Breastfeeding Nutrition Checklist for an Optimal Nursing Diet

by Julie Snyder

Breastfeeding ChecklistAre you wondering if you should be on a special diet while you're breastfeeding? Do you need to avoid certain foods?

The answer is no. We're talking about a balanced diet loaded with complex carbohydrates, protein and fats. We also suggest eating cutting out sugar and sugary snacks.

Unless your baby has an allergic reaction to certain foods you eat, you can continue to enjoy your family's regular food fare. If you'd like your child to feel comfortable with a varied diet, eat adventurously during your nursing days. Your baby will develop a taste for "gourmet foods" since you share the ethnic flavor combinations via your breast milk.

Your Breastfeeding Nutrition Checklist

You might feel like the items on this list fall in the common sense bucket, each is important to your success. Are they on your list?

✔ Drink plenty of fluids so you stay hydrated. Breastfeeding moms tend to be thirstier, especially during nursing sessions. Keep a water bottle handy by your favorite rocker. The best thirst-quenchers do not have any added sugars. This means you'll want to limit soda and certain sugary fruit drinks.

Do you have to track how many ounces you're drinking? You certainly can if you want to but you can also listen to your body and have a drink whenever you're thirsty. If your urine turns a dark yellow, drink a little more water. If it runs clear, you may be drinking too much water.

✔ "Consume mass quantities." You need more calories now than you did before you were pregnant -- about 400 more a day. Why? You're meeting your own nutritional needs and those of your baby. Each day you'll use those extra calories to provide your newborn with almost a quart of breast milk and nearly 1000 calories.

✔ Have five "meals" a day -- breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and evening snack. Each meal gives you an opportunity to drink water, eat a protein food like lean meat or a low-fat dairy product and a complex carbohydrate like fresh fruit.

✔ Get your nutrients from healthy foods, not supplements. You can get everything you need for energy, recovering from birth and growing a healthy baby. Fill your plate with a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean protein foods. Add a satisfying dab of healthy fats. This variety provides the important nutrients you and your baby require.

In addition to eating a variety of "good-for-you" foods, some women might need a vitamin or mineral supplement. Talk with a nutritionist or your doctor if you're uncertain, if your diet limits your food choices or if you have a medical condition affecting your nutrition.

✔ Limit your daily intake of coffee and caffeinated beverages to two or three cups. Caffeine can affect your supply and also affect the nutritional makeup of breast milk. Women who drink three or more cups of coffee daily during pregnancy and the early postpartum period have 1/3 less iron in their milk compared to moms who don't drink coffee.

Your baby may object if you drink much coffee. Some become unsettled, fussy or even constipated. Other babies might be unaffected. One explanation for these varied responses surfaced. There appears to be a wide range in how much caffeine shows up in a mom's breast milk after a high caffeine drink.

✔ Schedule your alcoholic drinks. The La Leche League points to research that indicates alcohol in small amounts, like one to two drinks per week appears harmless. Are you unwilling to take that risk? The solution is to abstain from imbibing, or to schedule your drinks and your breasts will be set to go. As the alcohol leaves your bloodstream, it also leaves your breast milk. Allow two hours per drink before you nurse your baby.

Do you have an item you'd like to see added to our checklist? Suggest it in the comments!

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.