Breastfeeding and a Healthy Diet
by Susie Hamilton
Breast Pumps Direct
It is important for you to eat a well-balanced diet while breastfeeding because producing an ample supply of milk will be your body’s top priority. Vitamin and mineral supplements can enhance a healthy diet, but they should not be taken in place of nutritious foods. Many women and their doctors find that following the same diet as they did during pregnancy is generally sufficient while breastfeeding.
A few guidelines to keep in mind for a healthy diet:
- Stay hydrated by drinking fluids to satisfy your thirst. Many of the fluids that you drink will go toward the production of your milk.
- Limit your daily intake of caffeine. Two cups of coffee or two soft drinks a day is considered moderate anymore caffeine could cause agitation in your baby and make it difficult for him to sleep.
- Avoid loading up on junk food. You may crave lots of sweets and fatty junk foods, but they provide empty calories and little nutrition. Giving in to an occasional junk food craving is generally fine, but steering yourself to choose healthy snacks will benefit your health and energy level much more.
- An occasional drink may be okay. Because alcohol is passed to breastmilk it is best to avoid alcohol while breastfeeding, but an occasional drink may be okay if you won’t be breastfeeding right after. You should be sure to discuss any use of alcohol with your doctor prior to consumption.
- Quit smoking, if possible. Nicotine and other harmful chemicals found in cigarettes are passed directly into breastmilk. Quitting is the best option for both you and your baby, but if you cannot quit try to limit the number of cigarettes that you smoke each day.
- Keep family history of food allergies in mind. If your family has a history of food allergies those certain foods may be passed through your breastmilk and could affect your baby. Some common food allergens that can be passed through milk include peanuts, cow’s milk, soy and strawberries.
- Speak with your doctor before starting a weight loss program. Placing restrictions on your daily food intake my decrease your milk supply. Additionally, most breastfeeding mothers are able to lose weight each month without making any significant changes in their diet or exercise plan.
Although the exact foods that you eat will not affect the quality of your breastmilk some foods may flavor your breastmilk. In rare instances babies will react to the flavor of particular foods in breastmilk. If your baby seems to have disinterest in your milk after eating a certain food you may consider removing it from your diet for a while and then reintroducing it to seem if you get the same reaction again.
You should remember that while breastfeeding you are not eating just for yourself anymore, but to provide nutrients your baby as well. Because of this obligation to your child you should not ignore signs of hunger or thirst that you may have throughout the day. Keeping your body’s needs in mind will ensure that you are healthy enough to provide your child with an adequate breastmilk supply.
Also, certain side effects of an improper diet can contribute the the likelihood of certain conditions which make breastfeeding more difficult, such as thrush. Thrush is a condition that begins with the imbalance present in either the mother or the baby's digestive system. Controlling sugar intake and other diet factors are important to overcoming this condition. For more information on the dietary guidelines when dealing with thrush please read our article Thrush and Breastfeeding.