Part I: Best Diet for Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is no joke. It’s hard work! There are many things to consider, an obvious aspect being your diet. The following are a few dietary tips that have been helpful and, especially, not overwhelming to follow. In part II, I will talk about specific foods/herbs that help produce more milk.

1) Make sure YOU are following a healthy, balanced diet for YOU.

Rest assured, your baby will probably be getting the best of what you are eating regardless of your momentary dietary lapses, but if you are not eating enough nutritious calories or eating junk food all the time, your body may pull on your reserves and eventually become depleted.

2) Listen to hunger cues.

Most women who are breastfeeding need about 300-500 more calories daily than moms who are feeding formula.. Counting calories is not the solution. Instead, listen to your hunger cues and eat balanced, whole-food meals rather than nutritionally void foods. If you feel you are eating too much, reduce portion size and have smaller, more frequent meals.

3) Drink enough liquids - especially (you guessed it) water!

A good rule of thumb is to drink about half your weight in pounds in ounces. Meaning, if you weigh 155 pounds, drink 77.7 ounces per day, which translates to almost 10 cups per day (1 cup = 8 ounces).

4) A word on caffeine.

A daily cup or two of coffee is fine, but too much caffeine can interfere with your baby’s sleep or make him/her fussy, cranky, or irritated – making for an unhappy and exhausted mom. Caffeine is harder for babies to break down and therefore lingers in their system for longer. Caffeine is also found in sodas, chocolate, teas, energy drinks, and over-the-counter medicines. Keep caffeine intake to 300mg or less.

5) Limit alcohol.

One drink a day is probably okay for breastfeeding, but no more than that.

6) Rest & relax.

As much as feasible, considering you need to breastfeed every 2-3 hours! Rest and relaxation supports breast milk production.

7) Nurse frequently.

Breastfeeding is definitely a case of “the less you use it, the more you lose it.” Nursing frequently will aid the production of milk through stimulation of the adequate hormones. So, get to it!

8) Do not avoid foods altogether if you don’t need to.

Avoiding certain food groups can cause nutritional imbalances i.e. avoiding dairy leads to calcium deficiency. If you are thinking of limiting your diet in this way, speak to a dietitian or health professional. In the meantime, a few things to keep in mind:  

  • All babies are different. Even though there are generalities on what babies can tolerate, not all babies react the same way. Therefore, observation is key. If you notice that a food causes discomfort, it’s important to 1) avoid and 2) find an adequate nutritional replacement. Some foods to keep an eye out:

- Chocolate (caffeine, remember?); Spices (garlic, curry, chili pepper); Citrus fruits and their juices, like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit; Gas-producing veggies (onion, cabbage, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, Brussels sprouts) or legumes (beans, lentils); Foods that can cause a laxative effect like prunes, figs, pineapple, raspberries, blackberries; Peppermint tea; Parsley; Alcohol

  • Check your family history for allergies and/or top allergens. The “Big 8” food allergies are a good place to start. Look at peanut, tree nuts, milk (especially cow), egg (egg whites), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Again, observation is key.
  • Stay clear of added contaminants. Pesticides, insecticides, mercury, artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals are not good for you or the baby. Make sure to: 

- Choose produce from the Clean 15 list and/or purchase organic local, and/or seasonal produce when choosing from the Dirty Dozen list, which has the highest amount of pesticide residue.

- Eat from glass not plastic containers.

- Choose fish low in mercury and stay within 12 ounces of quality fish a week.  The Monterrey Bay Aquariums Consumer Guide is an awesome tool to help you pick the best fish choice.

- Choose lean meats and/or remove the skin since chemicals are stored in the fat.

Stay tuned for part II!

(Pictured: Theo at 2 weeks old.)