If you just had a baby, you may be looking at breastfeeding diet plans to try to lose the weight you gained while pregnant. What you eat during pregnancy has a direct impact on the development and health of your growing baby. If you stressed out over every morsel of food for those nine to 10 months, you can take a deep breath and relax a little once your baby has entered the world. While your nutrition is important during the breastfeeding months or years, it’s not as critical as it was during your pregnancy.
Your body has what it needs to create all the breast milk you baby needs as long as you’re not severely malnourished. Every food you eat won’t go directly into the milk, but there are some foods that can have a negative impact. If you understand what those foods are and why they’re harmful to your milk or your supply, you can create a breastfeeding diet that fits your taste buds just as much as your lifestyle.
Extreme Calorie Restriction
You may want to lose the baby weight as quickly as possible, but any diet that restricts your food intake severely will have a negative impact on your milk supply. You need around 500 calories a day just to create and deliver breast milk. This means that you need to supply your body with enough energy to support automatic functioning, breastfeeding and daily activity. The more active you are, the more energy you will need.
If you restrict calories too much, your body will struggle to produce the energy needed to continue creating milk. While your system may cut back in other ways, putting your health at risk, it may also cut back on milk production.
This isn’t permission to go crazy with calories double up on all the foods you avoided while pregnant. It just means that intense caloric restriction isn’t the best idea while you’re breastfeeding. If you focus on eating nutrient-dense foods most of the time and you eat to satisfaction, you probably don’t need to count calories at all. If you’re eating healthy and you’re starving all the time, perhaps your body is telling you to eat a bit more.
Focus on the nutrients rather than the numbers.
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Extreme Nutrient Restriction
Just as you don’t want to restrict calories too much, now is not the time to cut entire food groups out of your diet. You may hear that carbohydrates are evil or fat goes straight to your hips, but severely restricting either will have a negative impact on your health. That directly impacts your milk supply and the nutritional balance of your milk.
Instead of cutting out a food group, find ways to eat the healthiest version of that group so that your body receives the nutrients it needs. For example, focus on healthy fats rather than eliminating fat. Go for coconut oil, olive oil, nuts and nut butters while restricting or cutting out trans fats and perhaps saturated fats. If you’re worried about carbs, go for whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits because they’re loaded with nutrients and provide your body with energy due to their natural carb content.
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You may need your coffee to get through those sleepless weeks or months that come with parenthood, but too much caffeine can impact your breast milk. Caffeine is one of the foods that will make an appearance in your breast milk, usually peaking a couple hours after it’s consumed. The catch is that only a small percentage of what you consume ends up in your milk, and not all babies are sensitive to caffeine.
If your baby is responsive to caffeine, you may notice that they’re more alert and active when breastfeeding after you’ve consumed caffeinated drinks and foods. They may even get cranky or fussy if it’s too much for them. This is your signal to cut back on the caffeine or perhaps to time your coffee so that you don’t breastfeed within two or three hours of consumption.
A cup of coffee or a bit of chocolate here and there isn’t likely to impact your breast milk or your baby. The problem comes when you consume a lot of caffeine throughout the day, dramatically increasing the amount of caffeine making its way to your milk.
Related Article> Caffeine While Breastfeeding- How Much is Ok?
You were probably warned not to consume fish that is known to contain high levels of mercury while you were pregnant. The same warning applies to the breastfeeding phase because mercury can make its way into your breast milk, negatively impacting your baby’s health. It’s also not so great for your own health, so limiting these fish in your diet is a good idea regardless of your breastfeeding status.
Some of the high-mercury fish that you want to limit or avoid while breastfeeding include:
- Orange roughy
- King mackerel
This is not an exhaustive list, but think about the size of the fish and the amount of smaller fish that it likely eats in the wild. The more smaller fish consumed, the more mercury they likely have lurking in their flesh.
Fish is a nutrient-rich food that is included in many healthy diets. You also need fish for the omega-3 fatty acids that have so many health benefits. During your breastfeeding days, try to stick some of these low-mercury fish options:
- Salmon (wild and Alaskan)
Notice that these are all smaller fish that aren’t considered major predators. This is why their mercury content is lower, and thus safer for your breastfeeding body.
High-Fat Dairy and Meat
Are you surprised to see this on the list of what you shouldn’t eat while breastfeeding? With so many people following high-fat diets like the Keto Diet, you may assume that loading up on meat is a great idea. The problem is that high-fat dairy and meat products that weren’t produced organically will likely introduce pesticides, antibiotics and other harmful chemicals into your body and possibly into your milk supply.
Why does the fat content matter? The antibiotics and pesticides consumed by animals is stored in their fat. When you consume a lot of that fat, you also consume a lot of those chemicals and hormones.
The solution isn’t to avoid dairy and meat. Try to select low-fat cuts of meat and stick to low-fat dairy if possible. Some babies are sensitive to dairy in general, but you will see signs of discomfort in your baby if that’s the case. Most breastfeeding mothers can choose lower fat options and still get the protein that they need to create healthy milk in abundance while remaining healthy themselves.
Herbs & Herbal Supplements
Herbs have medicinal applications and are often the foundation of powerful prescription drugs. That is why many natural remedies that utilize fresh or dried herbs are so effective. The problem is that some herbs can cross into your breast milk and may potentially impact your growing baby.
As a general rule, talk to your doctor before supplementing with any herb while you’re breastfeeding. Consuming smaller amounts in your food isn’t likely to have an impact on your milk or your health, but consuming larger concentrations in supplement form can have a big impact. Talking to your doctor will help you avoid the most dangerous herbs while taking advantage of those that may help you.
Keep in mind that herbal teas can also contain high concentrations of herb. Some are healthy and won’t sabotage your breast milk, but others may have a negative impact. In general, the following herbs are considered safe if not beneficial for breastfeeding mothers, so they’re good picks for herbal tea:
Your Baby’s Nutrient Sensitivities
Most babies have no reaction to the nutrients in their breast milk. This gives most mothers the freedom to enjoy all the foods they love, practicing common-sense moderation for those that are high in fat, sugar and calories.
Then there are babies who have a negative reaction to certain nutrients that may get into breast milk. You will notice signs of a potential food insensitivity or allergy if your baby displays some of these symptoms after feeding:
- Spitting up more than usual
- Loose or watery stools
- Blood in the stool
- Mucus in the stool
- Skin rash
- Wheezing or difficult breathing
- Nasal congestion or stuffiness
Dairy is one food that may cause nasal congestion or sinus issues in babies as well as adults. If you suspect a certain food of causing your baby’s distress, stop eating that food for a few weeks to see if your baby’s symptoms improve. This is also an easy way to test your baby for sensitivities or allergies that you think they may genetically inherit.
Your Breastfeeding Diet
Don’t allow this list of breastfeeding diet don’ts to overwhelm you. As long as your baby is gaining weight at an acceptable rate and seems happy and healthy without any obvious signs of distress, you’re likely doing it right.
The best breastfeeding diet is well-balanced and rich in nutrients. Most women can eat the foods they love without counting calories or logging their macronutrients. Focus on consuming a healthy diet that supports your health and nutrition goals, and you’re likely going to benefit your baby and your milk supply as well.