As a breastfeeding mom, you can’t just think about yourself. When it comes to eating and your overall health, you need to think about the little one who gets all their nutrients from you. That means you need to get the right type of food in your diet on a daily basis.
All your decisions right now will be based on what your baby needs. Don’t worry, though, because this isn’t going to last forever. It’s just going to be until your baby weans from the breast and onto normal food.
Postnatal health and nutrition are very similar to prenatal. The main difference will be the amount that you will need to eat and that many of the foods that were banned during pregnancy are now allowed in your diet.
Here’s all you need to know about your postnatal health and nutrition while you’re breastfeeding.
One Bad Day Doesn’t Mean a Disaster
Having a day where your diet is just chocolate and junk food isn’t going to do you or your baby too much harm. Your breast milk is made up so that a baby can get all the nutrients that your baby will need for the day and longer.
So, why do you need to worry about good nutrition during your pregnancy? Well, while your baby isn’t harmed by temporary changes and lapses in judgment, the issue comes from long-term poor diets. If you drop too many calories or if you continually fail to get certain nutrients or food in certain groups then you run the risk of causing problems.
Your baby will take the nutrients it needs. Your breast milk will make sure it has enough, which means affecting your health. As you become depleted, your strength and stamina drop and your physical needs can’t be met. This can make it difficult to care for your baby both in feeding and in overall health.
Just How Much Do You Need to Eat?
You’ll feel like you’re hungry all the time when it comes to breastfeeding. It’s no lie that this is a draining part of being a mom. Your baby is taking your nutrients and your calories. You have to do so much, and it can feel like you’re in your third trimester all over again. Well, your body is still working hard. It has to create enough milk to sustain your baby.
That means you will need to eat more than you usually would. In most cases, you will need to eat 300-500 calories more a day to be able to sustain your baby. This really isn’t that much extra, and more like the equivalent of beans on toast. It’s the extra you would have eaten during your third trimester of pregnancy.
What you want to focus on is the right type of food, though. It’s not about getting your extra calories from anywhere. The sugar rushes aren’t going to do your body any good, so it’s worth not snacking on the chocolate, cookies, and crisps. You want to focus on the food that is going to give you sustainable energy throughout the day.
It’s worth having smaller meals more routinely throughout the day. Have six rather than three, or at least make sure you get in some healthy snacks between your meals to keep yourself going.
And don’t forget about the hydration! Remember that your body is working harder, which means that it needs more fluid. Mothers who are breastfeeding are more at risk of dehydration because their bodies are doing so much. Don’t consider just drinking water, but also milk and juice. We’ll get more into this later.
Does that mean that you can’t lose weight while you breastfeed? The good news is you can go on a diet, but you need to find one that supports you during your weight loss. There are a few healthy eating plans that will ensure you get enough calories to help keep your nutrients up and your weight down.
What you don’t want to do is lose weight too quickly. You may find that breastfeeding naturally helps you lose some weight anyway. However, other women find that they gain weight because they need the extra calories and their bodies retain weight while feeding. You don’t want to cut down on your calories dramatically but focus on a healthy diet.
What Type of Foods Should You Eat?
To keep your health protected and your calorie counts up, you need to get the perfect diet. Okay, so there’s no perfect food or perfect diet, but there is one that is pretty close to that. Here’s a look at some of the foods that you need to add to your diet.
Oily Fishes Like Salmon
Oily fish is something that you want to get into your diet two or three times a week. It’s full of omega 3, which is crucial for both you and your baby. The omega 3 fatty acids help to boost the brain health and will help with your memory, alertness, and overall brain health.
Let’s then not forget about the DHA—a fat that is found in oil fish, especially in salmon. DHA helps with the development of the nervous system, so your baby needs it as much as possible. The good news is that breast milk already has DHA, but babies that can get higher amounts is extremely beneficial.
There have been studies that show DHA can also help your moods. This is very important while breastfeeding. You’ll get tired, and this can make it easier for postpartum depression to set in. Your mind needs the support to avoid drops in the mood and to support hormone balance.
Do watch for some fishes you eat. Some fishes are high in mercury, which can be damaging to you and the baby.
Get More Dairy in Your System
Dairy is an essential element to get when it comes to breastfeeding. It’s a great source of both vitamin D and calcium, which helps with the development of strong bones and teeth. Both you and your baby will need it.
But dairy isn’t just good for the obvious. It’s also an excellent source of B vitamins, protein, and many other nutrients. It will help with the support of muscle growth and cell repair.
It doesn’t matter if you get the dairy from cheese, dairy, or even milk. There are some beliefs that you should opt for low-fat dairy options, but this isn’t necessarily the case. What you want to consider are the sugar levels in the dairy products and the amount that you consume.
