Eating for Breastfeeding

November 3, 2016

Sushi, Gorgonzola cheese, sandwiches with regular deli meat options – these are back in. Hooray! Cow dairy, chocolate, and cruciferous veggies might have to take a backseat for a while though.

What are we talking about here? Yes, that’s right! Your breastfeeding diet. While it’s now safe to partake of all those “no-no” foods that put your developing baby at risk for things like listeria and other harmful bacteria, there are other foods that are known to cause gas and/or digestive upset in sensitive baby tummies. While you can start back to the table like its business as usual, you may want to pay attention to what you eat – and your baby’s general gastrointestinal comfort – to see what you both agree on.

Here are some of the most common questions we hear from newly breastfeeding moms. If you’re new to breastfeeding, read, 5 Lifesaving Breastfeeding Techniques.

Do I need to eat more calories when I breastfeed?

Your body does burn more calories when you breastfeed. In fact, breastfeeding is one of the best ways to help reshape and tone the uterine muscles and to lose those extra baby pounds. On average, women burn about 500 calories a day producing breastmilk. First, check your BMI and recommended calorie intake to see what your normal, daily caloric intake should be. Then, keep a food/calorie journal for a few days to see where you’re at.

You may find you’re right on target, or you may find you need to increase the amount you eat to make up the difference.  And, don’t be tempted to scoff at exercise because you’re burning those extra calories nursing your sweet baby. DO try to make regular exercise a priority as much as possible – strap that baby on and hit the road or join a Mommy & Me Yoga Class.

Are there foods I should or shouldn’t eat while I’m breastfeeding?Eating for Breastfeeding

Not really. You’re no longer sharing blood with your baby the way you were when you were pregnant (via the placenta), so you don’t have to be scared about risky bacteria in that same way. Also, breastmilk doesn’t always directly correspond with what you’re eating. For example, if you eat a candy bar, your baby won’t ingest more sugar, or if you eat more broccoli, your baby won’t get more iron.

Eat a well-rounded diet

That being said, your body will make sure your baby gets the fats, vitamins and minerals she needs, whether you’re eating well or not. If your body doesn’t have sufficient nutrient stores, it will start leaching those nutrients from your muscle and bone tissue (osteoporosis, anyone?) so focus on eating a well-rounded diet with lean proteins, whole grains and lots of fresh veggies and fruits. Talk to your doctor about supplementation – many recommend that nursing mothers continue taking their prenatal vitamin.

Also, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Keep a water bottle in the diaper bag, beside your favorite breastfeeding spots, on your nightstand, etc., making it easy to keep yourself hydrated. Add lemon slices, cucumber or fruit to add a little flavor if you’re tired of plain water.

Baby may have different ideas

Now, there may be things that your baby doesn’t like so much. For example, a baby with a sensitive tummy may be notably irritated when you drink a glass of milk or eat ice cream. He may cry more after you’ve dined on your favorite spicy foods, or you may notice that awesome, cauliflower mac-n-cheese recipe seemed to have upset him – as did your favorite coleslaw yesterday. Some of our mothers find that they must give up certain foods to enjoy a more peaceful post-breastfeeding existence (and to get better sleep!) – because a comfortable baby makes for a more comfortable mama.

The good news is that you’ll probably be able to introduce those foods back into the mix when your baby starts eating more solid foods and has a more developed, flora/enzyme-rich digestive system.

Is it true that alcohol affects breastmilk? And what about caffeine?

According to the La Leche League International:

“Alcohol passes freely into mother’s milk and has been found to peak about 30 to 60 minutes after consumption, 60 to 90 minutes when taken with food. Alcohol also freely passes out of a mother’s milk and her system. It takes a 120-pound woman about two to three hours to eliminate from her body the alcohol in one serving of beer or wine…the more alcohol that is consumed, the longer it takes for it to be eliminated. It takes up to 13 hours for a 120-pound woman to eliminate the alcohol from one high-alcohol drink. The effects of alcohol on the breastfeeding baby are directly related to the amount the mother consumes.”

We recommend avoiding alcohol, or keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum, just to be safe. Caffeine also shows up in breastmilk and can affect baby’s sleeping habits, to it’s a good idea to stick to no more than one or two caffeinated beverages per day.

It goes without saying that recreational drugs are ALWAYS off limits while breastfeeding (or any other time, to be honest). If you take prescription meds, check them with your doctor, or have a consult with the pharmacist, to make sure they’re safe to take while breastfeeding.

Do you have a question about what’s safe and what’s not while breastfeeding? Schedule a consultation with one of the midwives or practitioners here at Women’s Health Associates and we’ll be happy to share information and support your commitment to healthy breastfeeding.