What to Eat when Breastfeeding
When you were pregnant, you were very careful about what you ate, because essentially, you were eating for two. You were your unborn babies’ source of nutrition, and your nutritional intake determined his. When they cut your baby’s cord at birth, it separated you both from each other, making your baby a true individual in his own right. If you have made the commendable decision to breastfeed however, you will remain as his source of nutrition. You have to keep in mind that your body needs to take in nutrients so that it can produce quality milk. Your body will only be able to incorporate all the necessary elements in your milk only if you eat them.
As in pregnancy, eating for two does not necessarily mean literally having to eat two servings at a time. If you are breastfeeding, you will only need an additional 400-500 extra calories a day. Eating at this stage has a lot more to do with quality rather than quantity; you can gobble a lot of junk foods and still not get what your baby will need. The key is to pick nutrient-rich foods rich in protein, carbohydrates, and non-saturated fats, pretty much the same diet you had when pregnant, with some minor adjustments.
If you have been dying to eat blue cheese when you were pregnant, then now is the time to indulge. Blue cheese and other soft, non pasteurized cheeses like feta, Camembert and brie can potentially cause a listeria infection (listeriosis). While rare, this infection can have very serious consequences, including fetal death. Pregnant women have an increased susceptibility, particularly during the third trimester when the woman’s immune system is somewhat weakened.
Another indulgence that you may had had forgo in the past few months is medium rare steak. While eating meat less than fully cooked was a no-no in your pregnancy, such gastronomic pleasures are now available to you once more. Of course, you will still need to make sure that you only eat non-contaminated meat from purchased from trusty suppliers, because contracting a stomach flu at this stage may cause you to become too weak and dehydrated to produce adequate breast milk.
For the first three to six months at least, avoid consuming too much caffeine and if possible, try to avoid it entirely. Only a small amount of caffeine that you ingest passes on to your breast, newborn babies and those with low weight have difficulty metabolizing even this small amount. Also, when you factor in total body weight and muscle mass, a very small amount of caffeine equals quite a lot for a baby. Most babies are overly stimulated, and may experience difficulty in sleeping. Some babies even get crank and irritable for a while. Take note of other caffeine sources as well, such as chocolates and soda.
You will also have to observe for any specific food items that may have an effect on your baby. It pretty much depends on your babies’ peculiar reactions. Some babies appear to dislike it when their moms consume very spicy food. Others seem to reject breast milk after the woman has consumed a healthy portion of asparagus. There are no hard rules about this though, because most babies do not seem to mind. Naturally though, your baby is your basis in determining which food is okay, and which is not.
Other than these items, you can pretty much eat what you want. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your family physician or contact breastfeeding advocacy websites such as La Leche or LATCH.
Joana Chrystal Ventura-Moises RN is also our resident expert on plumbing and shower kits. For the past year, she has been successfully juggling small bathroom remodels with breastfeeding her son.