What to Eat While Breastfeeding

It is widely recognized that breastfeeding has many advantages for the mother and her baby. The CDC recommends breastfeeding to help the mother avoid cancer and other health problems. The CDC also states that most babies get the best nutrition by breastfeeding.

Key takeaways:
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    Eat a balanced diet.
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    Stay hydrated.
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    Limit caffeine.
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    Eat fish and seafood that are low in mercury.
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    If you drink alcohol take steps to avoid feeding alcohol to your baby.

Breastfed babies receive antibodies and protection from a variety of health conditions from their mothers in breast milk.

What to eat when breastfeeding

Mothers might need to eat more to make up for the calories that the baby consumes in breast milk. Some mothers do get hungry and need those extra calories. Breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to choose nutrient-dense snacks such as peanut butter, yogurt, or a banana.

Protein-rich foods can support milk production. Lean meats, legumes, dairy, and eggs are good choices.

Fish and other seafood are good choices, but they need to be low in mercury. Mercury can be harmful to the baby’s developing nervous system. Clams, cod, haddock, salmon, sardines, and tuna are examples of low-mercury choices. Fruits and vegetables round out the healthy breastfeeding diet.

Get enough to drink

It is also important to avoid dehydration. If your urine becomes dark, then you might need to drink more fluids. Normally urine ranges from pale yellow to amber.

Foods can affect the color of your urine. For instance, if you have recently eaten beets, then your urine will be darker. Aim for yellow urine to determine if you need to drink more water.

Water is perfect to help you stay hydrated. If that gets boring, there are other choices to help you stay hydrated, but it is best to avoid sugary drinks. You might be tempted to drink sports drinks for the electrolytes, but you could be getting a lot of sugar and caffeine too. It is important to read labels.

Some caffeine is okay. If you are a coffee drinker 2 to 3 cups (8 ounces each) are safe but if your baby seems agitated or has trouble sleeping, try reducing the amount of coffee to see if that makes a difference. Tea has less caffeine than coffee, and herbal teas usually do not contain any caffeine.

What to avoid when breastfeeding

If you drink alcohol, it will be in your breastmilk and no amount of alcohol is safe for your baby.

If you want to drink alcohol, consider pumping first so that you have milk for the baby. After drinking alcohol, it is best to wait for 2 to 3 hours after each standard drink before breastfeeding. This gives your body enough time to clear the alcohol.

Foods that should be limited

Limit the amount of caffeine you drink and choose fish and seafood that have minimal amounts of mercury.

Peppermint, sage, and parsley can decrease milk production. Sage dressing with chicken or turkey is not likely to affect your milk production. If you are drinking several cups of peppermint tea and massaging with peppermint essential oil daily and you are concerned about the amount of breastmilk you are producing, you might want to cut back to see if that helps.

Myths

Caffeine is not permitted

The breastfeeding mother can have 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day. It is important to screen for other sources of caffeine such as sports drinks. Some pain relievers, chocolate, cocoa, and soda have caffeine.

Alcohol is not permitted

Alcohol will make its way to breastmilk. To avoid giving the baby alcohol in the breast milk avoid breastfeeding for 2 to 3 hours after each drink. This allows the alcohol to leave your body and the breastmilk. To speed up the process you can pump the breastmilk to reduce the amount of alcohol in the breastmilk that is being produced.

Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby and can protect your baby against many illnesses. Breastfeeding also helps prevent cancer and other diseases in the mother. Choosing a healthy, balanced diet will provide the best nutrition for your baby.

As you eat different foods the taste of the milk can change. This helps prepare your baby for the foods that your family usually eats.

If you are taking prescription medications, there is a National Library of Medicine database called LactMed which you can use to check the safety of your medications during breastfeeding.

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