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Breastfeeding: foods that nourish your baby

Now that you've delivered your baby, you may want to dive into all of those forbidden foods you’ve been avoiding for nine month. But wait – you may be breastfeeding, and that means you are still eating for two.

If you are a new mother, you’ve likely spent the past nine months carefully watching what you eat and exercising, doing everything you could to deliver a healthy baby. Now you may want to dive into all of those forbidden foods you’ve been avoiding.

But wait – you may be breastfeeding, and that means you are still eating for two. No diet is perfect, but getting key nutrients will help nourish your child in his or her early months.

Here are some tips on what to eat while you breastfeed.

  • You will need 400 to 500 more calories a day to stay energized and feed your baby. (This doesn’t necessarily mean you will gain weight – read this post for more information on breastfeeding and how it impacts your weight.) The US Department of Agriculture encourages breastfeeding moms to create a personalized Daily Food Plan. Your plan will show the foods and the amounts that are right for you based on your age, height, weight and level of physical activity. You can create a plan here with the USDA’s SuperTracker.
  • In general, pick foods that are rich in:

    • Calcium: Low-fat milk and yogurt, tofu and sesame seeds
    • Protein and iron: Lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds
    • Vitamin A: Spinach, carrots, yams, red bell peppers, asparagus, tomato, mango, papaya and dark green leafy vegetables
    • Vitamin C: Oranges, strawberries, pineapples, tangerines, green peppers and lemons

You should also consider the following:

  • You will need to drink more fluids when you are breastfeeding, so make sure to quench your thirst. A common suggestion is to drink a glass of water every time you breastfeed.
  • Alcohol and caffeine pass from you to your baby, so you will want to watch what you drink. Two to three cups a day of coffee or other caffeinated beverages will not affect your baby. You can have an occasional drink, but it is a good idea to wait until your child is at least 3 months old. Also, it’s recommended that you wait at least four hours after having a drink to breastfeed.
  • Some fish contain high levels of mercury and should be off-limits. They include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. And you should eat no more than 6 ounces of white (albacore) tuna per week.
  • Try to eat foods that are low in “empty calories” — added sugars and solid fats. Unfortunately, empty calories can be found in some of our favorites: soft drinks, fruit drinks, desserts, fatty meats, processed snacks and fried foods.

If you have questions or concerns about what you should eat while breastfeeding, contact your health care provider. Or reach out to a Providence provider here.

Breast milk is the best possible source of nutrition for infants. Donor milk is an important part of medical care for at-risk newborns whose own mothers can’t breastfeed or produce the amount of milk their babies need.



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