While breastfeeding, many mothers may have concerns over what they eat, what they put into their body and how this affects their breast milk. Do I need to follow a special diet while breastfeeding? What about taking supplements? Does drinking caffeine while breastfeeding harm my baby? Do have to avoid certain foods to prevent allergies? Parents, try not to worry too much. The conversation around breastfeeding diet and nutrition should be simple and positive – eat healthy for your own future and for the future of your baby.
At Burdett Birth Center, we don’t recommend special diets to breastfeeding mothers – just a regular balanced diet like they would eat at any other time in their life with extra calories for increased needs. We encourage eating to satiety (the quality or state of being fed) and drinking to thirst. That ends up being roughly 2500 calories and two to three liters of fluid daily for most people. You should plan to include daily two to three servings of protein, three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day while also eating whole grains such as whole wheat breads, pasta, cereal and oatmeal. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlights specific nutrients and minerals and how you can incorporate these into your diet with food.
We encourage breastfeeding mothers to consume healthy omega-3 fats such as ones found in seafood, olives and nuts. These are rich sources of DHA which contributes to growth and development of a baby’s brain and eyes. At Burdett we educate breastfeeding mothers on research showing how maternal supplementation of 6,400 IU/day safely supplies breast milk with enough vitamin D for the baby. Breastfeeding mothers can continue taking prenatal vitamins if they prefer, or they can switch to a regular multi-vitamin after six weeks. As a breastfeeding mother, if you don’t think you’re getting enough calcium, vitamin D, iron and folic acid, ask your pediatrician. Just know that taking supplements should never replace eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Knew know most people have heard the mantra “Everything’s fine in moderation.” Well, not everything! But in the case of caffeine, this is true. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that drinking 200 mg a day of caffeine will likely not harm the baby. Babies have different sensitivity levels so parents may need to adjust their caffeine intake accordingly.
When it comes to allergies, we also encourage parents to eat a wide variety of foods and not intentionally avoid a particular food out of concern for allergies. Babies breastfeed all over the world and when they do, they are exposed to lots of different spices and flavors. If parents suspect their baby has an upset stomach when they consume a specific food, we recommend keeping a food diary with baby’s symptoms and discuss with the pediatrician. We’ve previously covered the topic of allergies during pregnancy, while breastfeeding and when introducing solid foods. Hear more from Manisha Relan, M.D., a board-certified pediatric allergist: Calling All Moms – What Can We Do to Prevent Allergies?.
Overall, don’t be overwhelmed. Women believe that if they can’t eat this exceptional diet, then formula is better nutritionally for their babies, and that’s not true. Breastfeeding women get a lot of pressure from family and society to have these bland and boring diets, or are shamed for having treats like chocolate, even when there is no medical reason to avoid treats for the purposes of making milk. A regular, balanced diet helps ensure the future health of the mother and the baby, and it also allows the baby to grow up liking different types of foods and knowing what healthy food choices look like.