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Congrats on your new little one! Now that you’re breastfeeding, you may be wondering, what are my dietary needs? Do I need extra calories? Extra fluids? Supplements? Are there any foods I should avoid?
The skinny on calories
It takes a lot of energy to make breast milk. So in the early months of breastfeeding, you need about 330 more calories per day (although this can vary based on physical activity or if you’re nursing multiple babies). But just like when you were pregnant, it’s important to choose nutrient-rich foods that include lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and veggies.
What about vitamins and minerals?
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is responsible for the health of blood and nerve cells and the production of DNA. Since it comes mainly from animal products, you might want to consider fortified foods or a supplement if you’re vegan or vegetarian.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for immune function and calcium absorption. While sun exposure is one of the best ways to get vitamin D, you can add a supplement or fortified foods to your diet if you live where there’s little sunlight.
- Omega 3s and healthy fats: The fat content of breast milk generally stays the same, but the types of fats depend on what you eat. You can find healthy omega 3s in foods like fatty fish, nuts, and seeds. But try to limit unhealthy saturated fats from things such as baked goods and fried foods.
- Iron: Iron is essential for healthy growth and development, and in breast milk, it’s very well absorbed. When your baby starts solids, you can introduce iron-rich foods like fortified baby cereals and meats. But since there are risks to excessive iron supplementation, discuss options with your baby’s doctor.
- Choline: Choline is a brain-building trace mineral found in foods such as egg yolks, broccoli, quinoa, and chicken. Make sure to eat plenty of choline to ensure your baby’s brain health.
Nutrition and milk production
Nutrition and herbs cannot take the place of frequent milk removal. The more you stimulate your breasts by draining them early and often (whether by direct nursing or pumping), the more milk you’ll typically make.
This, combined with eating certain foods, like oats, brewer’s yeast, and nuts/seeds, can help stimulate milk production. But fluid intake doesn’t affect milk supply unless you’re severely dehydrated.
Is my baby reacting to something I’ve eaten?
Unless you see a direct correlation between what you eat and a concerning symptom, diet eliminations are not usually necessary. Symptoms like fussiness or gassiness are quite common in young babies. But symptoms that might call for further investigation include:
- Severe diaper rash
- Blood in the stool or a green, mucousy stool
- Wheezing and other allergy symptoms
Make sure to be careful about:
- Caffeine: Try not to have more than one to two cups of coffee per day, but cut down if you notice unusual fussiness or irritability.
- Alcohol: How much alcohol passes into breast milk and how harmful it is to your baby depends on many factors like your baby’s age and size, how much alcohol you consumed, and the time of your last feeding.
- Fish with high levels of mercury: Heavy metal mercury can pass through breast milk, so it’s important to continue taking the same precautions you did when pregnant.
- Large amounts of peppermint or sage: Large amounts of these herbs can decrease milk supply.
Contact a Foodsmart dietitian to help ensure a healthy postpartum recovery and breastfeeding experience.