It’s the couch potato’s dream – burning up the calories of a 5-mile run without leaving your lounge chair. And guess what? That dream is your reality now that you’re breastfeeding your little Tater Tot. It’s true. Milk production burns 500 calories a day, which means that you”ll get to eat an extra 500 calories a day (up from your prepregnancy numbers – not your pregnancy allotment) to meet that need.
Hello, potato chips? Not exactly. Quality matters as much as quantity (remember, still – sort of – eating for two). The good news is that you’re probably an old pro at eating well, what with all the practice you’ve had for the past nine months. The even better news is that eating well while breastfeeding is much like eating well while expecting, but with (best news of all) more relaxed recommendations. Plus, while calories definitely count, you still won’t need to count them. Just follows the Breastfeeding Diet as best you can:
What to eat. As always, eating well is about getting the right balance of good – and good for you – food. Try to include the following each day while you’re breastfeeding:
- Protein: 3 servings
- Calcium: 5 servings (that’s up 1 servings from your pregnancy requirement of 4)
- Iron-rich food: 1 or more servings
- Vitamin C: 2 servings
- Green leafy and yellow vegetable, yellow fruits: 3 to 4 servings
- Other fruits and veggies: 1 or more servings
- Whole-grain and other complex carbohydrates: 3 or more servings
- High-fat foods: moderate amounts – you don’t need as much as you did during pregnancy
- At least 8 glasses of water, juice, or other noncaffeinated, nonalcoholic beverages
- DHA-rich foods to promote baby’s brain growth (look for this fabulous fat in wild salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed oil, as well as DHA-enriched eggs)
- Prenatal vitamin daily
You may need to increase your caloric intake as your baby grows bigger and hungrier, or decrease it if you supplement nursing with formula and/or solid, or if you have considered fat reserves you’d like to begin burning.
What not to eat. When you’re breastfeeding, you have a lot more menu options than you did while you were expecting – served up with some caveats. It’s fine to pop open the cork on that pinot noir you’ve been pining for (or flip the top on that ale you’ve been aching for). But drink within limits (a couple of glasses a week), preferably taken right after you nurse, rather than before, to allow a few hours for the alcohol to metabolize and for far less to reach your baby). Time to pick up your coffee habit where you left off? Depends on how hefty your habit was. More than a cup or two of joe can make junior jittery and keep you both from getting any sleep. And though it’s safe to reel in the sushi again, continue to avoid high-mercury fish, such as shark, tilefish, and mackerel, and to limit those that may contain moderate amounts of that heavy metal.
What to watch out for. If you have a family history of allergies, check with the doctor to see if you should avoid peanuts and foods that contain them (and possibly other highly allergic foods). Also watch out for herbs, even some semingly innocuous herbal teas. Stick to reliable brands and choose flavors that are considered safe during lactation, including orange spice, peppermint, raspberry, red brush, chamomile, and rosehip. Read labels carefully to make sure other herbs haven’t been added to the brew, and that drink them only in moderation. And when it comes to sugar substitutes, sucralose (Splenda) or aspartame are considered better bets than saccharine.
What to watch for in your baby. A few moms find that their own diet affects their babies’ tummies and temperaments. While what you eat does indeed change the taste and smell of your milk (that happens for all mothers), this is actually a good thing since it exposes your baby to many different flavors. But some babies can occasionally be sensitive to certain foods that end up in mom’s milk. If you suspect that something in your diet is turning baby off his or her feed (or turning his or her tummy), try eliminating the food for a few days to gauge the response. Some of the common troublemarkers are cow’s milk, eggs, fish, citrus fruits, nuts, and wheat.