As a breastfeeding mom, I know that making healthy eating a priority can be difficult. Sometimes simply remembering to eat or brush your hair before running out the door is a challenge. However, if you are breastfeeding, your baby is receiving his or her nutrients from what you eat. Therefore, caring for yourself is extremely important.
Every mother’s milk supply is individualized and there is no “special breastfeeding diet.” Eating sensible foods when you are hungry and stopping when you are full is key. Here are a few tips to keep the milk production moving during this busy but beautiful time.
Top your “to-do” list with water. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day to keep hydrated. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink about 75 ounces per day. Have a water bottle with you at all times, keep it full, and drink it often. Set a bottle next to your couch, the rocker in the baby’s room, your car and desk at work. Having a visual reminder can prompt you to drink more. Give your water a boost of flavor and cancer-fighting antioxidants by adding fruit or cucumber slices. Still having trouble? Ask your friends or co-workers to have a water challenge with you!
Plan ahead for protein. Having protein-containing foods prepared ahead of time is a huge time saver! Grill up and slice chicken breasts to use later in the week, or even put them in freezer bags for next week! Add these to salads, wraps, and skillet dishes. Check out page 31 of the VA’s Yummy Benefits Cookbook Volume II for fajitas you can make with pre-cooked chicken breast.
Beans and more beans. Beans and other legumes really pack a punch on nursing nutrition. They are full of protein, fiber, vitamin B-6, potassium and magnesium. Chickpeas will give you a boost of folate, which your body needs more of during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Try the hummus on page 60 of the cookbook mentioned above. To satisfy a crunchy snack craving, pair it with your favorite garden vegetable. Better yet, slice up those garden vegetables and keep them in a container for easy access during the week.
Overnight breakfast. Oatmeal is a good source of iron and fiber, making it a healthy breakfast for moms. Some moms feel that oats also help maintain milk supply. The Cinnamon Walnut Overnight Oats recipe on page 11 pairs oats with protein, chia seeds and fruit for a delicious and nutritious breakfast!
Don’t forget the healthy fats. Avocados are a versatile go-to for extra healthy calories during nursing. Try avocado on sandwiches, mixed with tuna, on top of salads, and in smoothies. They are packed with anti-inflammatory fat, fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B-6. If avocados are not your thing, try a nut butter. Spread on wholegrain bread or grab a spoonful on the way out the door. Satisfy a sweet craving with healthy fats by using the Fluffy Peanut Butter Dip found on page 58.
For more information on eating healthfully while breastfeeding, contact your VA dietitian.
Lindsey Purcell received her education from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She currently is a registered dietitian nutritionist with seven years of experience at the VA. She provides nutrition care to veterans at the Mt Vernon, Illinois Community Based Outpatient Clinic.