Your Breastfeeding Nutrition Questions, Answered

The knowledgeable maternity team at All About Women answer your most pressing questions on what and how to eat while breastfeeding

You've just undergone the rigors of trying to eat your best for nine months to nourish that little being within. Now that your baby is out in the world, you're committed to nursing, but you're just not sure about what rules from pregnancy nutrition apply to breastfeeding. What shouldn't you eat? Can you have a glass of wine? How much food is too much?

Below, the experienced maternity team at All About Women answers some of the most common questions surrounding breastfeeding nutrition:

I'm really hungry! How much can I eat?

Making milk takes a lot of energy, so don't be surprised if you feel even more ravenous during breastfeeding than you ever were during pregnancy. The general rule of thumb, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is that nursing mothers need about 400 to 500 extra calories per day; about the same or a little more than at the very end of pregnancy.

As in pregnancy, it pays off for you and your baby to make those calories count with nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts, low-mercury fish and high-calcium foods. Whatever you eat, make sure that you're drinking enough water too. Aim for drinking a glass every time you sit down to nurse.

What are the rules? Do I still have to avoid foods like soft cheeses while breastfeeding?

You don't have to be quite as careful about the foods you consume while nursing as you did during the pregnancy. Soft cheeses and lunchmeats are officially okay. However, you do still need to be careful about the amount of mercury you ingest from eating fish. We advise having fish no more than twice a week.

Just like with pregnancy, you should also check to make sure any medications and birth control you choose to use are compatible with breastfeeding. And keep taking that multivitamin until your OB/GYN tells you otherwise.

Is it true some foods make my baby fussy?

Many nursing moms find that certain foods make their baby irritable or cranky. Here's a frequent list:

  • Caffeine (You should try to limit your intake to 200 mg a day, according to the leading obstetric group)
  • Chocolate
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale
  • Spicy foods
  • Dairy

The fact is that you'll just have to experiment with your diet. You may find that what you eat doesn't affect your baby at all, or you may discover that certain foods lead to a definite change in behavior.

Is it true breastfeeding can help me lose my pregnancy weight?

How much weight you loose during breastfeeding depends on a lot of factors, including:

  • How long and frequently you nurse for
  • What you eat
  • How active you are
  • How much weight you gained during pregnancy

In any case, breastfeeding can definitely help you loose the weight, but you shouldn't take extreme measures to lose weight while nursing because it could adversely affect your milk supply. Talk to your doctor about safe weight loss.

Can I drink alcohol now?

It's important to know that alcohol passes straight through your bloodstream and into your milk, so a nursing baby in one hand and a drink in the other is out of the question. But you can still be a responsible mother and have a drink. You just want to wait till your baby is going a little longer between feedings so that you have a two-hour window between when you have a drink and when you nurse your baby.

Get Breastfeeding Support

The best approach to eating during breastfeeding is to consume the best food you can without causing undue amounts of stress. You're a new mom, after all, and you'll find that being gracious with yourself is the best approach to eating and life in general.

The midwives and maternity team at All About Women want you to have a successful nursing relationship and we are here to help support you. As a first step, learn more about the basics and benefits of breastfeeding, or pick up the phone and give us a call at our Gainesville or Lake City offices.