When you’re breastfeeding an infant, the quality of what foods you take in matter.
Your baby is born, all is well with you and them, and your next thought is: get me a cocktail! Can you relate? Perhaps it wasn’t a cocktail. Maybe you’ve been craving sushi, or you’ve been jonesing to return to your five cups of coffee a day habit.
Whatever edible vice you’ve got, you might have to wait a little longer to indulge it, if you’re breastfeeding or pumping.
What is the number one item you should take in while breastfeeding?
Water. Yes, plain old H2O. The average adult doesn’t drink nearly enough water on a daily basis to remain hydrated, and given that we are 60% water, you really need to top up the reserves regularly.
So while its recommended that the average person drink 64 ounces of water a day (or eight 8 ounce glasses), new moms who are breastfeeding should add another 32 ounces to that, to make it about 100 ounces a day.
You can get dehydrated because of breastfeeding and while your milk and milk supply will likely be fine, you won’t be. Dehydration can exacerbate some of the issues you are already facing, as a new mom: irritability, fatigue, depression, inability to focus, constipation and so on.
What foods should you eat while breastfeeding?
While you can—and should—eat a wide variety of foods while breastfeeding, remember that quality matters. If you aren’t getting the nutrients that your body needs, your milk won’t be seriously affected because your body will look to your personal reserves to get what it needs that it isn’t getting from your diet. However, you will be draining your body of essential nutrients and if you’re not replacing them, you might feel some serious side effects.
In addition, the body doesn’t produce most vitamins and minerals but instead looks to foods ingested to get them. If you’re not getting enough iron, calcium, potassium, Vitamin A, B, C and D, you can’t keep up your energy and overall wellbeing and recovery.
6 superfoods to add to your diet while breastfeeding:
Salmon — Omega 3 fatty acids are another nutrient that you can’t produce naturally, so you have to get it from external sources and salmon is a great option. It also contains DHA, which is essential for baby’s nervous system development. While mercury levels in some fish are high, salmon is typically not considered to have a lot, so you should be good eating it once a week. Herring, tilapia and trout are also good options.
Beef — In addition to the major protein boost that you will need when you are breastfeeding, a lean cut of beef provides quite a bit of the iron and B12 vitamins that you need too. Iron from animal products is better absorbed than what you can get from vegetables or legumes, so a regular lean steak is definitely a good choice.
Blueberries — High in antioxidants, with fiber and good carbs too, these are a superfood that you can put on your ‘must eat’ list while you breastfeed. They have the advantage of being very tasty, easy to take ‘on the go’ and make an excellent low fat dairy smoothie in the mornings too! If blueberries aren’t your favorite, bananas, melons, apricots and oranges are also great choices.
Eggs — Proteins, as noted before, are essential and eggs are a great way to get a healthy amount of it. They are also super versatile and easy to prepare, making them a good choice when you’re busy tending to the your new baby.
Leafy vegetables — High in calcium, vitamins A and C, as well as iron, green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, swiss chard and broccoli are an essential element to your postpartum diet.
Brown rice — While breastfeeding, you need enough carbs to produce energy so that you can keep up with the demands of a newborn. The key is to get them in a positive way: through complex carbs, rather than simple carbs. A simple carb is anything that contains a refined sugar (white sugar, such as in soft drinks or syrups). A complex carb is digested differently and gives you the glucose energy your body needs but in a more time-released format, with a sugar rush. Quinoa is another good choice as you get fiber and a protein punch too!
What foods should you avoid while breastfeeding?
Unlike foods that would go through the placenta to the baby, in utero, there is less risk of affecting a baby through breast milk. In fact, many health practitioners suggest eating a wide range of foods, including spicy ones, if that’s what you enjoy as baby will get a small taste of those same foods through your milk, which might make the introduction to solid foods easier, down the road.
However, if you notice that after you eat a spicy meal, your baby is prone to diaper rash or loose stools, they might be affected by the spice and you should limit your intake for a while longer.
There are a few foods that you should avoid or limit, in the interest of playing it safe.
The obvious ones are:
- Alcohol — if you do have a drink, try and time it so that you aren’t nursing again for at least two hours.
- Excessive caffeine — while baby only gets a very small amount of caffeine through your milk, it can affect them if you have a lot of it in your system, so just try and keep the number of cups down for a while longer.
- Refined sugars (soft drinks, or processed foods with added sugars)
- High fat, high sodium processed foods or ‘fast foods’
But here are a few that you might not have considered:
- Chocolate — some mothers report that, after they have eaten chocolate, their babies get runny stools. It’s not always the case but remember too that chocolate also contains caffeine.
- Parsley — this herb can impact your milk supply, though no one is quite sure why. Most of the evidence for this is anecdotal, but better safe than sorry! Peppermint is another herb that can limit milk supply.
- Gas inducing foods — interestingly, foods that might make you gassy can also make a child a little more prone to gas and colic. Like what? Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and beans.
How can you get a well rounded diet when you’re not even getting a lot of sleep?
It can seem like a huge task, but here are some ways to make it a little bit easier, particularly during those first weeks and months:
- Batch cook and freeze meals, when you can. If you can do it once a week, with the help of family, friends or a postpartum doula or home care worker, you can be ahead of the game.
- Get a lot of goodness into a low fat yogurt smoothie in the morning: it will pack a punch to start your day off right, and you’ll get a lot of your daily requirements in this first meal.
- Keep nuts, seeds, cheese (pre-cut) and fruits and veggies (pre-cut) handy so that you can snack without reaching for cookies or donuts. Many mothers find themselves getting hungry as they nurse, so if you keep a snack at arms reach, you can cut that hunger down.
- Meal services where the ingredients arrive at your door and just require you to put them together are a great option at this time.
Getting baby fed and keeping baby happy is really a team effort. If you need a larger team, a postpartum doula could be just the ticket. They are available to help with what you need to get done, so that you can care for your baby calmly and with a dose of experience standing by your side.