When you're breastfeeding your baby, you're likely giving the best of the nutrient intake of your body to your wee one. It's just what we mothers do. But, it's important to take care of yourself as well, so that you can take care of baby better too. When you're breastfeeding, you want to make sure your breastfeeding diet is healthy for baby AND for you.

For your entire pregnancy, everything your baby needed depended upon you. The truth is, not much has changed, but what you eat and what the baby eats aren't so intermingled anymore, are they? Or are they? If you're breastfeeding your baby, she is getting all the nutrients she needs from your milk.

And what exactly goes into your milk? Well, whatever goes into your body, essentially. So, it IS important to ensure you have a healthy breastfeeding diet. Your body knows it is the source of food for your little one, so as it did in pregnancy, it prioritizes the health of your baby over you. Your milk will be the best of what you've got and...if you're not wise about your breastfeeding diet, you may not have much left for you.

So, how do you go about ensuring you have the best breastfeeding diet for you and for baby? Read on.


Stay Nourished

Sure, everyone tells you that, but what does that mean and what does that look like? Does it mean eat double of everything? Of course not. When my son was nursing, I made plenty of milk but my son grew slower than the midwife wanted. I was told to up my calories and I jokingly said, "More milkshakes it is!"

She frowned and said, "No. Not more milkshakes. Up your caloric intake, of course, but make them healthy calories."

See, you can take in tons of extra calories (in fact, depending on how much you're nursing, you'll likely need to because it takes a lot to grow a human and it takes a lot of calorie-burning to feed one).

But those calories need to be nutrient-dense calories. You want to have your body fueled for you and for baby and if you focus on foods that are nutrient-dense, you'll both be satisfied. What vitamins and nutrients do you want to look for in your breastfeeding diet?

Consider:
  • Folate. You needed it prenatally and you need it postpartum as well. It's important for DNA synthesis and, you need more than before you were pregnant. To get good folate, eat lots of leafy, dark green veggies, nuts, beans, dairy, meat and fruits.
  • Choline. Choline leaves your body in what seems like truckloads through your breastmilk because it's important for baby. Some of the best places for choline are eggs, salmon and beef.
  • Calcium. You'd think because your baby is getting breastMILK, they'd get a lot of calcium. They don't, but that's okay because baby can absorb what she gets easily and efficiently. You, however, need to continue to make sure you're getting enough for your own health and bones and teeth too. You can do so with low-fat dairy, dark, leafy greens, sesame seeds, figs and almonds. So many cereals are fortified with calcium these days, which is nice, but it's always better to get from whole foods if you can.
  • Iodine. Your thyroid (and baby's thyroid) need iodine. Particularly for your baby's neurodevelopment to be what it should. We don't really eat a lot of iodized salt anymore (think of Morton's cylindrical salt container) and that's okay--just be sure to get it from seafood or dairy. And no, Himalayan salt won't do it either.
  • Zinc. Zinc helps tissue grow and regenerate--and guess what baby does a lot of? Make sure you're eating lots of nuts, whole grains, beans, meats and dairy for the zinc you and baby need.
  • Iron. Your clinician may suggest you supplement iron for baby after six months because theoretically, that's when her iron reserves are spent. But honestly? Most nutritionists will tell you that if you're getting enough iron, your baby will too because she's super-efficient and effective at absorbing it. You can get iron in beef, eggs, spinach, fortified grains, lentils and white beans. You can also find cereals fortified in iron but again, whole foods are best for absorption and consumption.
When it comes to vitamins, there are several you'll want to be sure you focus on with your breastfeeding diet because they're more important than ever now that you're nursing. They are:

  • Vitamin A. A newborn won't have a lot of Vitamin A stored and your milk is where he'll get it. It's the stuff healthy tissues, eyes and skin are mad of, so make sure you're getting enough dark, leafy greens. Add in orange and yellow fruits and veggies (carrots, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes) and you'll also find it in liver, fish oil, milk and eggs.
  • Vitamin B6. B6 will make sure your baby grows and gains weight appropriately and in your breastmilk? B6 is very much died to what you eat. Eat lots of fish, non-citrus fruits (bananas are great for this) and starchy veggies to be sure you make your B6 requirements.
  • Vitamin B12. A newborn doesn't come into the world with a lot of B12 and so you'll want to be sure you have lots in your milk. How do you do that? Make sure you eat a few ounces of tuna or sockeye salmon. Eat your eggs, meat and dairy also--you'll be helping your little one's (and yours) brain function and blood cell formation.
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D is SO important to immune function for you and your baby. It supports bone health and blood sugar. Deficiency can cause rickets in your baby and it can be really hard to get enough Vitamin D from your diet alone, so be sure you're eating fish and fortified dairy but also consider a respectable supplement like Carlson's D & K drops. Many of us are Vitamin D deficient as it is, so not bad for after you're breastfeeding either!
How To Help Stay On The Best Breastfeeding Diet

Make things easy for you to get quickly and easily. The easier they are to eat one-handed, the better. Great things to have on hand are fruits and nuts and nut butters, veggies you slice to grab and go, sliced or string cheeses, granola and air-popped popcorn. Guacamole is great because avocado is a superfood for you and baby. Be sure that whatever you eat, you try to get as much protein as you can. Look at the ingredients of what you're eating (or food guides) to see how many grams of protein are contained. Did you know that just three ounces of salmon or meat has 21 grams of protein? So do many protein sticks and bars/balls, so let them be quick go-tos for constant fuel.

You do need your fats, but be sure they're the healthier ones. Fish, nuts, seeds, olive/nut oils and avocado are great sources. Choose lean cuts of beef and avoid trans fats if you can--often found in processed foods. Whole, healthy fats are the stuff that baby brains are made of, so choose wisely.


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