A Healthy Breastfeeding Diet
No need to obsessively stress, as you did during pregnancy, that the foods you’re eating (and not eating) can be detrimental. The basic make-up of your milk is independent of what you’re eating, so your biggest concern should be getting enough calories to produce milk, not necessarily getting the right nutrients. (Although make sure you’re eating well for your own sake!)
- For your health and to ensure a healthy milk production, do not cut calories. We know you want to get back in those pre-baby jeans, but don’t rush it. If you aren’t taking in enough calories, your nutritional stores will get depleted, potentially causing serious health problems like osteoporosis.
- While your milk takes care of the nutrients, try to eat a wide variety of foods. Studies show what you eat affects how your milk tastes and smells, therefore exposing your baby to an array of flavors and possibly affecting future eating habits. (Carrots, anyone?) There’s also evidence that breastfed babies transition easier to solid foods because of this early exposure.
On the flip side, there might be a trial-and-error period to see what foods (if any) have an adverse reaction on your baby – even, in rare instances, causing allergic reactions.
- Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips and onions have been known to cause gas.
- Watery and/or citrus fruits like watermelon, peaches and grapefruits might cause loose stools, diarrhea or skin rashes.
- Cow’s milk, soy, nuts, fish, chocolate or wheat might cause an allergic reaction, most notably appearing as:
- Blood in stool
- Rash or hives
- Unusual crankiness
- No weight gain
- Discuss any suspicions with your doctor.
- It takes about two to six hours for your baby to taste what you ate, so if you think a certain food is causing a reaction, try eliminating it for a few days to see how your baby does.
- To be on the safe side, eat organic whenever possible to protect your milk from pesticides and chemicals. But don’t worry if you can’t afford the hefty price tag – your milk has a pretty good filtering system.
- Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products as well as lean meat and poultry. Not only is it better for shedding that baby weight, but ingested chemicals and pesticides are stored in the animal’s fat.
- Choose your fish the same way you did when you were pregnant: Avoid mercury-heavy fish like swordfish and shark, and limit your intake of tuna, salmon, sea bass, flounder, sole, haddock, halibut, and trout.
Foods to avoid:
- Alcohol. This isn’t as dangerous as when you were pregnant considering your milk will be filtered before your baby takes a swig, so having a drink here and there isn’t a huge deal. Drinking in large doses, however, can cause your baby to be sleepy and unresponsive, and can even interfere with their ability to suck and breathe. If you do decide to have a drink (never more than one a day), do so right after you nurse to let the alcohol metabolize for a bit.
- Nicotine. Besides the dangers of secondhand smoke (do we really need to explain?), smoking more than a pack a day can cause vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness and rapid heart rate in your baby.
- Caffeine. No need to cut out completely (one or two cups of a caffeinated drink should be fine), but their tiny systems are unequipped to process large amounts of caffeine, causing it to build up in their bodies.
- Chemicals. Along the same lines as the above advice for choosing low-fat and organic foods, a diet high in chemicals isn’t a good idea. A good way to avoid unnecessary additives is to avoid processed foods with a long ingredient list.