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Breastfeeding Nutrition

by Alicia Kenny

So you’ve decided to breastfeed your baby! You’ll want to make sure that both you and your little one are getting all of the nutrients you need to stay healthy and strong. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nursing mothers need to eat about 300 calories more each day than they normally would and at least 1500 calories every day. Your daily food consumption should consist of a variety of healthy foods with extra protein, calcium-rich foods and plenty of water.

In addition to these general guidelines, you should also:

  1. Pay attention to feelings of hunger. Eat until you’re satisfied and consume plenty of nutrient dense foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
  2. Monitor your baby’s reactions. If you notice that he or she is consistently colicky or develops gas after you eat certain foods, then you may want to decrease your intake of those foods or eliminate them entirely while breastfeeding.
  3. Expect that you may be especially thirsty during the first few days after delivery as your body sheds excess fluid accumulated during pregnancy. Increase your consumption of fluid that isn’t filled with empty calories in order to prevent dehydration.
  4. Limit your intake of caffeinated beverages as they may make your baby jittery or irritable and even make it difficult for him or her to get to sleep. Consider drinking caffeinated beverages right after you nurse in order to minimize negative effects on the baby.
  5. Continue taking your prenatal vitamins unless otherwise directed by your physician.
  6. Make sure to eat foods that are rich in zinc as it enhances a baby’s ability to produce antibodies. Some food sources of zinc are hamburger, chicken breast and whole wheat bread.
  7. Limit your consumption of wine to 2 or fewer glasses per week.
  8. Be aware of food sensitivities that can result from common allergens such as cow’s milk, eggs, shellfish, wheat, nuts and peanuts. Some signs of food sensitivity are diaper rash, skin rashes, chronic runny nose, diarrhea and excessive fussiness.

Unless you are severely malnourished, your milk will provide all of the nutrients your baby needs, so if there is something lacking in your diet it will most likely be you and not Baby that suffers. For your own well-being, do your best to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. That’s the best way to ensure that you have the stamina and strength you’ll need to be the best mom you can be!

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