The diet for breast feeding mom needs about 300- 500 extra calories per day to support lactation. That’s about one little extra snack per day above your pre-pregnancy calorie intake. Calories aren’t the only thing that matter. It’s also important to eat a variety of foods and spices. A mom’s breastmilk will take on the flavor and smell from her meal about 4 hours ago. So, if you eat salmon and broccoli for dinner, later that night your baby will be getting that wonderful taste and smell in her breastmilk! The more variety you eat, the less picky your baby will be when he is a toddler because he will taste and smell that wonderful variety in your breastmilk from an early age. Do moms have to be perfect? Absolutely not…just be the best you can be!
Get a drink every time your body signals thirst. Keeping up your hydration will help you maintain your health and well being and keep up the volume of your breastmilk for your child. Monitor the color of your urine to assess how hydrated you are — dark yellow, concentrated urine says you’re not drinking enough. Light yellow or clear urine says you’re hydrated well.
Diet while breast feeding — what about fish and mercury?
There are very few things to avoid in your diet while breast feeding. However, all fish has some level of mercury so you want to be mindful of the amount and types of fish you consume. Avoid fish that contains high levels of mercury (tilefish, mackerel, shark, swordfish, ahi tuna) and limit other types of fish to no more than two meals per week. Smaller fish will have less mercury. Wild caught is almost always more healthy with less impurities compared to farm raised fish. For more information on this topic click here.
Diet while breast feeding — what about caffeine and alcohol?
Limit caffeine (in coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, chocolate). Most infants will do fine if mom has 2-3 cups of coffee or tea per day or some chocolate. If you find that your infant is fussy, not sleeping well, spitting up more than usual, it may be that he is sensitive to the caffeine. Feed your infant first, then drink your cup of coffee. The caffeine will be in the highest concentration in your breast milk 30-60 minutes after you’ve had the drink (that’s when you don’t want to have your little one at your breast). Wait about 1 1/2 – 2 hours after you’ve had the coffee and your baby should be fine to breast feed at that time.
Consuming alcohol while breast feeding is something both parents need to discuss. The alcohol you drink will pass through to your breast milk and can affect your infant’s alertness and breathing. Just like caffeine, the highest concentration of alcohol in your breast milk will typically be 30-60 minutes after you’ve had the drink — so in that 30-60 minutes you do not want to have your infant at your breast. Wait about 1 1/2 – 2 hours for one average drink before offering your breastmilk. The alcohol content should be much lower then depending on the alcohol content of the drink and your metabolism rate. I like to recommend always following the police’s advice….wait 1 1/2 hrs per drink before you get behind the wheel of a car. The same is for nursing, wait 1 1/2 hrs per drink before nursing your baby. So if a mom has a celebration and had 3 drinks, she’ll need to wait at least 4 1/2 hrs before offering her milk to the baby. So, around 3 hrs she’ll need to pump and dump that milk (because it’s a regular feeding time) and have some breast milk from the refrigerator or freezer to give to the baby instead.
Diet for Breast Feeding — Do foods affect my baby?
Rarely will foods in mom’s diet affect her infant. Therefore, it’s recommended to eat a variety and your normal, healthy diet while nursing. Even if an infant has a reaction or intolerance to something in mom’s milk, this is usually a temporary situation. Therefore it’s not necessary to limit mom’s diet from spicy foods or “gassy” foods. Breast feeding moms can eat a normal diet and don’t need to feel pressure to be perfect. Your body will produce wonderful, healthy milk for your baby. You can eat all those foods you were advised against eating during pregnancy — luncheon meats, soft cheeses, and rare meats. And, it’s ok to eat sushi, just be sure it’s fresh and from a safe source. If your infant has bloody stools, is very fussy with gassiness, having persistant green & loose stools, or is vomiting after feedings, your infant should be seen by a healthcare provider and touch base with a lactation consultant for breast feeding advice to assist with determining the cause of the symptoms.
Diet for breast feeding — are medications ok?
If you need to take a medication for yourself, be sure to let the prescribing provider know you are breast feeding. Then, be sure to call your infant’s health care provider to notify her of what you are taking. A very informative and accurate website for information on medications and breast feeding is Dr. Hale’s site.
The most important thing to remember is that moderation is the key. The diet for breast feeding is a typical healthy diet.