Nutrition For New Mothers

Good nutrition is important for everyone, and it’s especially important for new moms who are recovering from pregnancy, labor and delivery and are working hard to keep her family healthy and happy. Here are some tips all new moms can use to make sure they get proper nutrition.

  • Don’t diet. Stay away from fad diets and calorie counting, and focus more on getting enough of the good stuff and limiting the junk. You need to get plenty of calories, but most of those calories should come from whole foods.
  • Stock up on healthy foods. If your cabinets and refrigerator are full of healthy foods, you’ll be more likely to eat the way you should be eating. Focus on nutrient-rich foods, such as:
    • whole grains
    • lean meats and proteins
    • fresh fruits and vegetables (the darker the color, the more nutrients it likely has)
    • low-fat dairy (unless your doctor recommends full-fat dairy for you)
    • nuts and beans and other legumes
  • Watch your portions.
  • Choose healthy snacks, such as whole, fresh fruit, nuts, fresh vegetables, cottage cheese and whole grain crackers.
  • Plan head and cook in bulk to save yourself time. This can help you avoid convenience foods.
  • Go to the grocery store with a list of healthy choices and stick to it. And don’t shop when you’re hungry if you can avoid it.
  • Read labels, and avoid processed foods with more than five easily identifiable ingredients.
  • Drink plenty of water.

Nutrition for breastfeeding mothers

Breastfeeding mothers or women who are pumping breast milk frequently ask if there are special dietary considerations during this time. In most cases, the answer is no. Nutrition for breastfeeding mothers should consist of a well-balanced diet and enough liquids. Although shedding those extra pounds gained during pregnancy may be one of your concerns, strict weight-loss programs are not recommended, especially during the first few months of breastfeeding.

There are no special diets a breastfeeding mother must eat, but the following suggestions may help you focus on your eating patterns while breastfeeding:

Get adequate fluids

Drink enough liquids. Most mothers do notice they are thirstier when breastfeeding. Drink plenty of liquids, such as juice, water and milk, to quench your thirst. Liquids can be in any form, but limit your intake of any that contain caffeine. It is not necessary to force fluids beyond your thirst, but it is a good idea to drink something whenever you feel thirsty. Grab something to drink while breastfeeding, or keep a glass of liquid near your favorite breastfeeding spot.

Choose a variety of foods, and take in enough calories

Your own appetite is usually the best guide for how much you should eat. In general, mothers are hungrier during the first several months of breastfeeding, and you should not ignore feelings of hunger when producing milk for your baby. Grab a one-handed snack to eat while breastfeeding, or keep wrapped snacks near your favorite breastfeeding spot.

Eat a variety of foods to get the calories, vitamins and minerals you need to remain healthy. Experts recommend that you eat at least 2,000 calories per day while breastfeeding, with your optimal caloric intake being 500 calories above what was recommended for you before you became pregnant (for total calories between 2,300 and 2,700). For reference, a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk contains about 500 calories.

Foods from the following food categories offer the most nutritional value:

  • meats
  • beans
  • vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables)
  • fruits or 100 percent fruit juice (not fruit drinks)
  • breads, cereals and grains
  • milk, cheese and eggs

Other nutrition considerations for breastfeeding mothers

  • Spicy or “gassy” foods. Spicy or gas-producing foods are common in the diets of many cultures, and these kinds of foods do not bother most babies. A few babies will develop gas or act colicky when their mothers eat certain foods. However, there is no one food or food group that creates problems for all babies. Unless you notice that your baby reacts within six hours every time you eat a certain food, there is no need to avoid any particular foods.
  • Vegetarian diets. Vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diets have been the mainstay of many cultures for centuries, and the breast milk of vegetarians is usually as nutritionally appropriate as that of other mothers. While you’re breastfeeding, you will want to be sure that your diet includes complete proteins, so eat a wide variety of foods. Many vegetarians, including some lacto-ovo vegetarians (who eat eggs and dairy products), may require supplemental vitamin D, iron and calcium during the period they are breastfeeding.

    Women who are eating vegan or macrobiotic diets may produce milk that is deficient in vitamin B12. These mothers often require supplements of vitamin B12 so their breast milk will contain a sufficient amount.
  • Coffee, tea or sodas. Drinking caffeinated beverages may make your baby jittery or irritable and can make him or her have difficulty sleeping, especially if you drink too much caffeine or drink it very quickly. Drink mainly caffeine-free beverages when breastfeeding. If you cannot give up your caffeine, limit your intake to about two eight-ounce servings per day.
  • Alcohol: It is best to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages while breastfeeding or pumping for milk. Alcohol does enter the milk supply and can affect your baby. If you do have an alcoholic drink while breastfeeding, you may need to pump and discard the milk.
  • Smoking/tobacco use: It is best to avoid tobacco use when breastfeeding or pumping. Nicotine and its byproducts pass into milk, and tobacco use may cause a baby to have a more rapid heartbeat, restlessness, vomiting or diarrhea. In addition to its possible effects on the baby, tobacco use can interfere with milk let-down and it may reduce the amount of milk you produce. For assistance with smoking cessation, the American Lung Association can offer helpful tips. Their information number is 800-586-4872.