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Nutrition During Lactation

Eating a healthy diet while you are breastfeeding is important because what you eat determines the energy, protein, nutrient and vitamin content of your breast milk. Nutritional demands during lactation are high and can have a negative impact on both you and your infant if they are not met! Well Breast-feeding nutrition can be confusing! How much should you eat? What should you avoid? How might your diet affect your baby? Understand the basics of breast-feeding nutrition and get the answers for your entire questions below…

Do I need extra calories while breast-feeding?
• Yes, you might need to eat a little more about an additional 330 to 400 calories a day to keep up your energy.
• Get these extra calories from nutrient-rich choices, such as a slice of whole-grain bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter, a medium banana or apple, and 1 cup of yogurt.

Nutrition while breast-feeding

Focus on making healthy choices to help fuel your milk production:
Protein Needs
While breastfeeding you should have 2-3 servings of protein each day. A serving is equal to 75-100g of meat, fish or poultry. Good sources of protein include:
• Poultry
• Meat
• Eggs
• Seafood
• Milk and yogurt
• Cheese
• Dried beans
• Tofu

Calcium Needs
The suggested daily intake of calcium for breastfeeding mothers is 1,300 mg/day. Reading nutrition labels can help ensure that you are getting enough calcium. For example, one cup of milk or yogurt contains 300mg of calcium. The best sources of calcium are:
• Yogurt
• Milk
• Hard cheeses
• Calcium fortified orange juice

Iron Needs
This nutrient helps your body make new blood cells, which is especially important if you lost a lot of blood during your delivery. Let 15 mg/day be your goal. Good sources of iron include:
• Poultry
• Meat
• Dried beans
• Seafood
• Egg yolks
• Dried fruit

Vitamin C Needs
Nursing mothers should get 120 mg/day need slightly more vitamin C than they did during pregnancy, good sources of vitamin C include:
• Broccoli
• Citrus fruits
• Potato
• Cantaloupe
• Tomato
• Bell pepper
• Cauliflower
• Kiwi
• Cabbage

How much fluid do I need while breast-feeding?
• While breastfeeding you should drink at least 8 cups of water each day.
• Have a glass of water each time you nurse your baby.
• Drink frequently and preferably before you feel thirsty.
• Drink more if your urine appears dark yellow.
• Exercise and high temperatures will increase your need for liquids. Therefore if you are active or it is warm, make sure you keep hydrated and drink even more water.
• Other good liquids are juice, milk, broths, herb teas and soups, but be aware of juices and sugary drinks. Too much sugar can contribute to weight gain or sabotage your efforts to lose pregnancy weight.

What foods and drinks should I limit or avoid while breast-feeding?
Certain foods and drinks deserve caution while you’re breast-feeding. For example:
• Alcohol. There’s no level of alcohol in breast milk that’s considered safe for a baby. If you drink, avoid breast-feeding until the alcohol has completely cleared your breast milk. This typically takes 2-3hrs for 355ml of 5% beer, 148ml of 11% wine or 44ml of 40% liquor.
• Caffeine. Avoid drinking more than 2-3 cups of caffeinated drinks a day. Caffeine in your breast milk might agitate your baby or interfere with your baby’s sleep.
• Fish. Seafood can be a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Most seafood contains mercury or other contaminants, however. Exposure to excessive amounts of mercury through breast milk can pose a risk to a baby’s developing nervous system. To limit your baby’s exposure, avoid seafood that’s high in mercury, including swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Tuna can have some mercury, too. Make sure to only eat the “light” kind and no more than 170g each week.

Other Nutrition Essentials
• Keep healthy snacks on hand. You’ll likely reach for fresh veggies and fruit washed if they are ready in the fridge rather than chips or cookies.
• Choose a variety of whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables. Wash your fruits and vegetables to reduce exposure to pesticide residue.
• Eating a variety of different foods while breast-feeding will change the flavor of your breast milk. This will expose your baby to different tastes, which might help him or her more easily accept solid foods down the road.

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Christelle Bedrossian
Beirut, Lebanon

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Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian