There are opinions on what you should eat and avoid while breastfeeding your baby. Let us help you differentiate myth from fact and make informed decisions about a balanced breastfeeding diet.
How many additional calories do I require during breastfeeding?
All the extra weight that you gained when you were pregnant will be lost during breastfeeding as those calories will be used up in forming breastmilk. After you've lost the pregnancy weight, you'll need 500–600 extra calories per day. When your baby begins eating solid foods, they will require less breastmilk, and you will be able to eat less. Allow your appetite to guide you; eat when you are hungry.
How much fluid should I drink while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding mothers frequently lose more than 700 ml of fluid per day in the form of breastmilk. This means that you must stay hydrated by drinking water whenever you feel thirsty. If you have dark urine, dryness in your mouth, and infrequent urination, it is a sign of dehydration and you need to consume more fluid like water, milk and derivatives like buttermilk, fruit and vegetable juices, or traditional drinks like coconut water.
Food to eat while breastfeeding
A breastfeeding mother needs a varied diet to meet her and her baby's nutritional needs. These balanced diet tips will assist you in deciding what to eat:
- Incorporate two servings of fruit along with three servings of vegetables into your daily diet.
- Include whole grains like whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, or pasta in your meals.
- Consume protein-rich foods at least twice a day, such as chicken, eggs, fish, meat, dairy, seeds, nuts, and so on.
- Any restrictions you had during your pregnancy should not be followed while nursing.
Supplementation for vegetarians or vegans:
- If you are a vegetarian, there are a few options that can provide you with the same nutrients as meat does. For example, omega fatty acids in fish are also found in walnuts, soybeans, hemp and flax seeds. Dried fruit, dairy, nuts, and seeds are also good sources of zinc and iron, which are found in meat.
- If you are vegan, you may require vitamin B12 supplements. You may need to supplement your calcium intake with sesame seeds, dried fruits, green vegetables, and whole grains.
Foods to avoid for mother and baby
Different babies react to the foods their mothers eat in different ways. The foods that a mother consumes produce different flavoured breast milk. Some babies accept different flavours, while some babies become fussy.
Some babies may be intolerant or allergic to certain foods. If your child shows symptoms of an allergy, such as vomiting, skin rash, eczema, diarrhoea, blood or mucus in stools, or difficulty breathing, consult your doctor immediately. However, if you believe your child is more gassy, fussy, or unwell after you eat a certain type of food, avoid that food for a few days to see if it helps.
Sea fish: Limit sea fish, e.g., sharks, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish due to the high mercury levels in them.
Alcohol: When you drink alcohol, some of it enters your breast milk.You should limit yourself to one or two drinks every 24 hours and wait at least two hours before breastfeeding to allow the alcohol to be metabolised and not harm the baby.Another reason to not drink alcohol while nursing is that you will not be able to respond to a baby's needs properly if you are under the influence. This may increase the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Caffeinated drinks: Caffeine intake should be limited to one to two servings per day. A high quantity of caffeine in breast milk could agitate your baby or interfere with your baby’s sleep. Caffeine is not only present in tea and coffee, but also in colas, chocolates, and energy drinks.
Nicotine: Smoking or using tobacco products while breastfeeding is not recommended, since the substance gradually passes into the breast milk. Tobacco use raises your baby's heart rate, induces vomiting and diarrhoea, and creates agitation. Second-hand smoke (passive smoking) is also a risk factor for SIDS.
Foods that increase breast milk production
If you think you are not producing sufficient milk for your baby, certain foods, called galactagogues, may be used to increase your breast milk production.
Garlic, Fenugreek, Almonds, Asparagus, Anise, Chicken soup, Coriander, Coconut, Caraway, Cumin, Fennel, Ginger, Dill, Millet, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Papaya, Pumpkin, Red Raspberry, Rice, Sunflower seeds, Sesame seeds, Alfalfa are examples of galactagogues.
Eat what you want. As long as you eat a balanced diet, your body will produce the breast milk that your baby needs.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Diet for breastfeeding mothers.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. 5 breastfeeding diet myths.
- KidsHealth. Breastfeeding FAQs: your eating and drinking habits .
- Stanford Children's Health. Your nutrition and breastfeeding.