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Nursing and Proper Nutrition: What You Need To Know

If you’re nursing your baby, you might worry about whether you’re eating enough and the right types of food. Here’s what you need to know to keep you and your baby nourished during this important time.

Extra Calories

It’s common to want to lose weight after delivering your baby, but the months after giving birth are not the time to try to drop pounds. You are still eating for two if you’re breastfeeding, and it’s your food that supplies all the baby’s nutrition. And if you cut calories too much, your milk supply will dry up.

A rough guideline suggests that you should eat an additional 500 calories a day while nursing. This doesn’t mean you need to count calories. Your appetite will typically guide you to eat enough. Try to keep healthy snacks on hand.

Quality of Nutrition

Consuming the appropriate nutrients – and not empty calories – is essential. This looks like:

  • At least three portions of fruits and vegetables each day
  • Lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey and salmon
  • Whole grains at every meal
  • Healthy fats that contain omega 3 and omega 6

Enough Hydration

You should drink 8 to 16 cups of fluid a day. Every day that you nurse, you’re losing 25 ounces of water in breast milk. You need to stay properly hydrated to ensure the production of breast milk.

Consider Supplements

To give your baby the best nutrition, consider taking supplements to offset any deficiencies in your diet and help your baby grow.

  • 1,000 to 1500 mg of calcium each day
  • 9 mg of iron a day. This is roughly the amount in most prenatal vitamins, so you can get the recommended amount by continuing to take your prenatal vitamins. However, if your doctor has found during your pregnancy that you are anemic, you’ll need a greater amount, determined by your doctor.

Alcohol and Caffeine

You don’t have to totally avoid alcohol and caffeine. They can be consumed in minimal amounts. Ideally, you’re enjoying no more than two cups of caffeinated beverages a day. If you enjoy alcohol, limit your intake to no more than one glass of wine a day, no more than three days a week. If you are going to drink alcohol, try to nurse your baby right before you drink. Then, two to three hours after the wine is out of your system, it’s safe to nurse again.

What To Avoid

Spicy and gas-inducing foods. To ensure that breastfeeding is comfortable for you and your baby, you’ll want to avoid eating any foods that cause gas, including:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Spicy food or condiments

If possible, bland food should be consumed, especially if your baby has shown signs of colic. Also, if your diet is too spicy or intense, your baby may have a strong reaction and not readily try to breastfeed.

Mercury. This is the same warning given to pregnant women. Mercury can damage your baby’s developing brain, so it’s best to avoid fish with high amounts of mercury, such as swordfish, marlin, shark and canned tuna. If you eat canned tuna, limit yourself to no more than 8 to 12 ounces a week, which is equivalent to no more than two small cans.

Cow milk. Drinking cow milk could trigger allergic responses in your baby. Typically, newborns will outgrow these allergies, but to be on the safe side, it’s best to avoid. If you continue drinking milk and your baby reacts with diarrhea or colic, those are signs to start restricting or quitting milk entirely.

Sugar. Consume sugar in moderation or avoid if you can. Sugar can upset the baby’s stomach or cause gas.

Do Your Best

Like most things in life, you don’t need to maintain a perfect diet when breastfeeding. See how it goes and don’t set unrealistic expectations of yourself.

You will do what you can, and that is enough. If it happens that breastfeeding isn’t a fit for you and your baby, that’s OK. There are other ways to ensure that your baby receives enough calories and nutrients to grow to a healthy size and weight.

If you find that you want additional support, you can see a breastfeeding consultant. This person can talk with you about any problems you may be experiencing, such as clogged ducts or problems getting your baby to latch. Your breastfeeding consultant can offer solutions and encouragement.

Many hospitals also offer breastfeeding classes or a hotline to provide further support.

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