What to eat and what to avoid if you are breastfeeding

By: Nutritionist Raquel Pérez de León

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Most women can breastfeed without any problem; however, as in pregnancy, it is necessary to take care of your diet.

Feeding your baby on demand ensures that he gets everything he needs throughout the day to be healthy and grow well. This means that the volume of milk will not be affected by what you eat; yet, its composition can be altered.

So, if your dietary fat intake is deficient, the concentration of fatty acids in milk will also be low. And the same happens with some minerals such as selenium and iodine, vitamins A, D and B complex. In general, the content of carbohydrates, proteins, calcium and iron is quite constant regardless of the mother’s diet.

According to the Official Mexican Standard 043:

A complete diet is one that includes all nutrients. To achieve this, it is important to include in each meal, at least one food from each group of the Plato del buen comer (Plate of Eating Well):

  • Fruits and vegetables. All kinds and fresh ones. Remember to vary the colors, as each color of fruit or vegetable provides different vitamins and minerals.
  • Legumes and foods of animal origin. This includes high-quality proteins, such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs and legumes (beans, broad beans, lentils, chickpeas).
  • Avoid refined flours and opt for healthier carbohydrates such as brown rice, corn tortillas, oatmeal and whole wheat bread.

Fats are also important. Do not forget to include them in your diet, especially vegetables: avocado, olive oil, almonds, peanuts and walnuts.

Experts from the Mayo Clinic recommend a diet that is as varied as possible, since the consumption of different foods during breastfeeding will change the taste of breast milk but, this will teach your baby different tastes, which can help him accept solid foods more easily later on.

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Avoid These Foods While Breastfeeding

  • A cup of coffee a day may be safe; however caffeine can pass into breast milk and if you drink more than two or three cups, your little one could have trouble sleeping.
  • No level of alcohol is considered healthy for your baby. If you happen to drink any alcoholic beverage, you would have to wait at least four hours. If you don’t let that time pass, the alcohol in your blood will pass into your breast milk.
  • You should only avoid the one that contains high concentrations of mercury, especially swordfish, tilefish, shark and mackerel, as they can be dangerous for the development of the baby.

Adequate energy intake and a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and animal products help ensure that women face pregnancy and lactation without deficiencies.

Spanish Association of Pediatrics

Water, vitamins and minerals

Water represents between 85 and 95% of the total volume of breast milk. Studies have shown that forcing fluid intake will not increase milk production. Of course, you will be thirstier and you will need to drink more water than before: around three liters a day.

It is important that you know that even if you take care of your diet, it is very difficult to meet all the vitamin and mineral requirements for your health and your baby’s.

It is best to continue with the multivitamin that you have taken during pregnancy. Consult it with your doctor, but remember that this will only be to complement your diet; you must eat varied, adequately and balanced.

Get down to it and recover your weight

Did you know that to produce 100 ml of milk you need 85 kilocalories? During pregnancy your body accumulated extra fat reserves, which will serve as energy for this new stage.

If you eat right, breastfeeding can help you recover your weight. A healthy woman can lose up to a pound a week and, in turn, supply enough milk to support a growing baby. If you submit to rigorous diets, the only thing you will achieve is that your body has no energy and you stop lactating.

Now you know, focus on making healthy decisions and eating a complete, sufficient, balanced and varied diet.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish version: Here

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