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Eating for Feeding

A Nutrition Guide for Mamas

I’m sure many of you are worried about your nutrition and just how that affects your baby. But, there’s no need to worry! Producing highly nutritious breast milk for your baby is easier than auto ordering your diapers on amazon (and that’s a breeze!). Lets dive into the nutrition!

There is no need for a special breastfeeding diet. There are really only 2 major exceptions to be aware of.

1) avoiding breastfeeding with excess intake of alcohol and 2) choosing fish lower in methylmercury levels (such as salmon, canned light tuna, shrimp, pollock).

Your breastfeeding diet order is to simply eat a diet with a variety of foods. With the general recommendation to continue taking your prenatal vitamins.

Pumping and dumping is for sure a thing of the past. An occasional glass of wine or a bottle of beer is acceptable while breastfeeding. However, alcohol does pass into your breastmilk so heavy drinking is best avoided. If you want to avoid exposing your baby to any alcohol, the simple rule is: let it clear from your system by waiting 2 hours for each (reasonably) sized drink. (Yes, you can still have that glass of wine!)

Worried that your baby is gassy? Well, unfortunately for you and everyone else around, gas in a breastfed baby is NORMAL, just not very glamorous. She is responding to the natural goodness in your breastmilk. But if she is overly fussy, you can start to keep track of any spicy, high fiber, or dairy containing foods that may be related to baby gas. Keep a food journal and jot down how your baby reacts each day. This can help to determine if what you’re eating is affecting your baby in any way.

Kale, spinach, beans, onions, garlic, peppers or spicy foods cause gas, while many babies tolerate these foods just fine. Every baby is different, just be aware.

What is the one thing to make sure to eat for your baby? Essential fats!! These include polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and are important for your baby’s brain and vision. PUFA and DHA and the fat composition of your milk is affected by what foods you eat with DHA and PUFA in them (easy as that). But, why should you care? Well, these DHA and PUFA can give her a leg up in brain development. These foods include salmon, tuna, trout, mussels, cod, and clams. Don’t like these? Don’t worry! You can still breastfeed because other foods you eat (including nuts and seeds, plant oils, and fortified foods) can also provide these important fats. Also, your breastmilk is magical anyways, so your baby is in good hands no matter what.

Do you need to eat more calories  while breastfeeding? Breastfeeding uses about 500 calories per day from dietary intake. But, what does this mean? You may be able to eat the equivalent of an extra 3 bowls of cereal and still may lose weight.

Following a healthy diet, you can lose (1-2 pounds) per month in the first 4 to 6 months of lactation and this weight loss can continue beyond this, however I’m sure your girlfriends can tell you, this varies widely.

The one thing that we know is that a good latch and frequent emptying of the breasts equals a good supply. So, work on that first. What to try next?

Stay hydrated to thirst – very important since your body is working in overdrive and you need more nutrition!

There are herbal *galactagogues* such as fenugreek, blessed thistle, and alfalfa (yes, I know that sounds like gibberish) – but talk to your healthcare provider to make sure these are right for you (and FYI these are largely not scientifically proven, so be cautious).

Foods that some moms swear by? I’ve seen and heard it all –  things like oatmeal, Gatorade, mothers milk tea, and lactation cookies. But again, these MAY work or they may not. Do what works for you! If they align with a healthy diet, and there are no health concerns with you taking them, there is no harm trying.

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Emily Sylvester

Emily Sylvester is the Founder & CEO of Mother of Fact. As a Licensed Registered Dietitian, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Mom of 3, she's helped thousands of families in many low/middle income communities feel confident and supported in their feeding journey. Her mission is to eliminate the deficit of equitable breastfeeding & formula feeding help for all households & healthcare systems.
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