Breastfeeding Nutrition Guide -- Highlighting Important Nutrients

by Julie Snyder

Breastfeeding Nutrition GuideMoms who breastfeed have a free ticket to eat extra calories every day!

Unfortunately it's not admission to a daily all-you-can-eat buffet.

However, you can treat yourself -- and your baby -- every now and then!

Breastfeeding nutrition means sticking to that checklist of good habits you put into motion during pregnancy or even before you conceived the newest member of your family.

Cash in that ticket for extra calories and get the nutrients you and your baby need. It's easier than you think!

Key Nutrients for Breastfeeding Women

Complex Carbs -- Energy for the Body

According to Linda M. Hanna, IBCLC, program coordinator for Lactation and Prenatal Education at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, complex carbohydrates are among the best food you can eat while breastfeeding. Build these foods into your daily diet:

  • Vegetables such as broccoli, beans, squash and carrots
  • Fruits such as melons, berries, apples and oranges
  • Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and whole grain breads

Proteins -- Building and Repairing Cells

You need about the same amount of protein now as you did when you were pregnant. A basic rule of thumb is to eat one gram of protein for every pound you weigh. Good protein sources for nursing moms include lean meats, low-mercury fish, dried beans and peas, cheese, yogurt, eggs and soy products.

Fats -- Brain Builders

The thought of eating fats might have you imaging increased love handles and tight jeans. Think instead of your baby's growing brain.

Plus, fats keep you and your baby feeling full longer. Fats help you make a good supply of super-fatty and satisfying hind milk that your baby gets at the end of each feeding.

Different fats have different reactions in your body. Certain types are better for you. Monosaturated fats, like those found in olive oil and avocados help keep cholesterol levels in check. Polyunsaturated fats high in omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in vegetable oils and fish affect brain development.

Other Important Nutrients

The nutrients you need to pay special attention now remain pretty much the same as they were during pregnancy, but you may need to take in more. Creating milk requires more energy and more nutrients than growing a baby.

Focus on these important nutrients:

Calcium: The AAP suggests five daily serving of any calcium-rich food. You don't need to drink milk to meet your needs. You find it in non-dairy foods such as salmon, broccoli, sesame seed, tofu and kale.

DHA and EPA: These omega-3 fatty acid help your baby's brain development and vision. You'll find them in fish or fish oil supplements.

Vitamin D is necessary for bone health and your immune system. You can get a good dose spending time in the sun. In the winter or northern elevations, you may need a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin A needs almost double compared to pre-pregnancy. It's found in dark orange or green fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe and spinach...and yes, liver.

Choline helps with memory. It's an essential part of hippocampus development. Good sources include egg yolk, fish, meats and wheat germ.

Vitamin C heals wounds and builds immunity. Fruits and vegetables are good sources, especially citrus, strawberries, kiwi, bell pepper and potatoes.

Potassium helps maintain the right fluid balance in your baby. You'll find it in bananas, plums, beans, fish, tomatoes and almonds.

Chromium helps keep blood sugars level. Beef, poultry, pork, whole grains and cheeses have this important mineral.

Diet Restrictions and Lifestyle Choices

Vegan Diets

If you follow a vegan diet or one that excludes any form of animal protein, you or your baby might not get enough vitamin B12. This can happen if you eat meat, just not much.

Lack of vitamin B12 can cause such symptoms in your baby as loss of appetite, slow motor development, being very tired and others. Your health care provider can suggest ways to ensure you're getting enough of this essential vitamin.

Losing Weight While Breastfeeding

If you're trying to lose weight and nurse, experts suggest that you keep your calorie count above 1800 a day. Eating less doesn't affect the quality of your milk but it can cause your supply to dwindle.

Most moms find that if they eat when they are hungry, but fill their plates with nutritional foods, they'll slowly drop the pregnancy pounds. Tara Gidus, MS, RD says that eating around 2200 calories a day supports your milk supply but can promote a small weight loss, depending on our calorie needs.

Some moms easily lose weight while nursing. Others say that every pound clings as if their body expects a famine next week! What's your experience with weight and breastfeeding?

How do you make sure you get what you need?

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.