Getting three cups of dairy in your diet every day is recommended by the doctors. If you have a diary allergy, you will not want to add this to your diet. There are other ways to get all the essential nutrients.
Add More Legumes
Legumes are often forgotten about in a normal diet. We tend to eat them more when we have Mexican food or because we just fancy something a little different. However, when it comes to breastfeeding you want to consider adding them more. This is especially the case if you are a vegetarian.
Legumes include kidney and black beans. Peanuts and peas are also sources of legumes, without many people even realizing. This is often why people who are allergic to peanuts aren’t necessarily allergic to other types of nuts.
Not only are legumes full of iron, especially the darker colored options out there, they are also excellent sources of non-animal protein. This doesn’t mean your baby is only supported, but you are too. The iron will help with improving your energy levels, which can help to boost your mood and limit the chances of developing postpartum depression.
Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables, Especially Blueberries and Oranges
This will not be the first or last time you’ve heard that you will need fruit and vegetables as part of your healthy diet. There are two very specific types of fruits you will want to add to your diet during breastfeeding: blueberries and oranges.
Blueberries have excellent sources of various vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants. This help to support your immune system and the nutrients go into your breast milk for your baby. You’ll also get plenty of carbohydrates to offer your body more energy.
Oranges are full of vitamin C, which is something that nursing moms need in extremely large amounts. This is a vitamin that you and your baby can’t develop, so you need to make sure you get plenty of it from your food to share.
The great news is that both of these fruits can be drunk as well as eaten. You can get your fluid intake by drinking more orange juice, or you can turn your blueberries into ice cream to get both your fruit and dairy intake. If you are going to drink the fruit in juice form, look for fortified calcium options to help boost this mineral too.
And then there are the dark leafy greens. Take in more spinach, broccoli, kale, and even Swiss chard. Dark leafy greens are full of most nutrients that you and your baby will need, including vitamin A, iron, and calcium. If you’re a vegetarian or can’t intake dairy, you’ll want to add more of these to your diet than anything else.
Green vegetables are also full of antioxidants while being low in calories. You can turn them into green smoothies, to help you get more of the vegetables throughout your day.
Don’t Forget to Get Your Carbohydrates
Now is definitely not the time to start cutting out certain food groups. There are a few diets out there that will encourage you to take out carbohydrates, but this isn’t right for your breastfeeding diet. Carbohydrates give your body energy, so make sure you get plenty of them.
Focus on carbohydrates that give you more sustained energy, instead of just a quick fix. That means cut out the refined carbs and focus on the fibre-filled options instead. This means wholegrain carbs, including brown rice and wholegrain bread.
The benefit of these foods is that they also have plenty of folic acids. While this is most important at the earlier stages of pregnancy, it is also important during breastfeeding. Folic acid supports the nervous system.
Wholegrain cereal is also excellent for of fibre-filled carbohydrates. Start your day with a bowl of it and some milk to get your calcium intake at the same time. You can also throw in some blueberries for your other vitamins.
Why Is Hydration So Important?
Getting 8 glasses of water a day is important, now more than ever before. Hydration doesn’t just keep your organs healthy, but will also keep your milk production up. You’ll also find your energy levels improve when your body is fully hydrated. The brain has the support that it needs.
You don’t just need to hydrate through the use of water. You can also opt for fruit juices and milk. Do watch some fruit juices that you consume because they are full of sugar. Even natural sugar is bad for you in large amounts. Green smoothies made predominately with vegetables tend to be better for your sugar levels.
What about caffeine? Well, you’ll want to keep the amount you have to a minimum. Unlike eggs and pates, caffeine can still be harmful to the baby through your breast milk, as it causes problems with stimulating the system and keeping your baby awake. This is a liquid and absorbs in your body much faster than food so it will make its way to the breast milk in larger quantities. If you really want tea or coffee, switch to decaf instead.
And as for alcohol, you will want to cut down as much as possible. Go tee-total if you can. It’s unclear just how much alcohol can end up in the breast milk, so it is often better safe than sorry.
Now It’s All Over to You
With the above ingredients, you can create the best possible diet for your breastfeeding baby. Think about the nutrients that you are getting into your diet. This isn’t just about getting the right nutrients to your baby through your breast milk, but supporting your own body too.
Getting plenty of nutrients in your diet will help support your energy levels. This, in turn,helps your mood, so you’re less likely to develop postpartum depression.
You don’t just have to focus on healthy foods. Having the odd bit of refined sugar isn’t going to do you or your baby too much harm, but don’t keep it in your diet in large amounts. It’s all about a healthy and balanced diet, focusing on some healthier options while you’re breastfeeding.