Diet Tips to Keep in Mind while Breastfeeding
As the experts agree, “breast is best!” Moms who are able to breastfeed and choose to do so for at least the first few months can feel great knowing the are giving their little ones the nutritious gift of “liquid gold” as it’s often referred to. When it comes to diet, there are a number of things for the nursing mom to consider. For one, she can be expected to experience an incredible sense of hunger. Although mom really only needs between 300-500 extra calories per day while nursing, the best advice is to skip calorie counting and simply rely on normal hunger cues.
Two to three additional snacks—nutrient rich snacks to be exact—per day will usually suffice. Besides the benefits for baby, many women choose to breastfeed because it’s believed to promote post-pregnancy weight loss. Although that belief is not a proven fact, some nursing moms restrict their intake of calories while nursing in order to improve their success at losing the baby weight. I cannot stress enough the risk of restricting calories while nursing. Not only does calorie restriction potentially deprive baby of the nutrients he or she depends on mom for, but it can also impair mom’s milk production. This can lead to states of distress for baby and, among other things, can potentially hinder the beautiful bonding experience that comes with nursing. For the mom who is exclusively breastfeeding, there are certain nutrients to keep a close watch on for baby’s benefit (and mom’s too). Remember, mom’s dietary choices and practices largely influence the quality of baby’s nutritional intake.
Three key call-outs from a nutrient standpoint are vitamin D, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA and calcium.
Don't skimp on the D--As mentioned, vitamin D is naturally found in very few foods (namely salmon and egg yolk) and rarely consumed in amounts needed to fulfill one’s demand. Because this vitamin plays such a key role in bone and immune health, it’s too risky to depend on mom’s intake of vitamin D in order to satisfy baby’s requirement of 400 IU per day. Therefore, supplementation is often recommended for mom, baby or both.
Or the DHA! --It is a similar scenario for DHA. DHA, which supports healthy brain and eye development of baby, is found in marine algae and oily fish like salmon and halibut. Typically, mom’s dietary intake of DHA is not enough to pass the recommended amount of 200 mg along to baby through breast milk. This is largely why the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages breastfeeding moms to consume two to three sources of DHA per week or to supplement with 200-300 mg DHA.
Lastly, calcium remains a very important nutrient for mom to ensure through her diet while breastfeeding. Just as mom doesn’t require more calcium during pregnancy, she doesn’t need more while nursing. With that said, calcium tends to be consumed inadequately among women and so it’s worth stressing in order to maintain optimal nutritional status of mom. For any further advice and tips while breastfeeding, be sure to consult your trusted health care professional.
- Meghan Lyons, MS, CredibleCravings Nutritionist and Mom