Throughout your breastfeeding journey, your breast milk is uniquely suited to meet the changing nutritional needs of your growing baby. Because breast milk is created by taking nutrients already present in your bloodstream, you don’t need to worry about eating the perfect foods or drastically altering your diet in order to breastfeed. Your body will combine the exact ingredients to perfectly nourish your little one.
Every mom knows how important it is to take prenatal vitamins and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet during pregnancy. But it’s also a good idea to continue that same healthy momentum into your breastfeeding journey, for however long you choose to breastfeed your little one. While pregnancy means flat-out avoiding many types of foods for the safety of your developing little one, breastfeeding allows for a greater range of foods and fewer restrictions.
The healthy habits of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, protein, whole grains, and cold-water fish (which provide high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA) allow your body to get a great mix of the nutrients you and your little one need. Listen to your body and don’t count calories – your body needs extra fuel to the tune of 300-500 calories per day.
Every baby is different, and sometimes babies can be sensitive to your breast milk after you eat certain foods, such as dairy, soy, or wheat. If you start to notice that your baby has a reaction, such as fussiness or gassiness, you may consider keeping a food journal to track and pinpoint these sensitivities and adjust your diet accordingly.
Staying hydrated can help keep your supply up, so drinking lots of water will help you stay energized and in tip-top condition. But what else can you (or can’t you) drink? Many moms have questions about drinking caffeine and alcohol while breastfeeding. A small amount of caffeine and alcohol will not harm your baby – but timing and amount are important to monitor. Less than 300 milligrams (about two 8-ounce cups) of coffee is safe, but if you’ve had more, it’s a good idea to pump-and-dump.
It’s also best to pump-and-dump if you’ve had enough alcohol to drink to the point that you begin to feel tipsy. In general, if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed. Because it takes an average of 2 hours to metabolize one serving of alcohol (one cocktail of 1½ ounces of alcohol, one 4 ounce glass of wine, or a 12 ounce beer), you might consider breastfeeding before having a serving of alcohol. If your little one wants to eat earlier than 2 hours, consider using a previously expressed supply of breast milk rather than directly breastfeeding.
As always, consult with your doctor or health care provider before taking any medications or supplements while breastfeeding to ensure that it is safe for you and your little one. Even if you get sick while breastfeeding, your breast milk won’t be affected because of how your breasts synthesize exactly what they need to make perfect nutrition for your baby. The important thing to remember is that your milk will not transmit your illness to your breastfeeding baby.