Best Breastfeeding Nutrition Guide

by Della H. Harris

breastfeeding nutritionYour favorite foods might lean toward items like chocolate and jalapeño chips, but your body while you're nursing might need a more varied, balanced and natural menu.

Do you need to restrict your diet when you're breastfeeding? Chances are you won't have to change what you're eating. Most babies don't have any problems with what moms eat. The only way to know if what you're eating is affecting your wee one is how they react.

The key is to fill your refrigerator with your favorite healthy foods and eat whenever you're hungry. You can continue this pleasant routine unless you notice an obvious food reaction in your baby or an unhealthy weight gain in your own weight.

How about adding these yummy suggestions to your weekly menu? Try our Thai pork tenderloin with cucumber salad or the spicy southwest stir fry.

You Need to Eat More Calories

Good news! You get to eat more! As a nursing mom, you need an extra 300 to 400 calories than you did before pregnancy to help your body produce milk. Two healthy snacks a day can meet this need. The more active you are and the more milk you produce, the more calories you need to consume.

Many nursing moms have mentioned they lose one to four pounds a month without changing their diets. If you're not among these lucky women, you can still take off those pregnancy pounds while breastfeeding. Tara Gidus, MS, RD suggests that if you're trying to lose weight while nursing that you still eat at least 1800 calories a day. She says that any less and your milk supply could suffer.

Your Healthy Nursing Diet

Your optimal breastfeeding diet looks a lot like your optimal every day diet. It should be full of variety, balanced and opting for as much natural food choices as you're comfortable buying.

These main food groups SHOULD be included in your breastfeeding menu:

  • Fresh vegetables and fruits of all types, either raw or cooked
  • A variety of whole grain products in different forms -- whole, broken kernels and flours
  • Protein foods from animal sources or plant sources
  • Healthy fats, preferably uncooked, cold-pressed vegetable oils.

Your body uses carbohydrates for energy. While you're nursing load up on whole grains, bean, fruits and vegetables. These complex carbs help you get the recommended amount of fiber. You'll really want the fiber if you get our meaning.

Suggested amounts of protein while breastfeeding range from 70 to 110 g per day. A rule of thumb: Get about 20 percent of your calories from protein.4 Good sources of protein include dairy products, eggs, meat, fish, lentils, beans and soybeans. If you're not tolerant of one or more of these sources, it's always smart to consult your healthcare provider or a nutritionist and stay on track.

An optimal breastfeeding diet includes fats. The healthier fats come from vegetable sources. Especially beneficial fats such as olive, avocado, walnuts and flax seed oil provide brain-building Omega 3's.

Other Important Nutrients for the Breastfeeding Mom

DHA and EPA: These omega-3 fatty acids help with heart health, brain development and vision.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D promotes bone health and overall disease resistance. You can supplement your diet with vitamin D3 or you can give your baby drops of vitamin D.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A helps with vision, immunity and cell growth. Get your daily allotment by eating dark orange or green fruits and vegetables or organ meats like liver. Since liver isn't for everyone, we suggest the green fruits and veggies.

Choline assists with hippocampus development, the memory center of the brain. Egg yolks, fish, beef, poultry, pork and wheat germ contain choline.

Vitamin C: Best sources include citrus, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables.