What to Eat -- and Avoid -- When You're Breastfeeding

mom and baby eating

When you're nursing, your focus is understandably on your baby: Is she eating enough? Is she eating well? But don't forget: YOU'RE an integral part of that equation. It's necessary -- not selfish -- that you pay attention to what you're eating, too.


"Breastfeeding is important for mom's health and her baby," says Nishath Athar Ali, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN and assistant professor of gynecology and general obstetrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. "Having good nutrition will help support an adequate milk supply."

Your food choices provide your baby with just the right amount of fat, nutrients, and protein they need for their development. And it helps you have a quicker postpartum recovery and lose your baby weight faster.

If those aren't awesome incentives, we really don't know what are.

Moms need about 500 extra calories a day while breastfeeding, so where should those calories come from?

Dr. Ali prefers not to give patients an exact list. "I feel we should make it as easy as possible to breastfeed," she explains. "Generally, a healthy, well-balanced diet is what is required, with an emphasis on an assortment of vegetables and lean meats."

Shoot for three servings of veggies per day, including both dark green and yellow offerings. Think: spinach, kale, and the world's most underrated veggie as far as we're concerned: spaghetti squash.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests nursing moms aim for two to three servings per day of low-fat cuts of meat or skinless poultry. The protein you're getting will help your body stay strong. And Lord knows you need to at this point in time.

"Choose fish and seafood two to three times a week," advises Dr. Ali, "although not high-mercury ones like shark, swordfish, and king mackerel." Fatty fish -- think salmon, tuna and mackeral -- provide brain-building DHA and are passed to baby through breast milk.

Vegetarian? Eggs are tiny powerhouses of protein.

Vegan? Think beans. Pistachios. Or almonds. Peanut butter works, too, but make sure you keep a super-close eye on your little one in case he or she has an allergic reaction.

More from CafeMom: 8 Yummy Lactation Recipes for Breastfeeding Moms (PHOTOS)

Also important: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! You're making extra fluid, after all.

"Use the color of your urine as a guide," Dr. Ali says. "Darker yellow means you need more hydration."

And by that we mean H2O -- not, like, soda, or a venti double vanilla latte, although you might be craving one.

You'll want to limit caffeinated beverages to one a day and either play it safe and avoid alcohol altogether (probably the best plan) or "wait at least two hours after a drink before you breastfeed," says Dr. Ali.

You also can -- and probably should -- continue taking your prenatal vitamins, Dr. Ali suggests, so you get that extra boost of nutrients.

Since women lose between 3–5 percent of their bone mass while breastfeeding, calcium and vitamin D are important. Iron will help keep your energy up and folic aid ensures your kiddo's healthy development.

But don't worry about memorizing all this. It's okay to relax and just enjoy bonding with your baby.

"Breastfeeding is a natural process," says Dr. Ali. "Your body will make the best nutrition for your baby with any well-balanced diet. There's no strict diet so eat what you enjoy."

Unless, of course, you only want Bugles and chocolate Yoo-hoo, because, uh, no.



Image via wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

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