How Should I Eat While Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is one of the best things we can do to give our babies a good start in life. Mother’s milk is exactly formulated to meet the baby’s needs. It is full of nutrition, perfectly macro-balanced, easy to digest, and delicious (at least the baby thinks so!). If only we, the nursing moms, had a superfood that we could eat to fuel the production of so much milk for the baby!
Thankfully, eating right while breastfeeding your baby isn’t complicated, or especially difficult. If you ate well before and during pregnancy, then chances are, you won’t have to change much.
One of the most important things to keep in mind while breastfeeding is that we want to get in plenty of nutrients. Our bodies are pumping nutrition into the milk, and if we aren’t restocking, we will quickly become deficient.
This is not the time to watch your calories or try to restrict macros. You are sustaining yourself and another human - please don’t try to diet right now! If you are trying to lose the baby weight, it might come off on it’s own if you are eating right - or it might stick around until the baby is weaned. That’s ok. Don’t focus on the weight right now. Focus on getting as much nutrition as possible, so that you and baby will both be well-nourished.
Eat Real, Whole Foods
The key to eating as many nutrients as possible is to make sure that everything you eat is real, whole food. Avoid empty calories. Even if you feel like you are hungry all the time (many nursing moms are), and even if you aren’t overweight or are underweight, it is still very important to make sure that everything you eat is full of nutrition! Empty calories take up space that is needed for nutrient-dense food. Empty calories also require the body to work hard (usually at a high cost to gut health, hormone health, blood sugar, and everything else) to process calories that aren’t serving it anyway. So don’t eat fake food!
Get In Those Macros
Protein is really important while breastfeeding. No only do we need it to repair and rebuild our own bodies every day, but we also need it for the baby’s milk. Essentially, we are a body builder while breastfeeding - and we are building two bodies, not just one! So eat plenty of protein from whole-food sources.
Carbohydrates are also super important while breastfeeding. These have a big job in providing quick energy for mom, increasing milk supply for baby, and stabilizing mom’s hormones (which tend to be all over the place after having a baby and during breastfeeding). Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, whole grains (preferably gluten-free options like brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal), and sweet potatoes. And when choosing your carbohydrates, focus on the foods that are high in fiber. Our bodies absolutely need plenty of fiber to be able to keep things moving and eliminate toxins and spent hormones from the body. This is particularly important while breastfeeding. It is unfortunately easy to get constipated after giving birth, and we want to do everything we can to avoid that! Fiber also gives the good bacteria in the gut plenty of food to feed off. This is important for a healthy gut!
Fats are very important too. They help to keep us satisfied, promote healthy hormones, and help with mental health (something that is very important to pay attention to after having a baby!). Focus on fats from healthy animal sources (wild-caught fish, free-range poultry, grass-fed beef) as well as nuts, seeds, avocados, and extra-virgin olive oil.
If you want to learn more about balancing macros and getting plenty of nutrition, read this post on preparing for a healthy pregnancy.
And don’t forget to drink that water! When we are nursing a baby, we are using an additional quart to half gallon of water per day, beyond what our own bodies need. Commit to drinking at least a gallon each day while breastfeeding (if you can do closer to six quarts, that’s even better). Make sure it is quality water, not from plastic, and well-filtered if you are drinking from the tap.
Stay Away From Toxins
It’s also important while breastfeeding to make sure we are limiting toxic exposure as much as possible. Some of the toxins we are exposed to get into the breast milk, meaning that the baby then gets exposed to them. Additionally, it isn’t safe for breastfeeding moms to do any serious detoxing while nursing, so we need to be super careful to avoid toxins in the first place. This includes toxins in our food. As much as possible, buy organic food so that you know it isn’t being covered in chemicals!
Last but not least… it is important to keep your blood sugar stable while breastfeeding, so try to avoid getting too hungry and bingeing! Eat smaller amounts more often, and make sure you have a good balance of fats, carbs, and protein each time.
Most importantly, enjoy all those beautiful nursing sessions with your little one!