While many women are very conscious of what they eat during their pregnancy, some of them forget that there are also several dietary guidelines that they need to follow while breastfeeding as well. Read this article to learn more about what foods to avoid (and which ones to choose instead) while breastfeeding your baby.
Breastfeeding is widely recommended because of its many health benefits. In fact, breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing illnesses like stomach viruses and ear infections. Children who are breastfed are also less likely to develop allergies or become obese, and it also appears to have a positive impact on a child's intelligence. Moms can benefit too - those who breastfeed reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer and have a lower risk of postpartum depression.
All of these benefits lead most moms to choose breastfeeding despite the fact that it can be inconvenient, time-consuming or painful in some cases. And, it's certainly not as easy to breastfeed in public as it is to simply pull out a bottle of formula. But many moms choose to make this sacrifice for their little ones, including the dietary sacrifices they'll have to make.
Foods to Avoid
There are certain foods that should be avoided by women who are breastfeeding, including:
- Spicy foods: Spices like curry and cinnamon, and foods like onions, chili and peppers may upset an infant's stomach, so eat them in limited amounts. Watch for abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, which may indicate that the baby's sensitive digestive system can't handle these foods.
- Citrus fruits: Like spicy foods, some citrus fruits may be rough on a baby's tummy. The acidity and the high vitamin C content in pineapple, oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits could give the baby an upset stomach or even a rash. Limit your intake depending on your baby's reaction to these foods.
- Some vegetables: Moms need to have veggies in their diet, but certain ones should be eaten only in small quantities because they may give the baby gas. These vegetables include cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers and broccoli. Beans fall under this category as well.
- Dairy: Some babies can develop colic if you are eating too much dairy products. Avoid consuming large amounts of dairy and watch to see how your baby responds to different products.
- Mercury-containing fish: Avoid king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish and shark. These contain high levels of mercury that could be harmful to the baby. Solid white and albacore tuna contain moderate levels of mercury, so limit your intake of those types of fish.
- Caffeine: Caffeine should be limited to small amounts so as to not disturb the baby's sleep patterns. Caffeine could also cause symptoms like nervousness and irritability for the baby.
- Alcohol: If a mother wants to have a drink, she should limit her intake and allow enough time for the alcohol to get out of their system before breastfeeding. It typically takes about two hours for the body to process an average, alcoholic beverage.
- Chocolate: Chocolate contains caffeine and may make a baby gassy, so moms should limit their intake of this food.
- Peanuts: Some studies suggest that a baby who breastfeeds from a mother who eats peanuts may develop a peanut allergy. While there is no conclusive evidence proving this fact, moms should proceed with caution.
- Saturated fats and trans-fats: Foods that contain high levels of these unhealthy fats aren't good for your baby. Saturated and trans-fats can reduce the production of omega 3s, which are critical for proper infant growth and development.
- Pesticides: Obviously this isn't a food, but many varieties of produce could have pesticides or insecticides on them, so wash them thoroughly or peel them before eating. You can also opt for organic produce instead.
Good Foods to Eat
In general, women who are breastfeeding should focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet. This is usually sufficient for proper nutrition in breast milk. According to BabyCenter.com, moms can add 200 to 500 extra calories into this diet in order to accommodate for breastfeeding.
There are some foods that stand out for the great benefits they provide babies through a mother's breast milk, including:
- Complex carbs: Complex carbs in whole grains, squash, apples, berries and brown rice are nutritious and provide energy.
- Healthy fats: These fats include mono and polyunsaturated fats, like those found in salmon, avocado and nuts, and are great for your diet.
- Proteins: Eat lean meats, eggs, nuts and other protein-packed foods for proper growth and development for your baby.
- Calcium: Milk, cheese and yogurt are good sources for the calcium a baby needs, just be mindful not to have too much.
- Fruits and veggies: Carrots, sweet potatoes, melons, tomatoes and other fruits and veggies provide essential vitamins and nutrients.
- Water: Make sure you're getting plenty of water. Light-colored urine is a sign that you are well-hydrated.
- Vitamins: Moms can continue taking prenatal vitamins for the first month of breastfeeding. Then, they can switch back to their regular multivitamin.
Notes About Dieting
Many new moms are anxious to lose their pregnancy weight, but those who are breastfeeding should plan to lose weight gradually over time. Moms need those calories not just for the baby, but also for their own stamina when caring for a newborn. In fact, BabyCenter.com explains that losing weight too quickly releases toxins in the body that end up in the breast milk. Simply eat healthy and add in some moderate exercise and the weight should come off at a rate that is healthy for both you and your baby.