What You Need to Know About Your Breastfeeding Diet

During pregnancy, expectant mothers are given a good idea of the foods they should eat and avoid to contribute to the development of your growing baby.  However, finding guidance for the important healthy breastfeeding diet essentials to make sure that your baby continues to get the nourishment it needs is a little more challenging. 

Breastfeeding is one of the best options for feeding your baby as it offers them all of the nutrients that they need to grow and develop their immunity.  New mothers should follow something of a breastfeeding diet to help make sure that the breastmilk they produce is of the highest quality. 

What You Need to Know About Your Breastfeeding DIet
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What You Need to Know About Your Breastfeeding DIet

When it comes to what you eat while breastfeeding, there is no actual diet or set of rules to follow. However, what you eat will need to fill both caloric and nutritional needs to produce milk for your baby.  This will mean eating a diet of foods high in vitamins and minerals such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and starches which are a good source of energy for feeding your baby and producing milk. 

Lean proteins should take a portion of your diet as proteins encourage muscle growth and repair. These are found in foods such as chicken, eggs, lentils and fish. You will also need healthy fats such as plant based oils, nuts, seeds and avocados, as well as in oily fish such as salmon or mackerel.  

Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression
Should I Avoid Certain Foods While Breastfeeding?

There are no specific foods to avoid while breastfeeding your baby aside from limiting the amount of oily fish you eat. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol can also be introduced back into your system as well, as long as this is done carefully. 

While some breastfeeding mothers avoid foods that often cause allergic reactions, there is no need to eliminate these foods unless you have an allergy yourself. Some research has shown that breastfeeding mothers who eat peanuts while breastfeeding and that are introduced to their baby’s diet early on are less likely to develop a sensitivity to peanuts in the future. 

Will I Need Extra Calories While Breastfeeding? 

Producing breast milk and breastfeeding can burn lots of calories, so breastfeeding mothers need to take in roughly 500 more calories per day compared to non breastfeeding mothers. 

However, as with any caloric intake guidelines, it is worth noting that every woman is different and will need different amounts of calories at different times. It is important to listen to your body and your energy levels to ensure that you’re getting enough calories to sustain you and your baby. The amount a baby will require feeding will also depend on their size, weight, and stage of development, as well as your own. 

The amount of calories you will need to consume will also vary depending on if you are exclusively breastfeeding and if you are feeding multiples or, say, a newborn and a toddler, too.

Breastfeeding with D-MER
Will My Vegetarian/Vegan Diet Affect My Breast Milk? 

Your choice to eliminate meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and seafood will not affect your breast milk or breast milk production, as long as you are getting enough in the way of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. 

However, breastfeeding mothers should ensure they are getting enough vitamins D and B12, as well as calcium and omega 3 fatty acids. Vegetarian and vegan diets are typically low in these vitamins and minerals, and it is particularly important to ensure that these are a part of your diet, either through your foods, or any supplementation you take. 

If you’re worried about getting enough of these things in your diet, talk to your medical professional who can give you the guidance you need to ensure you get the right nutrients for you and your baby. 

What if I Don’t Have Time to Cook Healthy Meals? 

The ‘eating for two’ phrase is not about eating double portions, it is that you’re eating the vitamins and minerals needed to grow and sustain two people. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, all of the vitals nutrients that your baby needs will come directly from you.

So while it may be tempting to stock up on sugary and fatty foods, it’s not the healthiest choice when it comes to getting the right nutrition. 

Many healthy foods can be prepared faster than a pizza takes to arrive, but if you’re really pushed for time and/ or energy you can quickly prepare foods such as eggs, with spinach, chicken stir fries and porridge. Breastfeeding uses a lot of energy, so it is important to replenish this energy with healthy, slow release foods. 

As with anything when you have a new baby, preparation is key. Have plenty of chopped fresh fruit and vegetables available to grab when you need it, as well as dried fruits and nuts, which are easy to snack on while feeding. Smoothies are a good option for getting a quick vitamin boost as you go. You don’t want to be messing around with peeling fruit as you feed your baby!

It’s also important to make sure you keep your fluid intake up. Keep bottled water with you to ensure you’re hydrated enough as you will need more water when you’re breastfeeding. 

connection between Breastfeeding and Postpartum depression
Should I Limit My Caffeine Intake While Breastfeeding? 

As a sleep deprived, breastfeeding mother, reaching for the coffee may seem like the only option to keep you functioning throughout the day. However, while you can still indulge, caffeine will go through your bloodstream and into your baby’s while breastfeeding. Official recommendations will advise having no more than 200-300 mg of caffeine per day. That’s around 4 cups of tea, or two large coffees.
Caffeine is also in many carbonated drinks, so will count towards your caffeine intake there, too. Dark chocolate contains around 50mg of caffeine for a small bar. The caffeine soon adds up, so you should be mindful. 

Does my Baby Have Allergies to Anything I am Eating? 

Small babies will often show signs of fussiness and gas, leaving moms wondering if it is caused by something they ate. For the most part, it’s nothing to do with mom’s diet, and more to do with their developing digestive system. 

Only a small proportion of babies have genuine allergies towards dairy, eggs, soya proteins etc. 

Signs that your baby has an allergy towards something you ate would be vomiting, rashes, blood in their diaper, or persistent congestion. Intolerances can have symptoms such as crying after a feed, acid reflux, vomiting and baby bringing their knees to their chest in pain. 

If you are worried that there is something wrong with how your baby is reacting during certain times that they are feeding, you should seek medical advice. It’s likely that they will ask you to eliminate certain foods from your diet and reintroduce before going to visit them again. 

You could do this by keeping a food diary of everything you eat and drink, and write down any symptoms that your baby displays after they feed. Here, you may see patterns emerging. Remember to seek medical advice before eliminating anything from your diet, as you need to do this safely to ensure you’re getting all the nourishment that you need.

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Will my Choice In Food Influence my Child’s Food Preferences Later on?

Breast milk will carry the flavor of the foods that you eat. If you tend to enjoy a diet that is varied, you will be exposing your baby to these flavors and tastes as they feed. Your baby may well start to enjoy these foods as they start to eat solid foods as they grow up. 

Contrary to popular belief, this fact doesn’t mean having to avoid spicy foods. This may well influence their spice tolerance later down the line. 

What does your breastfeeding diet consist of?  Do you find that certain foods affect your baby or your milk supply? Do you have a question about your breastfeeding diet that wasn’t answered here?  Leave a comment down below!

Author: Vanessa Rapisarda

Vanessa is a married, mother of three gorgeous kids. As a postpartum depression survivor, she writes about maternal mental health and wellness. She believes that speaking up about postpartum depression is one of the strongest things a mother can do to help raise awareness and end the stigma of mental illness.