First of all, eat for your health. A healthy mama is a healthy child! So don’t count calories and be too worried about losing weight – all of the weight will drop off over time with breastfeeding and moderate exercise.
Also, with all the toxins and chemicals found in food these days, it’s good to go for food options that contain fewer pesticides.
“As of 2011 the “dirty dozen” that tested highest for pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group, were apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines and grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, and kale and collard greens.”
Here are some things you can include in your diet:
- Fish – but be picky about it.
It’s important to get protein from a wide range of sources, including fish. A fish promotes a healthy heart, as it contains DHA, EPA, and omega-3 fats. Not only that, they also play an important role in your baby’s brain and eye development during the first year. Your baby will soak up all the goodness through your breast milk.
Plus, lower levels of DHA has been linked to postpartum depression in new mothers.
Some types of fish and seafood you can eat are: salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, tilapia, crab, catfish and scallops.
Alternatively, you can take an omega-3 supplement if you aren’t a fan of seafood. Talk to your doctor about the recommended amount you should take.
However, it’s also wise to be aware of fish that contains high level of mercury, like shark, swordfish and king mackerel. Mercury is harmful to nursing women and children, so make sure to steer clear!
- Water. Tons of water.
Drink whenever you feel the need, until your urine is clear and not yellow.
Also, make sure you filter it your water. Trace chemicals and contaminants can be found even in the best tap water. Even if a fancy filtration system is out of reach, there are many good filters out there these days that can do the trick.
- A balanced meal: Carbs + Protein + Fat
Keeping a balanced diet is a simple way of making sure you can get all the nutrients you need. Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and cereals and greens like fresh fruit and veggies are a must. Try to eat something different every day so that you’re able to get the full range of vitamins you need.
- Good fats
Fat is good for you – so don’t eliminate it from your diet completely. There are healthy fats like canola oil, oils from fatty fish like salmon, olive oil as well as from plant sources like avocados, olives, nuts and seeds.
Cut down on saturated fats and avoid trans fats, which are considered unhealthy fats. High fat meats, whole milk and oils like palm oil and coconut oil contain trans fats. They are also found in partially hydrogenated oils. Look out for them in any nutrition labels.
On top of not being good for your health, consuming too much of these fats can change the fat composition of your breast milk. Even though the effects of trans fats on cardiovascular health has not been discovered yet, we do know that such fats can negatively affect heart health in adults. They raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol), which can increase signs of inflammation. Unhealthy fats can also increase the risk of heart attacks and death from heart disease.
- Your prenatal vitamins
Consider continuing taking your prenatal vitamins while you’re breastfeeding, for at least the first month or so. After that, you can take a regular multivitamin and mineral supplement, or choose to stay on your prenatal vitamin.
On top of your multivitamin, you can also consider taking calcium, vitamin or DHA.
A supplement doesn’t take the place of a well-balanced diet, but it can provide some extra insurance on those days when taking care of your new baby keeps you from eating as well as you’d like.
In addition to your prenatal vitamin or multivitamin, consider taking the following supplements (info from babycenter.com):
Calcium: The recommended dose for women before, during, and after pregnancy is 1,000 milligrams (mg) daily. (Teenage mothers need 1,300 mg daily.)
Don’t get more than 2,500 mg daily from all sources. Exceeding this safe upper limit can lead to kidney stones, hypercalcemia, and renal insufficiency syndrome. It can also interfere with your body’s absorption of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
If you’re going to take calcium, also be sure to supplement with vitamin D.
Vitamin D: This vitamin is important for bone growth and overall health. Vitamin D also helps your body absorb calcium, and research suggests it may lower the risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and several autoimmune diseases.
Sun exposure helps your body produce vitamin D, but many women don’t get enough sun (especially in the winter and with the use of sunscreen) to make an adequate amount, and experts think the small amount found in food might not be enough. The best way to know whether you’re getting enough vitamin D is to have your blood tested.
The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines and Institute of Medicine both recommend that all women get 600 IU (15 micrograms) of vitamin D daily, but no more than 4,000 IU. Very large amounts of vitamin D – more than 10,000 IU daily – may cause kidney and tissue damage.
By the way, breast milk doesn’t supply your baby with enough vitamin D. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies who are exclusively breastfed or who drink less than 32 ounces of formula daily receive a supplement of 400 IU (10 micrograms) of vitamin D each day too. Talk to your baby’s doctor about a vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin D is important for bone development and the prevention of rickets in children. Experts think that getting enough vitamin D in childhood may also help prevent certain conditions, like osteoarthritis, from developing later in life.
DHA: The DHA content of your breast milk depends on your diet, particularly on whether you eat fish. So if your diet doesn’t contain a few servings of cold water fish or other food containing DHA (like fortified eggs) every week, you might consider a supplement.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding moms get 200 to 300 mg of DHA a day.