You’ve probably heard of the old saying that you should be eating for two during pregnancy – even though there is some truth to this advice, you shouldn’t take it literally. One study has shown that excessive intake of food can in fact turn gestational diabetes into diabetes type 2, so it is important that your diet provides your body with what it needs while pregnant – but no more than that.
The rules are similar during the breastfeeding period. You should provide your body with a healthy, balanced diet that includes a wide variety of nutritious ingredients, in the amounts that suffice your body’s needs. While breastfeeding, you may be using up to 500 calories a day more than usual, so depending on the amount of weight you gained during pregnancy, your metabolism and other factors, you may or may not need to increase the amount of food you eat. The safest way to accomplish a healthy diet is to listen to your own body – eat when you’re hungry and have smaller, but healthy meals. However, if you experience a loss in appetite, it may be a good idea to consult your physician as this can sometimes be a sign of postnatal depression.
What does “balanced diet” mean exactly?
The key is in variety. By eating different kinds of foods, the taste of your breast milk will change, allowing your baby to adapt and accept different flavors long before they even start eating solids. A healthy nutrition will be based on real foods, instead of industrially processed products which not only have fewer nutrients, but also contain many ingredients that your body doesn’t need, such as artificial coloring and flavor enhancers. When it comes to types of food you should have on your plate, the goal should be to eat ingredients from all the groups described below, on a daily basis:
- Protein-rich foods, such as lean meat, eggs, fish (low in mercury), dairy, beans and lentils
- Wholegrain bread and rice as sources of starch
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy varieties
- Calcium rich foods, such as dairy products
- Good fats that can be found in nuts, avocado, fish and extra virgin olive oil
- Plenty of water
Foods to avoid while breastfeeding
Even though the general recommendation is that you can eat pretty much anything in moderation, there are certain foods that you should limit or avoid completely if possible.
Drinking cow’s milk can sometimes affect your little one causing symptoms such as bloating, skin rash, face swelling, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. due to the protein present in cow’s milk that your baby may be allergic to. If you are worried that this may be the case, talk to your physician about not drinking cow’s milk for a couple of weeks and see if your baby’s symptoms subside.
Avoid drinking a lot of caffeine while nursing – the general recommendation is no more than 200mg of caffeine per day for breastfeeding mums. Keep in mind that caffeine is not only found in coffee – it is also present in black tea, energy drinks and some sodas. Increased intake of caffeine can make your baby restless and nervous, and cause troubled sleeping.
Alcohol passes through breast milk to a baby, so it’s best to avoid habitual use of alcohol while breastfeeding. If you enjoy a glass of wine, it’s best to do so just after you have nursed or expressed milk rather than before, and allow at least 2 hours per drink before the next breastfeeding or pumping session. That way, the body has as much time as possible to rid itself of the alcohol before the next feed.
Sometimes you may notice that your baby has more cramps after you eat a certain herb or vegetable like onion, leek or bean. It might be a coincidence but if you notice it every time it is recommended that you remove it temporarily from your diet.
If your nursing is going well and you are used to a healthy diet which includes certain herbs you don’t have to change your habits. Your baby is probably already used to your diet.