what to eat when breastfeeding?
extra calories—all of them good!
Remember that push-pull feeling of early pregnancy, being hungry yet so sick, and wanting more than anything to eat the perfect mix of nutrients for your growing baby? If you lay nauseated on the bathroom floor while reading about everything you should have been eating, you were far from alone! Thankfully that experience is in the past. But if you’re planning on breastfeeding or are already breastfeeding, brace yourself for more overwhelming dietary advice. As in: you need to be getting 300 to 500 more calories a day (depending on the mom), you have to drink aton of water, and you need rest (even though your new baby disagrees). It can be hard to know what, exactly, you should be eating, and whom to listen to. Basically, you need to eat a broad mix of good-for-you foods. Days with newborns are long. There’s a lot of hands-on activity (diaper changing, nursing, picking up small socks, more diaper changing, more nursing). In the endless busywork, many mothers say they actually forget to eat and/or drink. Obviously not all meals are going to be perfect, which is why our pediatric advisor Dr. Greene suggests striving for a “good balance of fruits, veggies, and protein sources.” It feels funny to pay attention to calories when you’re not on a diet, but breastfeeding is unlike any other time in life, and you do need to up your intake. “You do burn more calories breastfeeding. If ever you’re going to track your own weight, this is a reasonable time to do it,” says Dr. Alan Greene. Need motivation to eat well? Consider that a mom’s body makes milk out of what she eats as well as the nutrients stored in her body. When a mom isn’t optimally nourished, her body will literally take what’s needed for optimal milk by drawing on moms’s reserves of things like iron. “The baby will leach the calcium it needs right out of your own bones,” explains Dr. Greene. “The baby will get it no matter what. Nursing is great for mom’s health. It may even reduce cancer risk, depending on how long you breastfeed. Still, keep yourself healthy.” Set yourself up for success by shopping (or having your partner shop) carefully, filling your fridge with a variety of foods. An added benefit to eating a range of foods is that babies can imprint on flavors just by experiencing them in breastmilk. If you love spices, garlic, or anything bold, there is no reason to skimp as long as your baby tolerates it well. As you shop, make sure to stock up on items that are easy to eat throughout the day when you won’t have time to prep and cook. If you find you often forget to eat, stash some nuts, a piece of fruit, and a glass of water near where you tend to sit and nurse the baby. When she eats, join her. Consider it the first in a long line of shared meals with your kid. Bliss!