Now that your little one has finally become an air-breather, you are undoubtedly looking for the best diet to provide them with the most nutritious milk possible.
Like any good mom, you want to make the best choices possible for your baby. If you stumbled across this page, it’s safe to assume that for you, that means breastfeeding.
So how much does your diet affect your milk? Do you need to eat lactation inducing foods? How can you tell if your baby is sensitive to your diet? And what about alcohol?
All of those questions and more are answered below!
*This post may contain affiliate links. That means that I make a few pennies if you make a qualifying purchase through my links in a timely manner. It doesn’t cost you anything, but it does help me spend my time providing you with resources like this instead of finding a real job. You can read my full disclosure here. It’s pretty anticlimactic.
Also, please note that I am not a doctor or nutritionist. If anything I say sounds crazy, consult someone with a degree in this shit. You should never make major life decisions off of a blog anyways.
HOW DOES YOUR BREASTFEEDING DIET AFFECT YOUR BABY?
Many women swear that certain foods increased their milk supply, while other women have tried everything to no avail.
Some women claim that foods high in fat increase the fat content of their milk.
Some eat pizza and pop tarts all day, and their babies are healthy, while some maintain a diet that the rest of us could only dream of, and their babies still get sick.
Instead of jumping into the rumor-mill and looking at anecdotal evidence (which will tell you anything that you want to hear), I decided to gather information from peer-reviewed medical journals.
Regardless of how intricately linked your diet and breastmilk composition are, what we do know is that aside from vitamin D, which is best absorbed by sunlight, breast milk provides everything that your baby needs for their first six months of life.
In other words, your body is so damned determined to put your baby first, that it will pull from its own nutrient stores if you refuse to give it what it wants.
Depletion of your nutritional stores poses long-term health risks, and will leave you feeling run down in the meantime.
The purpose of a healthy breastfeeding diet is, therefore, more for you than your baby.
WHAT IS IN A HEALTHY BREASTFEEDING DIET?
Assuming you don’t want your body to steal all of your nutrient stores, it is important to establish a healthy breastfeeding diet as soon as possible.
You should aim to provide all of the vitamins and nutrients that will go into your breast milk, as well as the ones that your body needs to stay healthy and recover from childbirth.
The best breastfeeding diet is one that is nutrient-dense and diverse, encompassing all the colors of the rainbow.
Ideally, your diet should contain:
- 3 servings of protein such as chicken, beef, lamb, eggs, or beans.
- One or more foods that are rich in iron such as liver, beans, and lentils
- 2 servings of fruit such as mango, guava, or pears
- Foods that are high in healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, and avocado.
- ½ oz of water for every pound of body weight + 1 glass for every caffeinated drink
If it’s too hard to consume that much food, try to hit two birds with one stone by eating foods that fit into more than one category.
For example, eating a serving of beans will provide you with both protein and iron. Sweet potatoes are both a complex carbohydrate and a colored vegetable. Collard greens are packed with calcium in addition to being the obvious: a leafy green.
If you maintain a healthy diet like this, your body will be able to produce enough milk for your baby without tapping into your reserves.
A healthy diet is also the biggest factor to shedding baby weight. Exercise all you want, but if you have a crap diet, that belly is not going to shrink.
And who says you can’t have cheat days? You just made a freaking human, and now your body is sustaining it. If anyone deserves a cheat day, it’s you.
You might like: The New Mom’s Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding
The healthier you eat throughout the day, the less impact that pint of Ben and Jerry’s will have on your thighs.
WHAT ARE GALACTAGOGUES? DO I NEED THEM?
A galactagogue (from the Greek word “galacta,” meaning milk) is any food, drug, or herb that is used to increase a mother’s milk production.
Galactagogues have been used for centuries, and vary from region to region around the world.
Every culture has its own popular galactagogues, though few have undergone enough research to confirm their milk making properties.
Many are consumed in the form of tea or supplements, while others are added to dishes to enhance their health value. Some, such as oatmeal, are a meal of their own.
It’s never a bad idea to incorporate galactagogues into your menu. Many of them can be seamlessly incorporated into a healthy breastfeeding diet.
