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Breastfeeding offers significant benefits to both mothers and babies. Not only does your milk change to meet your baby's nutritional needs throughout the time you nurse her, but it also offers disease-fighting antibodies. Breastfeeding reduces a mother's odds of developing breast cancer later in life, and has even been shown to bring a child's risk of obesity down while adding to his IQ points.
Yet, you often hear that "it's a bit more of a hassle than formula feeding". As a mother who nursed her two kids for a total of four years, I really don't understand that concept — even the thought of getting up at night to sterilize bottles and prepare formula is exhausting. The whole thing becomes clearer if you look at the amount of advice you'll get about what to eat and what to avoid while breastfeeding.
"What to avoid while breastfeeding" lists can be awfully long. According to some of these lists, you should steer clear of coffee, corn, peppers, garlic, eggs, peanuts, parsley, cauliflower, broccoli, and even chocolate. And alcohol, of course. And that's only the start. You'll probably also hear that you have to go out of your way to eat certain foods while breastfeeding, or you will produce poor-quality milk. Let's take a look at some of the most common questions about maternal nutrition while breastfeeding, and figure out what is true and what is scare-mongering.
Do Breastfeeding Mothers Need More Calories?
Nursing uses up between 300 and 500 additional calories a day. Have you ever heard moms complain that they can't seem to lose the extra weight they put on during pregnancy after they had their babies? Breastfeeding mothers who do not increase their calorie intake will naturally start to lose the fat stores they may have built up while they were expecting. Simply said, it isn't usually necessary to increase the amount of calories you consume while you are nursing. In fact, nursing can help you lose the pregnancy weight you so desperately want to get rid of.
It isn't even necessary to count calories while you are nursing. I never did, and it is undeniable that many humans throughout history had no idea how to do that or what calories even were.
Research has shown that breastfeeding mothers can actually safely go on a weight-loss diet. The advice is to weight until your baby is at least two months old and your milk supply has been well established. After that, it is perfectly safe to lose up to a pound and a half a week through a combination of limiting calories and exercising regularly. Nursing mothers who are interesting in limiting their calorie intake should do so gradually, rather than all at once. Nobody should go below their recommended daily amount of calories, of course.
Underweight nursing mothers may benefit from increasing their calorie intake, and they should talk to their family doctor or a nutritionist for concrete advice.
What Is The Ideal Diet For Breastfeeding Moms?
The ideal diet for breastfeeding moms doesn't differ from the ideal diet for most people. Most people do not eat an ideal diet, however, and nursing a baby is a good opportunity to reexamine what you eat — something you might already have done during pregnancy anyway. The ideal diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, various grains, sufficient amounts of protein and some fat too. Vegetarians and vegans can absolutely breastfeed without any problems, but they should watch their protein intake.
Besides making sure that the foods a nursing mom eats are healthy, she should try to eat a varied diet that includes as many different foods from the food groups above as possible.
What About Fluid Intake?
It's important to stay well hydrated while you are breastfeeding. Many people tend to forget to drink enough water, so always having a bottle of water on the go can really help. If you have trouble remembering to drink enough, you could try drinking a glass of water whenever you nurse your baby.