So, you have gotten through pregnancy, you have gotten through labour and delivery. Now what?
Well one way or another your baby needs to be fed. Whether you choose to breastfeed, use formula, or a combination of both, nutrition during the process is extremely important for you and for baby. This is crucial during those early days with no sleep to help prevent burn out.
If you are choosing to breastfeed, your diet may look a little different than you expected after birth. It may look much like your pregnancy diet did, you may feel hungrier and thirstier than usual -and that is OK! You may have tried breastfeeding and found that it didn’t work for you – and that is OK too! Don’t be hard on yourself.
I tried to breastfeed with my son – I found it quite difficult to do so and he was mostly on formula by 4 months, my daughter is a different story, she latched right after birth and has stayed that way ever since.
I just want to share some tips and guidelines that I use daily with a young one at home who is primarily breastfed.
I am not a medical doctor, I am not a dietician, and I certainly do not claim to be so. I have just done my research, and this is what works for me!
What foods should I be eating?
Your body burns about 20 calories to make 1oz of breast milk. So depending on your feeding schedule in a day you could be burning around 500 extra calories just making milk. This means that you may need to take in a few extra calories each day to keep up!
Since your baby depends on you for all of his/her nutrition during the early months, it is important to make some healthy choices surrounding your diet because what you eat greatly affects the energy, vitamin and mineral content, fat, and nutrients in your milk. What you are eating can also greatly affect milk production – this can be good or bad.
Considering you just gave birth – convenience is key! Have your cupboards and fridge stocked (ask someone to help you with this if you need it) with easy eats so that you can grab and go throughout the day.
So what does my kitchen look like?
- Fruits – Apples, Pears, Bananas, Blueberries, Strawberries, Oranges, Melons, Grapes, Avocado, Raspberries, Plums, Peaches, Cherries, Kiwi, Grapefruit
These are just a few of my favourites, and I adjust accordingly to the seasons and what is available at the time. Most are easy to eat with one hand, and take little preparation.
- Vegetables – Broccoli, Peppers, Carrots, Kale, Eggplant, Asparagus, Cauliflower, Green Beans, Celery, Mushrooms, Zucchini, Potatoes, Tomato, Onion, Cucumber, Garlic (lots of garlic)
Again, adjust accordingly to the time of year. I spend some time prepping veggies in to containers and storing in the fridge so that they are ready to go when I need a snack.
- Meats & Fish – Chicken Breast, Chicken Thighs, Lean Ground Beef, Beef Steak, Beef Roast, Pork Tenderloin, Pork Chops, Salmon, Halibut, Ling Cod, Tuna, Trout, Mussels, Clams, Crab, Prawns, Eggs
Aside from most of the seafood which we get fresh caught from my dad and uncle, we buy most of this stuff in bulk and then portion it in to serving sizes for my partner and I and then freeze in freezer bags. Sizing it out this way makes it easy for me to take something out on the fly to thaw for dinner.
- Dairy – Greek Yogurt, 2% Milk, Cheddar Cheese, Feta Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Butter, Sour Cream, Ice Cream (because treat yourself!)
- Nuts & Grains – Oatmeal, English Muffins, Bran Flakes, Granola, Almonds, Almond Butter, Almond Milk, Peanut Butter, Wild Rice, Brown Rice, Cashews, Cashew Milk, Pistachios
You can usually find nuts in the bulk section of your grocery store – I find that they are much cheaper to buy this way than the prepackaged kind. Whatever way you choose to buy, a handful of nuts is an excellent and easy snack!
What if I am a vegetarian?
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, getting enough Vitamin B12, Calcium, and Zinc is very important, especially during breastfeeding. You may need to alter or add some of these foods to your diet (check with your doctor to make sure you are getting enough! A supplement of some sort may be required)
Lentils, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Chickpeas, Soy Products, Tofu, Seitan
Vegetarian cuisine is not my forte by any means, so if you are looking for tips on what to eat when breastfeeding and you are a vegetarian, or vegan please check with your doctor to make sure you are getting enough of everything you and baby need. Continuing to take a prenatal vitamin during this time is another great way to feed your body.
Why am I always so thirsty?
There is lots of discussion regarding the amount of water a nursing mother needs to drink. If there is one thing I can say about breastfeeding is that it makes me so thirsty! When I say I drink a lot of water – I really mean I drink a lot of water. 5-6 liters a day to be exact. I bring my water bottle with me everywhere!
Our bodies are constantly working to make milk, so of course we are going to be thirsty. Think of it like you are working out at the gym, only it is going on inside your body and you don’t even know it. All day, all night, milk is being made.
Now plain old water is the best place to start with keeping your body hydrated, however, you don’t need to drink just water in order to do this. Some other great options are:
Carbonated Water, Real Fruit Juices, Teas, Coffees, Soup Broths, Vegetable Juices, Milk of all varieties
My mom told me when I started breastfeeding my daughter to have a glass of juice each time I nursed in order to get something other than water in to my body, and help me keep hydrated. So far so good!
What should I avoid?
Dun Dun Dun….What? You’re saying that after I carried this baby for almost 10 months I still can’t eat whatever I want?!
NO! I am not saying that at all. Have your sushi, have your deli meat! Eat away!
Down the road you may have to make adjustments to your diet depending on your baby. Certain foods may cause excess gas, constipation, and in some cases skin rashes on your little one. Best to check with your doctor before trying to determine which foods to eliminate from your diet.
There are some foods said to cause a decrease in milk production and the big four are:
- Cabbage Leaves
What about alcohol? I do not drink alcohol anymore, but for those of you that do – we know that alcohol passes through breast milk. General peak times are around 30-60 minutes from your first beverage, and decreases slowly over 4ish hours after your last drink. These are just approximates and can change with the amount of alcohol consumed, so please use your best judgement when indulging and debating whether it is safe to feed or not.
Seems simple right?
It can be, yes!
It is so easy to forget to take care of yourself when you have a newborn at home, yet so important not to in order to be able to keep up with the new speed of your life. Like I said in the beginning – ASK FOR HELP with stocking your kitchen with good wholesome foods that are easy to eat on the fly. You will thank yourself later.
Spend half an hour prepping fruits and veggies in ready to go containers in the fridge.
Buy what is on sale, and what is in season to keep costs down.
Keep that water bottle by your side, and refill it often.
Always check with your doctor if you have specific diet requirements – like I said this is just what works for me and I am no medical doctor. I hope I have given you some easy insight in to what to eat when breastfeeding.
Thanks for reading, and good luck in your journey of motherhood!
Please feel free to leave a comment or question at the bottom!