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    Nutrition for the Nursing Mother

    What we eat affects our health and breast milk. While breastfeeding, it is important that you eat a well-balanced diet as you did during your pregnancy. If you are unable to consume calcium-rich foods (milk, cheese, yogurt, fruit orange juice), check with your health care provider or dietitian about supplements.

    A Well-Balanced Diet
    Almost everything a breastfeeding mother eats or drinks will come through in her breast milk. Most foods that are good for you will be good for your baby too. Some babies may become fussy or cry more when a mother eats certain foods. Some babies react to spicy, gas producing foods (such as cabbage, onion, garlic, broccoli, prunes, etc.) eaten by a nursing mother. Protein foods such as dairy and peanut butter can also make babies gassy. If your baby responds this way, take a look at what types of food you had eaten within 24 hours, and avoid or limit them while you are breastfeeding.

    Dietary Needs
    After delivery, most women have an increased appetite and increased thirst. It is important for you to eat nourishing foods and drink enough liquids to support your health and your body's production of breast milk. A well-balanced diet contains:

    • fruits

    • vegetables

    • milk and other dairy products

    • breads and cereals

    • protein foods (such as meats, poultry, eggs, beans and peanut butter)
    Most women need approximately 500 extra calories per day to establish and maintain an adequate milk supply. Caloric needs may vary according to your activity level, weight gain, and desired weight.

    The quality of milk a mother makes may not be affected by drinking too little fluids, but the amount may be. Having any of the following may be signs that you are not drinking enough liquids:
    • Concentrated urine (dark colored, not clear)

    • Strong-smelling urine

    • Constipation
    Most women need approximately 6-10 glasses of fluids a day while breastfeeding. Juice, water, soup, or milk can provide the liquid that you need. Extra fluids should be consumed in amounts to satisfy your thirst and/or to produce pale, odorless urine, or to relieve constipation.

    For any questions or concerns you have regarding the your diet and its effect on your breastfeeding, a lactation consultant can be very helpful.

    While breastfeeding, your weight loss should be gradual and consistent, about one-half to one pound per week.

    The following is a list of substances you may consider using in moderation while breastfeeding:
    • Caffeine - Coffee, tea, and cola beverages contain caffeine and may cause the baby to be jittery and restless.

    • Alcohol - Alcohol in your blood is quickly transferred into your breast milk. Too much alcohol in your blood will have the same effect on your baby as on you. Also, excess alcohol can slow the let-down or release of your breast milk to your baby. Discuss concerns with your health care provider.

    • Smoking - Nicotine and marijuana are passed through to the breast milk and may also be inhaled by your baby. Therefore, they are not recommended while breastfeeding.

    • Medications - Many medications are passed into breast milk but usually in such small amounts that the baby is not affected. To be safe, check with your health care provider before taking any medication.
    Always remind health care providers, including dentists, that you are a breastfeeding mother.