It is vital to continue to pay special attention to your diet while you are breastfeeding. A balanced diet that incorporates all the necessary vitamins and minerals will directly influence the healthy growth and development of your baby. Besides that, eating well may improve your mood and make you feel better in your skin — that’s good news for everyone involved.
What to eat when breastfeeding
Eat healthy and eat enough
Here is a surprise. Breastfeeding women use more energy than pregnant women. No wonder you sometimes feel so tired. In fact, doctors say that on average, nursing mothers require 330-400 more calories a day during the first year. These extra calories should come from nutritious sources because this is what will maintain your healthy milk supply and contribute to your baby's healthy growth. But as always, do not neglect to think about your own well-being. Your baby will draw her required nutrition from you, so you must not forget to replenish your own stores too. Remember to eat; create a breastfeeding meal plan based on Canada’s Food Guide and pack nutritious snacks for when you are out and about. Similac® Mom is a perfect complement to your healthy diet and can be used as a nutritious snack. And if you have heard anyone claim that there are foods that increase milk production, file that under "myth". Just eat well, regularly, and enough.
Health Canada. Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines for Health Professionals — Background on Canada's Food Guide. 2010.
How to eat, drink, and be healthy
Guess what? Drinking a lot of fluids does not increase the amount of milk you produce.
While breastfeeding, you will naturally be thirstier than usual, but you do not have to force yourself to drink. Just listen to your body and stay comfortable. However, if you notice your urine is dark yellow or has a strong smell, it may mean that you are not drinking enough. So, settle back and treat yourself to a nice tall refreshing glass of water.
Some foods can have a slight effect on the taste of your breastmilk, but do not worry, your baby will adapt. Some studies even suggest that it can help babies develop their taste for food if mothers eat a varied diet while breastfeeding. You could be helping to nurture a future star chef! The good news is that most breastfeeding mothers can eat whatever they like, including foods considered risky during their pregnancy (sushi, deli meats, and cheese).
Eating fish when breastfeeding
Fish belongs on your menu too. However, some fish species absorb pollutants that make their way into breast milk and could be harmful to a baby. To take advantage of the benefits of eating fish while minimizing the risk of contaminants such as mercury, follow these guidelines:
Limit yourself to 150 g (5 oz) per month of the following species of fresh or frozen fish: shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy, escolar, and tuna (does not apply to canned tuna). If you are a fishlover and want to read more about fish you should avoid or choose more often, visit Health Canada’s website: Mercury in Fish — Consumption Advice: Making Informed Choices about Fish.
Health Canada. Mercury in Fish — Consumption Advice: Making Informed Choices about Fish. 2017.
If you are following a vegan diet and breastfeeding, follow Canada’s Food Guide to plan meals and be sure to include foods rich in protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. For more information on what foods are good sources of those important nutrients, check out: Dietitians of Canada – Healthy Eating Guidelines for Vegans. It might also be a good idea to consult your doctor or dietitian.
Dietitians of Canada. Healthy Eating Guidelines for Vegans. 2014.