As a nursing mom we know you’re focused on the very best nutrition for your baby. But get this: giving your baby nourishment through breastfeeding is directly related to your own nutrition in more ways than you might think. March is National Nutrition Month so we’re digging in to the importance of nutrition during breastfeeding to best support you and your babe.
The Importance of Nutrition During Breastfeeding
Your breast milk is the most perfect food for your baby’s body. It contains hundreds of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, proteins, antibodies, and much more. To produce that phenomenal breast milk, your own nutrition is incredibly important. In general, nursing moms need approximately 500 extra calories per day. And the best way to consume them is by adding doses of essential nutrients that can support your strength and your baby’s development.
Nutrients that Boost Your Energy
Certainly you know by now that taking care of a baby and producing breast milk require lots of energy. You may be sleep-deprived, but you can boost your energy through wholesome nutrition during breastfeeding.
Did you know…Breastfed babies tend to sleep better and therefore nursing moms get more sleep too! Sleep bras help make overnight nursing convenient, so everyone can get back to sleep.
Check out these foods that will give your body the strength you need for your #1 job as mama:
Berries: Berries are full of antioxidants that keep your body revved and ready for action. Refreshing and delicious, they contain a good balance of sugar, vitamins and minerals to pep you up when you need it most.
Green Veggies: Like your mom said, vegetables are good for just about everything in your body including your blood. Improved circulation pumps oxygenated blood throughout your body, which keeps your heart and brain working hard for you.
Citrus Fruits: Chock full of Vitamin C, these juicy fruits boost your immune system to keep you and your baby healthy and energized during breastfeeding.
Whole Grains: It may be easier to grab processed, sugary snacks but make the extra effort to eat whole grains like whole wheat breads and pasta and brown rice. Your energy levels will soar and won’t come crashing down after a short high.
Water: There’s no bigger way to zap your energy than dehydration. You need a good deal of water to produce breast milk – usually more than the recommended 8 cups per day. Moms often feel thirsty and dehydrated after feedings so drink up or incorporate fruit juices and water-based fruits and veggies in your diet.
Did you know…The best way to ensure a nutritious diet on-the-go is to pack simple, healthy snacks and water in your diaper bag. Along with a nursing cover, you’ll be prepared for motherhood when you’re out and about.
Nutrients that Boost Breast Milk Quality
Although the composition of nutrients in breast milk is relatively consistent, there are a few ways you can move the needle to supply your baby with the best of the best.
DHA: All breast milk contains fat including DHA, a long chain omega-3 fatty acid. But studies show moms who consume more DHA in their diets have a greater concentration of this brain-boosting nutrient. (Similarly, moms who consume “bad” fats like trans fats and high amounts of saturated fats can negatively impact breast milk.) DHA found in fatty fish like salmon is important for the entire nervous system and your baby’s continued brain development. You can also find DHA in fortified milk, fortified eggs, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, chia seeds and sunflower seeds.
Folic Acid: Your OB probably recommended a prenatal vitamin with folic acid during pregnancy to support your baby’s development. Your baby still needs this crucial B-vitamin and you can bolster your breast milk with it through fortified whole grain breads, pasta, rice and cereals, as well as green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. Also, continue to take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid throughout breastfeeding.
Galactogogues: Maintaining a healthy milk supply will ensure your baby has plenty of the nutrients she needs. The good news is, most moms can naturally produce enough breast milk for their babies as long as they consume a wholesome diet and drink plenty of water. For those who need it, galactogogues like oatmeal, lactation tea, fenugreek seed, and blessed thistle may be helpful.
Did you know… Leaking is common regardless of the state of your milk supply but you can keep yourself dry with washable nursing pads.
Nutrients that Support Your Body
Studies show that it’s the moms who suffer most when nutrition is lacking. Without proper nutrition your body will leach stored nutrients to continue to produce breast milk for your baby. That’s why maintaining excellent nutrition during breastfeeding is vital. In addition to needing more calories you need a few other essential nutrients now more than ever:
Carbohydrates: Nursing moms need about 60% more carbs than in their pre-pregnancy diet. But skip the chocolate cake and use these carbs wisely to sustain your energy and help your baby’s development. Fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods are the healthiest carbohydrates.
Protein: Almost every function of your body is dependent on protein. This includes hormone production, muscle and tissue growth, and many chemical reactions. The best way to calculate how many grams of protein you need while breastfeeding is to divide your weight in half and then add 15. Go for lean protein from poultry, fish, nuts and legumes to keep you diet clean and healthy.
Calcium: It’s normal to lose 3-5% of bone density during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, by consuming low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese you can rebuild your calcium stores and return to normal levels after weaning.
Iron: Not all new moms need extra iron but if you lost a lot of blood during delivery, ask your doctor if it is necessary to supplement. Lean beef, beans, and green leafy vegetables are great sources of iron.