vitamin A, C, B6, B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, choline, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc and potassium, which you should be able to obtain through a healthy diet.
|Should You Continue Taking Your Prenatal Vitamin?
While many health care providers advise that breastfeeding moms continue taking their prenatal vitamin, it can also make you constipated due to its high iron content. If you choose to take a multivitamin other than your prenatal, look for one that contains choline.
Unless you had significant blood loss during delivery or you are anemic, your need for iron decreases significantly. In fact, you need less iron now than before you were pregnant because you aren’t having menstrual periods. However, if you had a tendency to be anemic during pregnancy, ask your health care provider about getting your iron status checked postpartum. Iron deficiency anemia is linked to postpartum depression.
You should strive to get adequate vitamin D through exposure to the sun, food or a supplement. However, because vitamin D is so critical to the health of your baby, and the fact that many women are vitamin D deficient, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants who are breastfed (either exclusively or combined with formula), should receive a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D, beginning at hospital discharge.
Many women slack off on calcium-rich foods after delivery. However, calcium is as important—or even more important—while breastfeeding. If you don’t have calcium from your diet (or supplements), it will come from what’s stored in your bones, which can contribute to osteoporosis later. Unfortunately, heavy metals like lead are also stored there, and can be released into the bloodstream too. Research shows that women who breastfeed have a significantly lower risk of hip fracture post-menopause—and the longer a woman breastfed, the lower her risk.
Another “brain” nutrient, it’s found in large amounts in breast milk and also in your baby’s hippocampus—the memory center of the brain. Most women don’t have enough choline in their diet. Eggs and lean beef are rich sources.
New research keeps pouring in on this super-antioxidant! It protects your baby’s eye from damaging blue light and also protects cell membranes (and DHA) found in the retina. Lutein has also been found in the areas of a baby’s brain important for language, hearing and memory. The amount in your breast milk is determined by the lutein in your diet. Best sources are leafy greens like kale and spinach.
It’s a mineral you might not think too much about, but it’s critical for your baby’s brain. Use iodized salt and try to find a multivitamin with iodine. Seafood and milk are also good sources of iodine.
It’s something women often don’t get enough of, and you need more of it now than while you were pregnant to help with growth and development and the immune system. Sources include seafood, lean red meat, poultry, eggs, nuts and beans, yogurt and whole grains.
Between the effects of anesthesia and the hormones of pregnancy, your digestive system may feel a bit sluggish the first week or two after delivery. Don’t forget to eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, a daily probiotic and plenty of water to keep things moving.
Choose Healthier Fast Food!
Need grab-n-go with a side of healthy? Grab our fast food guide to help you navigate the drive-thru!