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Dinner for two: 6 eating tips for a healthy breastfed baby

The nutrients that babies receive through breast milk should promote their growth and immune systems. So next time you’re at the grocery store, basket-in-hand, take a moment to mull over these six “eating for feeding” ideas.

  1. Resist cutting calories. There’s a time and place for a low-calorie diet, but that time and that place are not now. To produce breast milk at a steady rate, most nursing mothers need to consume at least 500 more calories than the average woman. That adds up to a rough estimate of 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day, though the actual amount varies based on your BMI, and is higher if you exercise regularly.
  2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! During the nursing months, your body needs at least 8 tall glasses of water per day. The best way to maintain proper hydration is to have a drink of water whenever you’re slightly thirsty and to monitor the color of your urine. Clear and plentiful are positive signs: the less yellow, the better. You should also keep an eye on your daily coffee intake, as caffeine increases dehydration. Try to stick with one cup of joe in the morning.
  3. Keep the protein lean and mean. Poultry, lean red meat, and low-mercury fish are your best friends when it comes to maintaining a healthy protein intake. All three of these sustenance sources come packed with iron and other essential nutrients that Baby will thank you for when he is sprinting around the local high school track. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s just as important to keep a balanced diet rich in complete proteins as it was when you were pregnant. Additionally, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about the possibility of going on a B12 supplement, if you haven’t already, since B12 is one of the important nutrients for breastfeeding that many omnivore mothers get mostly from animal proteins.
  4. Stick with healthy fats. Not all fats are created equal. When cooking, try to use only mono- and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, fish oil, or canola oil. You can also find these fats in nuts, seeds, and avocados. Just like any time in your life, it’s important not to get too many saturated fats, and to keep them balanced by unsaturated fats. That balance takes on a whole new importance when you’re feeding Baby as well as yourself.
  5. Be picky with produce. Many of the fruits and vegetables we buy in supermarkets are treated with pesticides and other chemicals that can make their way into your breast milk and, in a high enough concentration, could put Baby at risk for illness or development issues. Try to stick with organic, in-season produce whenever possible. If it’s not strawberry season and you see strawberries on the shelves, there’s a good chance they’ve been treated with something you wouldn’t want him to ingest.
  6. Drink with discretion. The occasional cocktail, glass of wine, or beer won’t hinder your ability to breastfeed Baby, but the important word here is “occasional.” Medical studies have shown that the average baby consumes less milk during nursing sessions for up to 4 hours after his mother has finished an alcoholic beverage. You can find more information about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding here.

Sources
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Breast-feeding nutrition: Tips for moms.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, May 5 2015. Web.
  • “How a healthy diet helps you breastfeed.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
  • “I am breastfeeding my baby and I want to lose weight. Is a low carbohydrate diet safe for a breastfeeding mother?” La Leche League International. La Leche League International, January 9 2016. Web.
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