Nine months of waiting for your beautiful baby to arrive and finally, your bundle of joy is here!
You couldn’t be happier, more excited or more exhausted.
If you’ve chosen to breastfeed, you’ve also probably never been more hungry.
Just like you were ‘eating for two’ while pregnant, your food and beverage choices while breastfeeding will continue to impact your child.
While many experts agree there are no strict rules about foods to avoid while breastfeeding, there are useful nutrition guidelines and tips that can help keep mom and baby healthy.
It’s not your imagination. You do need more calories.
First, there is delivery. Then, there is hunger. In your new role as a milk-making machine, your body will be craving more calories and more hydration.
While you may be tempted to cut back on calories to achieve your pre-baby body, this is not the time to be skipping meals or skimping on portions.
A healthy, well-balanced diet has never been more important for your recovering body and milk production.
The best gift you can give yourself and your baby is to make sure your tank is not running on empty.
Breastfeeding moms need an extra 450 to 500 calories per day to stay well-nourished, as well as extra water to keep thirst quenched.
Aim to incorporate extra calories through your meals and snacks each day.
Drink a glass of water during or after each feeding to keep up your hydration.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Choose My Plate website is a great resource for planning your meals and making healthy and diverse choices.
This will aid you to fulfil your vitamin, mineral and calorie requirements.
Did you know breastfeeding can also impact your bones?
Your calcium needs increased while you were pregnant, and continue to be greater while breastfeeding.
Studies show that women can actually lose up to 5 per cent of their bone mass during breastfeeding.
This can lead to the development of osteoporosis.
While balancing your diet, aim to consume 1,000 mg of calcium a day.
This should come from low-fat dairy products such as milk and cheese, and non-dairy sources like almonds, green leafy vegetables and even sardines.
Are there specific foods to avoid while breastfeeding?
La Leche League International says unless moms have a known allergy, no foods are really off limits while breastfeeding.
This means, breastfeeding women can continue to eat foods they enjoy, including peanuts and honey, which may be problematic for young children, but are considered safe for mom.
Different foods may impact the taste of your breastmilk, however, but the baby has likely sampled these flavors in the womb through the amniotic fluid already.
It is known that mercury, caffeine and alcohol will pass into a mother’s milk and may cause irritability, fussiness or more severe symptoms in infants.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to limit consumption of seafood to 8 to 12 ounces per week, from choices lower in mercury.
Caffeine is best consumed in moderation, under 300 mg per day, and alcohol should be consumed sparingly, not more than 1 standard drink per day.
Could certain foods still be contributing to reflux or gas in my baby?
Reflux, the rise of acidic stomach contents into the esophagus, can cause extreme discomfort and even delay growth in affected infants.
Experts will typically advise lifestyle strategies related to positioning during and after a feeding to provide baby relief from reflux, with medications and surgery options reserved only for very serious complex cases.
Most reflux and gas issues in infants are most likely related to immature digestive systems than mom’s personal food choices, but some babies may be more sensitive than others.
Foods will enter your breast milk within two hours of consuming them, so it may take some trial and error to determine if something you ate is truly bothering your baby.
Potential foods to avoid while breastfeeding a baby with reflux or gas include dairy, grains and nuts, spicy foods and gas-inducing choices like cabbage, green peppers, broccoli and onions.
It’s important to find out what works best for you and your baby. If you suspect a food is causing problems, try eliminating it for a short time while monitoring baby’s behavior.
Of course, please speak to your doctor for advice, especially if baby is failing to gain weight and thrive, or you plan to fully eliminate a food group from your diet.
You may like: Hands Down the Best Online Breastfeeding Class Ever!
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While feeding your gut, trust it, too
Mother’s intuition is a special gift, always with you from the moment you knew you were pregnant.
When in doubt, always trust your gut – no one is more in tune with your baby, than you. Kudos to you for making the choice to breastfeed on your parenting journey.
Whatever you choose to fill your plate, take care to nourish your body and soul during these precious early days.
Breastfeeding is not easy, but the benefits are worth the struggle. Cheers to you, mom, for providing this lifelong nutritional gift to your child.