Breastfeeding: Maintaining a Nutritious Diet

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January 9, 2018


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A breastfeeding diet is much the same as during pregnancy, with a few differences. It’s important to have a variety of foods to make sure that your baby is getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow. A well-rounded diet that includes nutrient-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins, supplies the building blocks needed for good milk production. A good diet also helps to replace and build up any “supplies” that may be depleted.


(Video: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Natalie Castro, chief wellness dietitian at Baptist Health South Florida, who offers tips on how to maintain a healthy diet while breastfeeding. Video by Dylan Kyle.)

How Much to Eat

Now is not the time to count calories. Your stomach will tell you when, and how much, you should eat. Most women who are breastfeeding need about 500 calories more than moms who aren’t – that’s a total of 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day, according to BabyCenter. For reference: 500 calories could be a homemade sandwich or two extra snack choices throughout the day.

Stay Hydrated

It’s recommended that a person drink about eight glasses of eight ounces of water of per day. A person’s activity level, age and medical needs can increase that amount.  While breastfeeding that number will definitely increase. “A good guideline to follow is drink to satisfy thirst – that is, drink whenever you feel the need. If your urine is clear or light yellow, it’s a good sign that you’re well hydrated,” according to BabyCenter. Keep in mind, water should always be your beverage of choice.

Replace Calcium

While you don’t need to drink milk to make milk, it’s really important to get the necessary amount of calcium. Breastfeeding depletes the body of calcium. Mothers lose three to five percent of their bone density while breastfeeding. Mothers ages 18 to 50, should raise their intake of calcium to 1,000 milligrams per day for, and 1,300 for teenage mothers, according to HealthyChildren.org. One eight-ounce glass of milk has 299 mg of calcium. One serving of yogurt has 416 mg of calcium. If you are allergic to dairy products, reach for foods like tofu (308 mg), sardines (325 mg), dark leafy greens such as spinach (1 cup cooked = 244 mg), or almonds (1 oz = 75 mg).  Also, look for food items that are calcium-fortified, such as 100 percent orange juice, breakfast cereals or almond milk. (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database.)

Load Up On Protein

While breastfeeding, you should have a variety of protein -irich foods with all your meals, such as beans, nuts, eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, lean beef and dairy products.

“The recommended increment in protein intake during lactation has been estimated to be about 15 grams/day, based on a milk protein concentration of 11 grams/liter,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine Medical Institutes of Health. One egg has about 10 grams of protein; 1 oz of nuts has about 7 grams of protein.

Avoid Excessive Caffeine

While small amounts of caffeine is OK, avoid excessive amounts, especially at night. Caffeine levels vary significantly from one coffee house to the next, so it is difficult to track exactly how much caffeine you are taking in.  Also, consider the size of the cup you are using for drinking coffee.  Most experts agree that no more than 300 milligrams per day, or the amount in about 16 ounces of brewed coffee, is fine for nursing moms. According to Starbucks, their tall (12 oz) cup of regular brewed coffee has 270 mg of caffeine.

Weight-loss After Pregnancy

Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mother and baby. One of those benefits is that milk production will increase the calories that are burned by the body. It also helps to release the hormone oxytocin, which helps the uterus get back to shape. Most women experience weight-loss during breastfeeding.  Most  lose half of their baby weight by about six weeks after childbirth.

Taste Transmits

The tastes of foods you eat can transmit through breast milk. Knowing this, you can start to introduce flavors to your baby so that they are more likely to accept these foods when they start eating solids. This is another reason why mothers should eat a diet with a good variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins. Keep in mind that making poor food choices can also transmit to the baby. For example, if the mother eats fried or fatty foods or foods that are spicy, this can cause indigestion not only in the mother but also in the baby. Some babies develop colic, acid reflux or diarrhea as well.

The bottom line is to eat healthy and vary your diet to make sure that your baby gets all the nutrients he or she needs to grow.

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