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Mother's Nutrition While Breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding burns many calories, therefore, a healthy, proper diet is essential. Breastfeeding mothers require an additional 500 calories per day for singletons, 1000 calories per day for twins, and 1500 calories per day for triplets.

To keep up with your body's calorie demands, eat three well-balanced meals and enjoy nutritious snacks in-between meals. Be sure to include:

  • Proteins such as dairy, nuts, and meats
  • Vitamin A foods (i.e. squash, carrots, sweet potato, dark green leafy vegetables, apricot, pumpkin, peaches, papaya, mangos, and cantaloupes)
  • Vitamin C foods (i.e. citrus fruits, strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli, tomato, red and green bell peppers, spinach, guava, grapefruit, orange, and potato)
  • Calcium sources (such as dairy, orange juice, tofu, kale and collard greens) and 
  • Iron-rich foods (such as meats, fortified grains, and dark green leafy vegetables)
It is important to note that this is not a time to attempt to lose weight by dieting. Breastfeeding will help you burn calories and shed pounds naturally. For an individualized nutritional plan during breastfeeding, visit

You may find that some of the food you eat do not sit well with your baby. Some babies have a milk protein allergy to dairy foods or may have an allergic reaction to something you ate. For more on this topic see: Breastfeeding and Food Allergies. Some “gas producing” foods may also irritate your baby. These include:
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Cauliflower
  • Excess spices
  • Garlic
  • Legumes-beans, lentils
  • Onion
Nursing mothers also have to be mindful about their fish intake. Fish is a healthy part of a well-balanced diet. The fatty acids in fish promote brain and eye development. Unfortunately, many predatory fish contain high-levels of mercury and should be avoided. Find out more about fish advisories for nursing mothers here.
Not only is a well-balanced diet an important part of breastfeeding, so is maintaining hydration. Increase your fluid intake and drink enough to satisfy your thirst. Water, of course, is the best way to maintain hydration. Fruit and vegetable juices are acceptable. Just remember that these delicious drinks bring with them higher sugar content. 
What about caffeine? Like all things, caffeine is okay in moderation. Caffeine can promote dehydration, so it is important to drink extra water on the days that you splurge on soda and/or coffee. Many experts say to limit caffeine intake to 1-2 cups per day. Caffeine can stay in a baby's system for long periods of time (up to 96 hours!); however, a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics did not show any disruption to baby's nighttime sleep. Watch your baby and if you notice that the caffeine is affecting him, back off on the amount of caffiene you are drinking.
Continue to take your prenatal vitamins. These vitamins contain all of the vitamins and minerals that your body will require throughout the day. If you are taking any medications, be sure to consult your physician regarding the safety of the medication while nursing. Most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding. The Infant Risk Center and/or a lactation consultant are great resources when you are trying to find out about the safety of a medication while nursing.

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