Breastfeeding and Your Diet...How Do You Get Your Daily Nutrient Requirements?

As always, a healthy diet is important, but it is especially important for breastfeeding moms. Breastfeeding uses a lot of energy and nutrients. Try to eat regularly throughout the day and include a wide variety of healthy food choices. Your diet should consist of lots of protein, calcium, iron and vitamins so that your body receives the nutrients it needs during the nursing phase. Your body needs these nutrients to produce breast milk, not to mention they are good for your own health as well!

Breastfeeding burns up a lot of energy. Some of the energy will come from the fat you obtained during pregnancy; however, most women will need to eat extra snacks to meet their energy needs.

A steady weight loss back to your previous weight should be the goal, not a rapid weight loss plan. Use your appetite and weight to work out your energy needs. >Snack suggestions: Healthy snacks for nutrients and energy would include things like sandwiches, raisin toast, milk drinks, cereal with milk, fruit, yogurt, nuts and seeds, avocado, cheese, and veggies.

Fluid: Most women feel very thirsty during breastfeeding, a strong indicator that you should be drinking plenty of liquids, preferably water, taking in around 2-1/2 liters/day.

Protein: Breast milk contains a lot of protein. Because of this, breastfeeding moms should include extra protein in their diets. Extra protein sources could include fish, chicken, and meats; eggs; yogurt and cheese; seeds and nuts; and, legumes (baked beans, lentils, and peas).

Calcium: Breastfeeding moms need approximately four servings of calcium-rich foods each day to protect their bone strength. Calcium is another major ingredient in breast milk. The best sources for calcium are dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. If choosing a soy milk fortified with calcium, make sure it includes at least 120 mg calcium/100 ml soy milk. If your diet does not contain plenty of calcium, your body will use calcium from your bones to meet your increased needs. This may weaken your bones and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.

Iron: Pregnancy depletes your body's stored up iron. During breastfeeding, you need to rebuild your iron levels by eating foods rich in iron such as beef, fish, chicken, legumes, dried fruits, nuts, cereals, wholegrain breads, and leafy green veggies.

Breastfeeding also increases your need for folate and vitamins: Folate - Eat lots of leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts. Vitamin C - Oranges, grapefruit,, strawberries, blueberries, melons, pineapple, papaya, mango, tomatoes, and potatoes. Vitamin A - Spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, squash, broccoli, carrots and pumpkin.

For those that continue to struggle with extra weight after several months, try these tips for losing additional pounds:
- Grill, steam, or bake lean meats, fish, and poultry.
- Eat a minimum of five servings of vegetables per day.
- Eat at least two servings of fruit per day.
- Choose low-fat dairy products.
- Use butter and margarine sparingly.
- Avoid foods high in fat such as chips, rich desserts, fried foods, fast food, etc.
- Reduce your intake of sugar by limiting soft drinks, fruit juices, candy bars, cakes, cookies, and other sweets.
- Exercise: Take the baby for a stroll around the block on a nice afternoon, building up to 30 minutes a day.
- Enjoy healthy snacks to meet your energy needs (celery, carrots, fruits).

Foods to avoid: There is little evidence that certain foods upset baby's tummy or gives them diarrhea or causes colic. Caffeine may pass into breast milk, so large amounts of caffeinated beverages are discouraged. Drinking moderate amounts, say four or less per day, should be okay.

Vegetarian mothers: A vegetarian diet can meet the nutritional needs of a breastfeeding mother as long as it includes a variety of foods such as: Legumes; milk, cheese, eggs, and yogurt; wholegrain breads and cereals; fruits; and, of course, a wide variety of vegetables.

Longing to get back into your "normal" clothes again? It is true that breastfeeding burns up a lot of calories but it can take several months to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight, so just be patient and remember to eat healthy! Check with your doctor or dietitian to be sure your diet contains the right amount of calories and nutrients, especially important for those that follow a vegan diet. Going on a "strict diet" and/or skipping meals is definitely not recommended because you and baby both will miss out on vital nutrients.


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