Eating right for breastfeeding
Breast milk is what you make it. The quality (and sometimes quantity) of your breast milk depends on your eating habits. If you eat healthy, well-balanced meals, your baby will get all the nutrients he or she needs. If you eat empty calories and sugary snacks, that’s all your baby will get too.
Moms who are breastfeeding need more calories. But every mom is different. Ask your doctor how much food and calories you should eat. Most moms should eat an extra 400–500 calories per day. But be sure to make them healthy calories, not junk food.
Stick to the basics of healthy eating
Eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can
Aim for five or more servings per day. If you feel hungry in between meals, have some fruits or vegetables. They’re nature’s perfect snack food.
Stay away from sugar
Most Americans eat and drink too much sugar. Treat yourself every so often, but not every day. This also applies to “natural” types of sugar, like sugar-in-the-raw or agave nectar. All sugars have the same number of calories.
Eat whole grains
To your body, foods like white bread, white pasta and white rice are just like sugar. Choose whole-grain or multigrain foods instead. They’re high in fiber, too.
Choose lean meats
Chicken and turkey have less fat than beef and pork. Most types of fish are okay to eat during pregnancy, but limit yourself to two or three servings per week. Visit epa.gov for a list of fish that are low in mercury.
Also try other types of protein, like tofu, eggs, beans, nuts, nut butters and high-protein grains, like quinoa.
Eat a variety of foods
Eating a range of foods from all food groups may expose your baby to many different tastes. It may also lower the chance that your baby is a picky eater later.
Keep taking your prenatal vitamins
Don’t stop before your first doctor’s visit after giving birth. Your doctor may keep you on the same vitamins or switch you to something else. But remember, vitamins don’t take the place of eating healthy, well-balanced meals.
Also ask the doctor about vitamin D for your baby. There’s no vitamin D in breast milk. Your baby will need to start taking his or her own vitamins.
Drink plenty of water
Breast milk is mostly water. New mothers need to take in about 16 cups of fluid per day (including what’s in your food). Having enough fluid is important so you can keep making enough breast milk. If your pee is clear, you’re likely getting enough fluid.
A cup of coffee in the morning is okay when breastfeeding. Just don’t overdo it. Caffeine can affect your baby and lower your milk supply.