What are the best foods to eat when breastfeeding?
If you’re wondering what to eat when breastfeeding, a fair guideline is anything fresh and unprocessed. MyPlate Daily Checklist (formerly Daily Food Plan) created by the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, United States Department of Agriculture (January 2016) recommends the following quantities of the 5 main food groups to eat during breastfeeding:
Increased fluids intake
While you are breastfeeding, your need for fluids also increases. You may feel thirstier than before. Drink enough water and other fluids to quench your thirst. It is suggested to drink a glass of water or other beverage every time you breastfeed. Some beverages, such as soft drinks and fruit drinks, contain added sugars, and hence should be limited.
Creating a nutrition plan for breastfeeding
Creating your own breastfeeding diet plan is possible, but is understandably daunting for many new moms. If you need a little help, ask your doctor or dietitian to assist you in developing a plan that is specifically designed for your needs.
Important nutrients for breastfeeding moms
It is often more helpful to focus on what you can and should eat for health, rather than what you’re better off avoiding. Some of the important nutrients you should be consuming include:
B group Vitamins: The body has a limited capacity to store more B-group vitamins. That is why it is important to eat a range of foods that contain them such as leafy greens, whole grains, dairy products, poultry, and seafoods.
Protein: This can be found in meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Iron: Get your iron intake up with red meat, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Calcium: A low calcium intake will not affect the concentration of calcium in milk you produce, but its effect on your long-term bone density is uncertain. The dairy food group including milk, cheese, and yoghurt are great sources of calcium, as well as green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin D: Levels can deplete post-pregnancy. The best source of Vitamin D is spending some time in the sun, but if you can’t get outside you can also top up on foods such as salmon, rainbow trout, milk and fruit or vegetable juices.
Folic acid: Known for its benefits during pregnancy, folic acid is still important post-birth and is found in beans and peas, oranges and orange juice, and dark-green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and mustard greens.
We understand that moms can be tired and busy and with a new baby to take care of, there isn’t always time to keep up with your dietary requirements. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and exhausted in the first few weeks, and a breastmilk supplement, in addition to your healthy diet, may help.
What Foods to avoid when breastfeeding
Remember: what you eat and drink can be passed on to your baby via your breast milk. While some of the rules regarding nutrition are stricter during pregnancy, you will still find some advices to guide you while breastfeeding.
What not to eat and drink when breastfeeding:
- Caffeine: Try to limit or reduce your daily intake (up to 2 to 3 cups a day) of coffee or other caffeinated beverages. If taken too much, caffeine cancause the baby to be fussy or not sleep well.
- Alcohol: Refrain from consuming alcohol althroughout the breastfeeding period.
- Predatory fish with high mercury levels: Limit your intake of fish with high mercury content like shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel.
- Large amounts of processed foods: Limit packaged, canned, and processed foods available in the supermarket, restaurant foods, and fast foods which tend to have larger amounts of sodium and sugars.- Red
- Swollen, or Hot breasts
- Flu-like symptoms such as fever and headaches.
It’s important that you continue to feed your baby from this breast, even if it is painful, as this is the best way to cure mastitis. A visit to your doctor is recommended, especially if mastitis has not cleared after a couple of days.
Foods that your baby may not like
Many of the foods you ate when pregnant will be familiar to your baby when they breastfeed, so they shouldn’t be a problem. However, some women report that babies can be fussy about or react negatively to certain foods, including:
- Strong spices such as pepper, chili, and garlic
- Fruits known to have a laxative effect, such as prunes, dates, or cherries
- Chocolate, mostly due to caffeine content
- Sugary soft drinks, as these can sometimes contain caffeine
- Citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, and oranges
- Broccoli, as well as other gassy vegetables, such as cabbage and cauliflower
A healthy diet that is rich in vegetables, grain and cereals is highly recommended if you are breastfeeding – both for your own health, and your baby’s growth and development.
However, the reality is that pregnancy can leave new moms deficient in nutrients. The second reality is that with a new baby at home it can be very difficult to always be on track with diet – being healthy can take more time and planning than you realise!
Do you want to see more breastfeeding tips?
See how you many manage your lifestyle as a new mom with a breastfeeding baby on our breastfeeding advice page. You can also prepare yourself for the breastfeeding journey with our handy checklist.