The good news about breastfeeding is that you don’t have to eat specific foods to make high quality breast milk for your baby. Mothers from all over the world, eating many different diets, have all been nursing successfully for thousands of years. However, a healthy, balanced diet will increase the quality of your breast milk and will help you as well. Nutritious foods help you to heal from childbirth and give you more energy to meet the needs of your growing baby. Most doctors recommend that a nursing mom eat about 250 to 500 extra calories a day. That doesn’t mean eating a bag of MnMs or some Twinkies. Here are some things to think about when planning what you will eat.
Your body needs plenty of fluids to produce breast milk; 8-10 cups a day. Water is great, but juice, milk (or milk substitutes like soymilk or rice milk), herbal teas, and broths or soups will also fill the bill. Of course you will want to limit alcohol, sugar-filled, and caffeinated beverages. One way to make sure you are getting enough fluids is to drink a glass of water, juice, or tea with each feeding.
That means plenty of veggies, fruits and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients for you and baby. Try especially to eat some dark green leafy vegetables like spinach or kale every day. Fruits are not only a great snack, but can give you a nice energy boost as well. When choosing grains, go for whole grains over processed foods – brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice, whole wheat breads and pastas, and old fashioned oatmeal are all good choices.
Get Your Protein
Aim for two or three servings of protein a day. A serving is 3 to 4 ounces of meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, tofu, nuts, cheese, yogurt or milk. Fish is a great choice, but limit your consumption due to high mercury content.
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Fats are Important Too
Your body needs fats to make the fatty hind milk that baby gets toward the end of a feeding. Vegetable oils, Avocadoes, nuts, and even dairy products are good sources of fats. Stay away from trans-fats found in margarine and many store-bought snacks and baked goods.
When Possible, Go Organic
Organic foods have more nutrients and of course are free of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Organic food is generally more expensive than nonorganic, but even if you only buy some organic foods, you are helping yourself and baby. One way to start is to be sure and always purchase the “dirty dozen” organically. These are the top twelve types of produce most susceptible to pesticides. The dirty dozen are: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.
Vitamins and Minerals
While breastfeeding you need to get enough vitamins and minerals. Especially important are Calcium, Vitamin D, Folic Acid and Iron. Although you can get many of these nutrients from the foods you eat, it is hard to know if you are getting enough of each nutrient every day. Taking a supplement made especially for nursing moms is a great way to make sure you are coving all your bases.