Breastfeeding Diet 101: What Your Body Needs to Produce Breast Milk
After pregnancy, most women are hyper-aware of their diet and daily food consumption. For nine months you have avoided alcohol, sushi and cold lunch meat in order to protect baby from harmful substances.
Now pregnancy is over and as a nursing mother you want to know how diet affects your breast milk supply. Read below to find out where your supply comes from, how many calories you need to eat each day and what are the best foods for a strong supply.
What Fuels Breast Milk & Milk Supply
During pregnancy you nourish baby more directly from the food and substances you ingest. As one unit your body and baby feed off of the same nutrients together. It’s easy to think that the same rules should carry over for healthy lactation. However, once baby is born your body takes a different approach to naturally feeding and nourishing your child through breast milk.
Breast milk is produced from mammary glands. Your mammary glands use your body’s reserve of calories and nutrients to create milk. Mammary glands need a sufficient supply of calories and nutrients to produce milk regularly but don’t require a specific diet to work their magic.
“If your diet contains insufficient calories or nutrients to fully sustain both you and your nursing child, your mammary glands will have “first shot” at your body’s available nutrients to produce highly nutritious breast milk, leaving you to rely on whatever is left over. So a less-than-ideal diet will probably not affect your breastfeeding child, but it may leave your body at nutritional risk.” Source
For a healthy breastfeeding diet, this puts the emphasis on eating well-balanced nutrients and upping your caloric intake.
Achieving the Right Caloric Intake When Nursing
On average, breastfeeding mothers are advised to add an extra 300-500 calories to their daily consumption. But every body is different! The United States Department of Agriculture provides a fantastic resource to gain a personalized plan based on your body and breastfeeding habits.
“The MyPlate Daily Checklist (formerly Daily Food Plan) shows your food group targets – what and how much to eat within your calorie allowance. Your food plan is personalized, based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level.”
Select Female to see the option of Pregnant / Breastfeeding and then personalize further based on your nursing routine.
On the entry page for the Checklist,
- Select "Breast milk only, no formula" if you are not giving any formula. (Choose this even if you are also giving solid foods such as cereal or fruit.)
- Select "At least half breast milk, plus some formula" if you are sometimes giving formula in addition to breastfeeding at least half the time.
- Select "Some breast milk, mostly formula" if you are mostly giving formula, and breastfeeding only once or twice a day.
The MyPlate Daily Checklist provides a specific caloric target and shows you how much fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy is needed to meet that goal.
How Variables Affect the Recommended Caloric Intake
A 150 pound, 5’5 woman who exercises less than 30-minutes per day should consume the following calories:
- 2,400 Calories - Breast milk only, no formula.
- 2,000 Calories - At least half breast milk, plus some formula.
- 2,000 Calories - Some breast milk, mostly formula.
Let’s bump the physical activity up to more than 60 minutes a day.
- 2,800 Calories - Breast milk only, no formula
- 2,600 Calories - At least half breast milk, plus some formula.
- 2,600 Calories - Some breast milk, mostly formula.
See how specific circumstances can greatly affect your need for calories? We love this tool to help women find a personalized plan for their daily caloric intake!
How to Add Wholesome Calories to Your Diet
It sounds like a dream to actively hunt for added calories! Visions of cinnamon buns and an extra serving of pasta might be dancing in your head. But maintaining a healthy high-caloric diet means finding and eating foods that include nutrients for both you and baby without too much added sugar and processed fats.
Lactation Bars - Milkful Lactation Bars are packed with wholesome ingredients for breastfeeding moms. Bars are made from rolled oats, almonds, organic flaxseed, chia seed with little to no added sugar.
Green Vegetables - When grocery shopping, load up on leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, cabbage and sprouts.
Fish - Contrary to the rumors, many types of fish are not only healthy for moms but loaded with nutrients that are hard to find elsewhere! Healthy fish includes salmon, anchovies and trout. See our tips for choosing the right fish.
Dairy - Cheese, yogurt and milk are all wholesome foods to up your caloric intake. Plus drinking milk helps rehydrate you which your body desperately needs to produce breast milk.
Four Important Nutrients for Breastfeeding Mothers
What nutrients should you add to your diet? Here are four big contenders.
Calcium - Calcium strengthens bones and builds bone mass. Eating three servings of dairy or 1,000 milligrams daily is recommended for breastfeeding mothers.
Vitamin D - Vitamin D allows your body to absorb dietary calcium from your intestinal tract. The daily recommended dose is 400 IU of Vitamin D a day and can be found in salmon, yogurt and orange juice.
Iron - Iron replenishes your energy level and can be found in lean meats, fish and dark meat in poultry.
Folic Acid - Folic Acid prevents birth defects and helps with babies’ development. The recommended daily dose is 400 micrograms and you can get it from grains, spinach and green vegetables.
Learn more about healthy nutrients from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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