Eating well can improve your health at any time, but when you are feeding your baby it is important to get the right nutrition to satisfy both of your needs. You probably chose to breastfeed for a variety of health reasons. Studies show that your baby will have a stronger immune system, feel more secure, and even be more intelligent because you have chosen to breastfeed. One reason for these benefits is the perfect nutrition offered by breast milk.
You can help your body produce the best possible milk for your baby, and meet your own post-pregnancy needs by following a few simple rules of nutrition. Good nutrition does not need to be difficult or time-consuming and your increased energy level will more than make up for any extra time you spend on food preparation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that nursing mothers eat an extra 300 calories a day. This is not as much food as it may sound like, so meeting this increased need with nutrient dense foods will help to ensure that you and your baby are getting all you need.
A diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables will satisfy most of your nutrient needs. Due to the depletion of our soils, food is not as nutritious as it once was so a daily multivitamin can help improve your odds.
Be sure to drink plenty of water. Water is the major component of breast milk. If you allow yourself to become even slightly dehydrated it can reduce your ability to produce milk. One easy solution is to keep a few bottles of filtered water or spring water in the refrigerator so you always have something cool to drink while you are nursing the baby. If you don't like plain water you can try a spritz of juice in sparkling water or herbal teas. Many nursing mothers enjoy iced chamomile tea and swear that it helps reduce colic. Be sure that the herbal tea you select is safe for use during breastfeeding.
If you are low on calcium, your body will rob your bones in order to ensure a continuing supply for other parts of the body. Dairy products, soy milk, kale and other greens ar good sources. If you need more than you are getting from food, talk to your doctor about supplements.
Protein can help you fight fatigue, regain your pre-pregnancy weight, and make you feel full longer. Eating fish twice a week can help you meet your protein requirements and add essential fatty acids to your diet. Peanut butter, almonds, cheese, yogurt, and soy nuts are all easy protein-rich snacks.
Get plenty of Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA). One of the vital ingredients in breast milk is DHA. This EFA is used to build brain cells. Your body will use the DHA from your body to make sure your baby gets this vital nutrient. This is one cause of "pregnancy fog" and short term memory loss immediately after having a baby. You can make sure your baby is getting enough and protect your own brain's supply by eating foods rich in DHA. Fish is the single best source of DHA. It is can also be found in the milk of grass fed cows. Almost all cows in the US are raised on grain which does not build DHA. You can easily obtain purified fish oil capsules if you are nervous about eating to much fish. Some companies are starting to make DHA supplemented margarine and cereals. Vegetarians can get it from a supplement made from marine algae.
If you are extended breastfeeding or tandem nursing, your needs may be a bit different. As long as you are choosing from healthy foods your own hunger signals will help you know when your body needs more or less food to meet yoru baby's needs.