Nutrition During Breastfeeding

Stefanie V. Overby, LPN

Eating well while nursing will ensure that your milk is the best possible quality. You will feel better and you will keep your body from being deprived. You are giving your baby protein, calcium, fats and vitamins by nursing and you need to replace them by eating a good diet. A good diet during nursing is not much different from any good diet. The average calorie intake for a nursing mother is between 2500-2600 calories. This will differ for each individual. Some women will need more calories and others will need fewer calories. It is not a good idea to diet while nursing. You will deprive yourself of the nutrients you need to make quality breast milk. Your body will take what it needs from you to ensure your baby gets what he or she needs. By eating a well-balanced diet you can safely lose one pound a week.

 What should nursing mothers eat?

Nursing mothers need foods from all of the food groups:

  • 6 or more servings of cereals and breads: Unsweetened cereals with iron are good choices.Whole grain bread can help fill you up and give you lots of vitamins and minerals. Other good choices include oatmeal, corn tortillas, corn bread, brown or white rice or whole wheat pancakes.
  • 4-6 servings of vegetables: Good yellow vegetables include carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, and winter squash. Green vegetables include the leafy greens such as spinach, collards, and lettuce. Others are peas, green beans, and broccoli.
  • 2-4 servings of fruit: These include peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, apples and bananas. Some servings can be in the form of juice.
  • 3 servings of healthy protein: Chicken, fish, lean beef, pork or lamb, eggs, cottage cheese or peanut butter. You can also get good protein inexpensively by combining beans and corn or corn meal, rice, and beans, or bread plus peanut butter and milk.
  • 4 servings for calcium-rich foods: Dairy foods are a great source of calcium. A quart of milk a day will give you the calcium you need. For each (8 ounce) serving of milk, you could substitute 1 ½ ounces of cheese or 8 ounces of yogurt. Low fat dairy foods give you the valuable calcium you need without the added fat. Nursing mothers can eat any food they want. Most babies are not bothered by any type of food, even chocolate. Some foods eaten in excess may cause gas or stomach pain in you and your baby. By watching your baby to see how he or she reacts after you have eaten a certain food may help you determine if that food bothers them or not. Most babies have crying and fussy time every day, usually in the evening. It may be easier to determine if a food bothers your baby by eating it at lunch time. See if the baby cries more or becomes fussier that evening. You may need to try eating those foods a couple of times before you know for sure.

Nursing mothers need to avoid nicotine and should use caffeine and alcohol in moderation. Breastfeeding mothers who drink in moderation should avoid breastfeeding during and for 2-3 hours after drinking alcohol. Caffeine is found in coffee, teas and soda. If your baby seems jittery or does not sleep well you can try cutting back on caffeine. Nicotine is passed to your baby through breast milk, so try to quit smoking. Secondhand smoke is very unhealthy for your baby and no one should smoke in the same room as the baby.

You should drink enough liquid so that you have plenty of light colored urine. Large amounts of fluid intake will not increase your milk supply, but nursing your baby frequently will. Try to have something to drink every time you sit down to nurse. You may feel thirsty while you are nursing. This is normal.

By eating well and drinking enough fluids you will feel better and enjoy the time you have with your new baby. Our office supports breastfeeding and will be happy to help with any questions or concerns you may have. We look forward to helping you any way we can.