At Westchester Health, we have years of experience with newborns, expectant moms and breastfeeding, and we’re here for you with tips, advice and support. To help you make sure you’re getting the nutrition you need while breastfeeding, Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician in our Westchester Health Pediatrics group, has put together these healthy-eating guidelines in a recent blog.
Calcium is one of the most important minerals in your diet. Your body’s stores of calcium (primarily from your bones) supply much of the calcium in your breast milk to meet your baby’s calcium needs. Studies show that women lose 3-5% of their bone mass when they are breastfeeding, meaning that after you finish nursing, your body must replenish the calcium that was used to produce your milk.
Making sure you consume the recommended amount of calcium—1,000 milligrams a day for women aged 18-50 and 1,300 milligrams for teenagers—helps ensure that your bones will remain strong after you have weaned your baby. Good news: you recover the bone lost during breastfeeding within 6 months of weaning your baby.
Good sources of calcium:
- calcium-fortified juice
- dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, broccoli or dried beans
- fortified foods such as breakfast cereal
- canned salmon
Vitamin D—often known as the “sunshine vitamin”—is just as important as calcium when it comes to maintaining bone strength. Vitamin D is essential for absorbing dietary calcium from your intestinal tract. Most experts currently recommend getting at least 400 IU of daily vitamin D, but some suggest getting as much as 1,000 IU. Exposure to sunlight is one of the best ways to get your vitamin D, but it’s not the safest, given concerns about skin cancer. It’s also unreliable and depends a great deal on where you live. Instead, get vitamin D from salmon, mackerel, fortified milk or orange juice and yogurt. In addition, some ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D. And as is the case with calcium, you can get vitamin D from supplements, too.
Protein is another crucial component of a healthy diet while you are breastfeeding. Protein builds, repairs and maintains body tissues and you need 6-6½ ounces a day when you’re nursing. You can get this by eating 2-3 servings of lean meat, poultry or fish, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, nuts (12 almonds or 24 pistachios, for instance) or dried beans (¼ cup cooked). Include fish in your weekly diet too, especially fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. These types of fish are rich sources of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that is found in breast milk and contributes to growth and development of an infant’s brain and eyes.
Iron helps breastfeeding mothers maintain their energy level, so be sure to get enough of this important mineral in your diet. Lean meats and dark leafy green vegetables are good sources of iron. Other sources include fish, iron-fortified cereals and the dark meat in poultry.
Nursing mothers should get at least 400 micrograms of folate, or folic acid, daily to prevent birth defects in future children and ensure their babies’ continued normal development. Spinach and other green vegetables are excellent sources of folic acid, as are citrus fruits or juices, many kinds of beans, and meat or poultry liver. You can also get folic acid from breads, cereal and grains, which are enriched with folate in the U.S.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
Drink lots of water, frequently, preferably before you feel thirsty, and drink more if your urine appears dark yellow. In fact, we recommend having a glass of water nearby when you breastfeed your baby. Avoid juices and sugary drinks; too much sugar can contribute to weight gain and too much caffeine in your breast milk can interfere with your baby’s sleep.
More information on breastfeeding
To learn more about the important benefits of breastfeeding, visit these pages on the Westchester Health Pediatrics website:
Questions about breastfeeding? Want to learn more? Contact our pediatric group.
Westchester Health Pediatrics has two certified lactation specialists who can personally work with you and your baby so that breastfeeding becomes a positive, successful experience for both of you. They can also tell you about breastfeeding classes offered at the hospital where you plan to deliver, which can make the whole process easier. Give them a call and make an appointment to meet with one of their excellent pediatricians.
To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.