Examples of this are oatmeal with flax seed for breakfast or a salad with chickpeas, avocado, nuts, and chia for lunch.
Certain herbs are most often taken as supplements. These herbs include fenugreek, fennel, goat’s rue, and blessed thistle.
Whether you need to take supplements like these depends on if you truly have a low milk supply.
If you do in fact have a low milk supply, seek proper care for your baby before anything else.
Recent teachings that every mother has the ability to meet the nutritional needs of her baby have had devastating consequences, including infant hospitalization and death.
Herbal galactagogues should not be necessary for daily, long-term use, but if you find them useful, there is no reason that you should need to stop.
Food Sensitivities and Allergies
If you have been scrolling through Pinterest lately, you are probably under the impression that everything you eat will give your baby and upset tummy.
Milk, broccoli, beans, nuts, wheat, you name it. At the end of the day, you are probably wondering what the phuk you can eat.
Truthfully, the vast majority of breastfed babies will won’t have any adverse reactions to their mother’s diet.
Food sensitivities and allergies aren’t something that you need to navigate your entire life around in preparation for your baby.
If something in your diet doesn’t sit well with your little one, they will tell you in their own way.
Signs of a food sensitivity or allergy are:
- Unusual fussiness
- Excessive spit up or vomit
- Rash or eczema
- Dry skin
- Diarrhea or loose, watery stools (how in the hell we are supposed to know the difference between this and normal breastfeeding poops is anybody’s guess)
- Traces of blood or mucus in stool
The most common allergen is by far dairy. Cow’s milk contains a specific protein that some babies struggle to digest. When a mother consumes dairy, it passes into her breast milk.
If you notice any of these symptoms, eliminate dairy from your diet to see if you notice a change in your baby.
You should see changes within 3 days, however if it is a true dairy allergy, it could take up to 4 weeks for the protein to completely leave your system. This means that some of the symptoms in your baby may persist to some degree.
If you are able to rule out a dairy allergy, an elimination diet is the next step to find the source of the problem.
The Elimination Diet
What is the elimination diet?
The elimination diet is a diet that eliminates all high-allergen foods at once, then slowly reintroduces them one at a time to find out which particular allergen is causing adverse reactions.
Why should you use an elimination diet?
Because the process of eliminating one food group at a time to find out if works is painstakingly slow, and both you and your baby must deal with the effects of the allergen until it is discovered.
An elimination diet is the quickest, most effective way to pinpoint the source of your baby’s tummy problems.
Dr. Sears happens to have the best resource that I can find for how to implement an elimination diet while breastfeeding.
If you have ruled out a milk sensitivity, head on over to his website to find out how to take the next step in diagnosing the source of your baby’s belly problems.
Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?
You just spent 9 months avoiding alcohol. Is it time to unwind with a glass of wine yet? Or will you have to pump and dump all of your precious milk?
I am more than please to tell you that yes, you can drink again, and you don’t need to throw out your breast milk!
And all the mothers said, “Amen!”
Alcohol enters and leaves your breast milk in the same manner that it does your blood.
The general rule of thumb is that if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed.
That means that pumping and dumping is just a sad waste of your precious liquid gold.
The best way to make the most of your time is to drink immediately after nursing. This will give you a 2-3 hour window to unwind with your beverage of choice, and let it wear off before your baby is ready to eat again.
If you are unsure about the alcohol content of your milk, these breastmilk alcohol testing strips can help put your mind at ease.
The best thing for you is the best thing for your baby.
A healthy breastfeeding diet will help you recover from childbirth and give you the energy that you need to care for your new baby.
Food sensitivities and allergies are rare, but they do happen, so it’s important to know the warning signs.
While galactagogues are helpful, they are not always needed in herbal form.
Moderate alcohol intake is perfectly fine, especially when timed appropriately.
Enjoy motherhood. If you aren’t happy, figure out what you need to do to find balance.
There’s no need to make yourself miserable over breastfeeding. Contrary to popular belief, recent studies show that long term, it doesn’t make that much of a difference anyways.
Good luck! And don’t forget to snag your FREE breastfeeding diet checklist.