Americans should be concerned about their diet since obesity – and its associated diseases – is a growing problem. But what’s the deal with a breastfeeding diet? Are you supposed to diet now? Yes or no?
- Food Quality and Breast Milk Quality
- Breastfeeding and Losing Weight
- Breastfeeding and Caffeine & Alcohol
Food Quality and Breast Milk Quality
As a breastfeeding Mom, you should take care to eat good food. Not just food – but good food. You are:
• supporting the physical growth of a baby;
• repairing your own body after labor & delivery;
• and need energy to adjust to the new family dynamics.
What does good food mean? Let’s start with the basics – the food pyramid: lots of whole grains; lots of fruits & vegetables; lesser amounts of dairy and meats/fish; and a tiny amount of butter and sweets.
Does the food pyramid have a “C” layer for cake, cookies, candy, and chips? No!
Food that you cook for yourself from scratch retains more nutrients and vitamins than pre-made meals like TV dinners. Chicken & beef which you’ve cooked yourself is better than processed sandwich meats. Fresh fruits and vegetables retain more vitamins than the canned variety (canned fruits have added sugar too). Similarly, spaghetti & meat sauce which you made is better than spaghetti & meat sauce from a can.
I think most people know what good food means – it’s just a matter of implementing what you know and putting it to practice. This is a good time to start. Having a sensible diet is good for your health and will promote good eating habits for your baby when he is weaned off the breast.
It is interesting to note that breast milk is almost always of good quality regardless if you eat well or eat poorly. If you eat poorly, your body will extract the nutrients & elements out of your body to provide high quality breast milk for the baby. It’s Mother Nature’s way to ensuring that the baby is well fed and can survive.
If you don’t drink enough water, or eat very poorly, then you will produce less breast milk, but… the breast milk that you do make is of good quality. This is true for your average woman.
Vegetarian women can breastfeed in confidence but should check with their doctor to make sure that they have enough vitamin B12. In fact, studies have shown that the breast milk made by vegetarian mothers have less environmental contaminants. However, vegan moms should seriously examine their dietary intake and consider supplements if needed. Vegan breast milk may have less DHA (important for brain and eye development) and vitamin B12 deficiency is a real concern. Though – results differ greatly from person to person.
In general, a breastfeeding Mom should eat when she is hungry and drink when she is thirsty – but do so in moderation. Don’t over stuff yourself just because you can. Spread out your food intake over 5 meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks). For those of you who want numbers: a breastfeeding mom should eat 2000 calories per day and drink about 2.5 to 3 quarts of fluids per day.
Need more help? Consider getting Eat Well, Lose Weight While Breastfeeding by Eileen Behan. This book has good nutritional information and a food plan with recipes. Be warned though – some moms love it while other hate it. Probably best to read it, take what you like, and leave what doesn’t work for you. Check it out here.
**Please note, the USDA food pyramid was made in 1992 – that’s almost 20 years ago! Since then, new versions of food pyramids have been generated. In 2005, the USDA made the MyPyramid. It emphasized moderation, variety, and exercise. In the same year, the Harvard School of Public Health created the Healthy Eating Pyramid which has significant changes from the original food pyramid.