The Breastfeeding Diet: What To Eat And What To Avoid While Nursing And Pumping

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breastfeeding diet
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Coming home from the hospital with a new baby is both wonderful and absolutely terrifying. While it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for since seeing the positive pregnancy test results, you’re also entering a home that will function far differently from the way it did before the birth. Now, there’s another person involved that you’re completely responsible for. While you likely kept a safe diet while pregnant, dietary changes will also happen if you choose to breastfeed. The breastfeeding diet shouldn’t be too different, but there are certain things to know in regards to your milk production.

Figuring out what to eat while breastfeeding can change day by day. For example, if you’re exclusively breastfeeding and your baby has a reaction — even something minor, like a skin reaction — they may be allergic or have a sensitivity to something you’re eating. The breastfeeding diet may be a little different for everyone.

What to Eat While Breastfeeding

It’s important to remember that the breastfeeding diet isn’t just about making sure your newborn is healthy. It’s also a way to make sure that you, as a mom, have all of the nutrients you need to stay healthy. Maternal depletion often happens to moms who don’t put their own health as a priority after having a baby. Women often overrun themselves to be present and loving parents, and that sometimes means putting their needs last. Having the right breastfeeding diet will help make sure you’re also getting the nutrition you need to thrive as both an individual and a mom.

That means you’ll want to include protein in your breastfeeding diet. Poultry, fish, and eggs are healthy places to start. Nuts, beans, and seeds also make for wonderful and filling snacks.

Greens are also important. Fruits and vegetables can change your entire mood around. Making sure you get plenty of water is also crucial. Not only does water help your body absorb nutrients, but it also transports vitamins and hormones to your blood cells. Having water around, especially while breastfeeding and pumping, is a great way to remind yourself to hydrate.

Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding

Many of the foods to avoid while breastfeeding are similar to the foods to stay away from while pregnant (that’s why they call it the Fourth Trimester.) Here are just some:

  • Alcohol. While it’s okay for a breastfeeding parent to enjoy alcohol, it should be in moderation. Timing is everything. If the parent has a drink and waits two hours before nursing, the CDC states that none of the alcohol will be passed onto the infant. It’s always good to be cautious and keep a good record of how much you drink. If you pump milk, many stores will sell alcohol detection strips to make sure none of it is present in your milk supply.
  • Caffeine. The same goes for coffee. In moderation, caffeine and breastfeeding are not mutually exclusive. You just want to make sure you don’t overdo it before nursing or pumping.
  • Chocolate. Unfortunately, chocolate is something that breastfeeding parents will want to experiment with. Too much chocolate might serve as a laxative for your baby. If you’re a big fan and have noticed a few less-than-pleasant diaper changes, chocolate might be the culprit.
  • Citrus. Citrus fruits might cause a reaction, but most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about. However, if you notice an excess of spit-up and diaper rash and happen to eat a handful of clementines every day, you might want to see if they may be linked to the issue.
  • Garlic. Garlic might also be an issue if you happen to use it a lot. Again, garlic is quite healthy — and most times, completely safe. But if your baby develops colic, it may be linked to too much garlic in your diet.

Best Foods for Breastfeeding

There are also plenty of great foods for a breastfeeding diet that may increase your milk supply. Here are a few examples.

  • Garlic. Surprisingly, garlic may actually be one of them — which is a reason why you might be hesitant to cut it out completely.
  • Avocados. Avocados are wonderful for nursing parents to add to their routine. They include plenty of vitamin K and B vitamins and can make breastfeeding or pumping moms feel satisfied at mealtime.
  • Leafy greens. Greens are not only fun to munch on, but they also contain phytoestrogens, which will help boost your milk supply. Spinach and the herb fenugreek are both excellent sources of these.
  • Seeds. Seeds, especially chia seeds, are also highly recommended. They’re great nutritional sources and will help keep nursing mothers energized.
  • Beans. Beans are chock-full of vitamins and minerals that help with milk production. It’s important to eat a range of beans and legumes to boost health and strengthen your milk supply.
  • Mushrooms. Remember that not all mushrooms are helpful for improving milk production. Stick to reishi, shiitake, maitake, shimeji, and oyster mushrooms. These fungi are known as lactogenic foods.

How can I make my breast milk more nutritious?

Obviously, if you’re aiming to meet the requirements of a breastfeeding diet, you’re in it to make sure your milk has everything your child needs. It’s very important to keep an eye on omega-3 fatty acids in the foods you eat. These are crucial for your child’s brain development. One of the best sources of these is DHA, which can be naturally found in fish — especially wild salmon. If you make lunches at home, cooking up some salmon is a great way to ensure more nutritious breast milk.

Fish, in general, is great, but you’ll want to aim for fish that’s low in mercury. That means that you might want to swap out your typical tuna melt for shrimp, salmon, or pollock.

What causes a decrease in breast milk supply?

Besides the food you eat, there are other factors that can affect the amount of milk you produce. So while breastfeeding, try to avoid the following.

  • Stress (easier said than done, we know). Feelings of anxiety can affect your hormones and make it harder to produce milk. After delivery, look into mental health resources to help manage any anxiety.
  • A common cold, stomach flu, or any symptoms of fatigue can decrease the amount of milk you produce.
  • It’s not just about what you eat — it’s about how much. Baby won’t get enough milk if you’re not taking in enough nutrients. Mom life can be super busy, but it’s important to make time for your own meals.
  • Using hormonal birth control can also affect your breast milk supply. For some moms, it may not affect milk production. However, for others, the hormones may cause a decrease.
  • Getting pregnant again can also cause a drop in the milk you produce. So, if your supply is down and you’ve been sexually active, take a pregnancy test to rule it out as a reason.

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