We all know the importance of eating a balanced diet to get the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function properly. And if you’re a breastfeeding mother, that goes double for you — literally — because you are feeding not only yourself but your baby.
Certain foods have the added benefit of not only being good for you but also helping to boost your milk supply. Here are several key foods or food groupings you should consider including in your diet to ensure a healthy you and baby.
Oatmeal — Certain foods have the added benefit of not only being good for you but also helping to boost your milk supply. Oatmeal tops the list, but it also is a great source of soluble fiber and contains plenty of minerals you and your baby need, including thiamin, manganese, selenium, and magnesium.
Salmon — Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon provides heart-healthy benefits and is low in mercury as well. Other fish that are low in mercury include tilapia, trout, and cod. Fish that should be avoided due to high mercury content include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
Dark, Leafy Vegetables — Vegetables like spinach, kale, and watercress provide you with plenty of calcium, iron, folic acid, and vitamins K and A. Other dark, leafy greens like mustard and collard greens, Swiss chard, or arugula help the body better absorb calcium so put these healthy greens on your “must” list. But be aware that some greens like kale can cause excess gas, so be prepared to cut back if that’s the case.
Almonds — This power food is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, as well as providing extra protein (think healthy snack).
Lean Protein — This can include grass-fed beef, chicken, or wild-caught like salmon. Other sources may include full-fat dairy, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and certain legumes. If you are dairy free, you can get protein from nut milks like coconut, almond, hemp, etc.
Fennel Seed/Fenugreek Seed/Blessed Thistle — These herbs are all well known for their milk boosting abilities. Fennel seed has the added benefit of soothing digestive issues in your baby. Fenugreek and blessed thistle also have been used for various medicinal purposes throughout history.
By the same token, there are some foods that you shouldn’t consume (or at least to excess) because they’re not the healthiest for you, may negatively affect your lactation, or may make your baby gassy or cause an allergic reaction, such as a skin rash. In those cases, it is best to contact your pediatrician to determine any possible allergies and how to eliminate/reintroduce foods to see which are causing distress .
Caffeine (soda, coffee, tea, chocolate) — So this category includes most of the things we actually like and need but unfortunately, your baby may not agree. Excess caffeine intake can disrupt both your and your baby’s sleep patterns, so it’s best to limit your intake to 1 or 2 cups a day or switch to decaf. Chocolate may cause a laxative effect in your baby, and sodas are sugar, additives, and empty calories and shouldn’t be part of a healthy diet anyway.
Alcohol — None is best while breastfeeding, but if you do have a drink every now and then, you must wait until the alcohol has metabolized before nursing. For a 5 oz. glass of wine, that could take 2-3 hours. Or if you know you’ll be having a drink (at dinner, for example), nurse first.
Spices/Spicy Foods (chili peppers, chili powder, curry, garlic, etc.) — These may not be a problem — some babies don’t mind the taste — but if your little one becomes gassy, this could be a culprit.
Parsley, Peppermint, Sage — These herbs are super tasty when used in cooking but have been shown to adversely affect lactation . S o keep an eye on your milk production if you consume them and be prepared to cut them out if you notice a lag in your supply .
“Gassy” Vegetables (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, etc.) — These cruciferous vegetables are all good for you, of course, but they can cause our bodies to create excess gas — and the same is true for your baby.
Citrus — Compounds in citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, or lemons can irritate your baby’s gastrointestinal tract, so if your baby spits up, becomes fussy, or develops diaper rash, citrus could be the cause.
If you’re concerned your diet may not be providing the necessary vitamins and minerals for you and your little one, consult your doctor on whether you may need a supplement. At the end of the day, it comes down to figuring out which foods work best to you and your baby happy and healthy.
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