Baby is here, and you have made the important decision to breastfeed; how wonderful for both baby and you! It is just as important now as when you were pregnant to carefully consider your diet, focusing on gaining maximum nutrition. Your body needs excellent, nutrient-dense foods to recover from birth and to produce highly nutritious food that your baby will be relying on exclusively for her first few months of life.
Your diet should be well rounded, with plenty of fresh, wholesome foods. This is certainly not the time to diet to lose those extra pounds you put on while pregnant. Mothers who breastfeed actually get back to their pre-pregnancy weight faster than those who don’t, so there is no need to even think about cutting calories. You actually need extra calories to produce healthy breast milk, so go ahead and eat. Just be sure you are eating the most nutritious food possible, while making sure to avoid toxins that could be transferred to breast milk.
Calcium Rich Foods
Calcium is all important for providing the raw materials for baby’s rapidly growing bones. Although milk is a great source of calcium, you don’t have to drink milk if you don’t like it. There are plenty of other calcium rich foods. Hard cheeses like Swiss and cheddar are excellent, so are yogurt and kefir. Since many environmental toxins found in breast milk are lipophilic (or fat-loving), opt for organic, low-fat varieties of dairy. If you don’t like dairy, try eating sardines or salmon with the bones in. Wild-caught salmon is available canned and is an excellent source of not only calcium but omega-3 fatty acids. The bones are soft and you can just crush them with a fork before preparing the canned salmon. Broccoli and kale are excellent vegetable sources of calcium.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetable
Start every grocery shopping trip in the produce department, picking as many varied fruits and vegetables as you can. These foods are simply packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. A trip to your local farmers market in season is also an excellent place to find wholesome, locally grown produce. Make the most of your purchases by splurging for organic varieties of the fruits and vegetables found to have the most pesticide residues.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, whole grains are a great source of complex carbohydrates for vitamins and fiber and are also an excellent source of energy. Avoid refined grains, sticking to whole grain products. Be sure to read the ingredients, as many grain products say they are wholegrain but in reality have refined grains as the primary ingredient.
Look for lean meats, dairy and eggs, and fish for your daily protein. Of course meats and fish are great sources of all the essential amino acids the body needs, but vegetarians get adequate protein without eating meat. So, nursing mothers who are also vegetarians just need to be careful about getting all the essential amino acids on a daily basis. Recent studies show that it is not necessary to get them all in one dish as long as you get them throughout the day. Because fish can be a major dietary source of toxic exposure, it’s important to understand which types of fish have the lowest contaminant level and are therefore safest to eat. Not all fish are created equal. For instance, Atlantic farmed salmon has high levels of mercury and PCBs (a class of banned flame retardant chemicals), while wild-caught Alaskan salmon has low levels of mercury. And according to the USDA, Breastfeeding women should opt for canned light tuna over Albacore (white) tuna, which contains more mercury.
You must get adequate liquids to produce milk, and pure water is the absolute best way to get your liquids. If you’re not sure what’s in your tap water, consider having it tested for heavy metals and if necessary, using a water filter to screen out contaminants. Weak green tea, 100 percent fruit juice, milk and even soup provide liquids. Aim for ten, eight-ounce servings per day.
What Not to Eat
As with any diet that focuses on maximizing nutrition, avoiding empty-calorie foods including junk foods, desserts and soft drinks is important at this time. Be careful to minimize processed foods, filled with additives and preservatives. So for your own health and that of your baby, avoid eating processed foods. The best foods are those that you cook at home from fresh ingredients. Think of this as the perfect time to change your family’s eating habits to those that promote maximum health, making this a life-long habit. The health benefits are simply astounding!
- The New Breastfeeding Diet Plan (by Robert Rountree, MD, and Melissa Block, M. Ed)
- The Breastfeeding Book (by Martha Sears, R.N., and William Sears, MD)
- Herbs for Healthy Breast Milk Production
- What’s On My Food? - a searchable database designed to make the public problem of pesticide exposure visible and more understandable.
- EPA Fish Advisory Map – If you’re catching your own fish, you might be putting yourself at risk. This tool helps determine whether locally caught fish is safe to consume.
About the Author
Grace Pamer is known as the love letters lady and is the author of www.RomanticFrugalMom.com. She runs a popular section related to love letters on her blog, a guide to help couples compose love letters for their nearest and dearest.