Best Breastfeeding Foods
There’s a reason breast milk is the perfect food for your baby: breast milk contains just the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals that your baby needs to grow and thrive. Although there are no special foods that will help your body create more milk, the foods you eat while breastfeeding provide all the nutrients that nourish your growing baby. Lactating parents should aim for a healthy, balanced diet that gives your body everything it needs to create rich, quality breast milk for your child.
This means that for the most part, you can continue to eat and enjoy the same foods you ate before pregnancy. There are no foods you need to avoid unless they bother your baby. Nutritious foods for your body while breastfeeding include lean proteins, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals.
A lactating parent should aim to drink at least 12 8-ounce glasses of caffeine-free fluid daily. One popular technique is to drink a glass every time you nurse. Doctors strongly recommend avoiding alcohol, especially in large amounts, and limiting the amount of caffeine and sugary drinks you consume. A moderate amount of caffeine (no more than 2-3 cups of coffee daily) will not bother most breastfed babies. Approximately 1% of the caffeine consumed by the nursing parent will pass through your breast milk to the child. Too much caffeine may make it harder for your baby to sleep or cause fussiness.
Recommended: Breastfeeding and BPA (Bisphenol A)
How Do Foods Affect Breastmilk?
Research shows that your breast milk is only affected slightly by the food you eat. In most cases, your baby enjoys the different flavors that come from your diet. If your baby is sensitive to certain foods, the following signs may appear anywhere from a few minutes up to 24 hours after a feeding:
- Fussiness during or after feedings
- Waking up in discomfort
- Wheezing or coughing
- Inconsolable crying after feeding
These signs do not mean that your baby is allergic to your milk, only to something that you are eating. If you cut back on the food that is bothering your baby, or remove it from your diet, the problem usually goes away on its own.
More serious symptoms in your baby after breastfeeding may include vomiting, diarrhea, green stools with mucus and/or blood in the stool, rash or hives. Talk to your doctor right away if you notice these symptoms. If your baby ever has difficulty breathing, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
A lactating parent’s body requires up to 500 more calories a day to create breast milk. If you follow a diet without any forms of animal protein, or eat very little meat or animal protein, you or your baby may not get enough vitamin B12 while breastfeeding. Your doctor may recommend taking vitamin B12 supplements during this time to protect your and your baby’s health. Signs of low B12 in your baby can include loss of appetite, slow motor development, weak muscles and vomiting. If you are a vegan parent, it is important that you talk to your doctors about your vitamin B12 needs.
For more information on breastfeeding, visit the TotalHomeCare Resources Blog, Womenshealth.gov, HealthyChildren.org and La Leche League.