When you consider that as a nursing mother you will produce between 23 and 27 ounces of milk per day that has 330 milligrams of calcium per quart, then it is easy to see why you need to be sure you're eating a healthy, vitamin and mineral packed diet. The extra energy you spend making this milk for your baby costs your body 500 calories per day. When you are nursing, you don't want to go on a calorie restricted diet - both you and your baby may suffer if you do.
Good Nourishment Means Plenty of Milk
Even though the quality of breast milk is not affected by calorie deprivation, the quantity produced definitely is. This is where your diet comes in because quantity depends upon diet. The food you eat not only nourishes you it also makes it possible for you to produce milk. Your baby may be healthy even if your eating habits aren't, but your health will go downhill if you are lacking sufficient nutrition. You body's first commitment when you are breastfeeding is to make milk - your body's needs come after that, just as it was during pregnancy. This is a surprising fact, but it brings home the reality of the need to eat well: your baby, while only weighing a few pounds, will consume 1,000 calories per day in breast milk.
It'll Make You Hungry
It isn't necessary to take in a lot of extra calories, but it is necessary to ensure you are getting enough every day. Your weight and activity level are good gauges to help you determine how much you should be eating every day. The fact is that breastfeeding gives you a big appetite, so if you're not feeling much like eating then check out your emotional condition - you might just need a hug. If you continue to struggle with loss of appetite, see your doctor. Postpartum depression is common and affects the desire to eat.
Best Way to Nourish Your Body
When you are breastfeeding you will need to increase your water intake by one quart per day so you are drinking 2.5 to 3 quarts of water per day. Drink enough, but not too much because too much liquid can have a reverse effect and reduce milk production. Your caloric intake from food should be around 2500 calories per day and, if you intend to nurse longer than three months, you should push the caloric intake up a bit. The primary thought here is to increase your calories with healthy, nourishing food not sweets and junk foods. Rather than eating "three squares" a day, spread the calories out over five or six smaller meals. That way your blood sugar remains even and your body has what it needs to produce milk. Be sure to drink some water around the same time as you eat so you are sure to get enough food and liquid.
Eat unsaturated fats; omega-3 fatty acids are very important while you are nursing. You were likely taking folic acid before conception and during the first trimester of your pregnancy to protect your baby from neural tube defects. Continue to take it while you're nursing because it is necessary for your baby's nervous system's development. You can get a lot of your vitamin needs met through your diet, so be sure you are eating right for your baby and yourself.
Keep an Eye on Baby
Generally speaking, you can eat almost anything in moderation but be alert to reactions from the baby. Symptoms of colic, upset tummy, gas, being fussy or miserable are possible indications of food issues. If you think a particular food has bothered your baby, cut it out of your diet for a few days to see if things change. Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts as well as onions are thought to be prime problem makers for nursing babies. Cow's milk and chocolate can also have negative effects, usually causing colic. Food allergies can also make baby unhappy so you'll have to closely monitor your diet initially to see if there is anything that is bothersome to your little one.
Wisdom and Caution
Of course, smoking is very unwise because the nicotine passes directly through your milk to your baby. Alcohol passes through milk in less than an hour and if the baby consumes it in large quantities it will retard his growth. Save your occasional drink for after the baby is fed. Medication is another concern. Check with your doctor if you are taking medications to see if they will impact the baby. Most antibiotics, sulfa drugs, chemical laxatives, and all products containing iodine are verboten during breastfeeding. Pollutants like pesticides act just like nicotine - they pass through the milk to the baby. Rather than using poisonous sprays, try citronella candles to ward off pests.