While it’s no secret that we need to eat healthy foods while pregnant and breastfeeding because what we eat, our baby also eats. But what exactly does that mean?
What foods will give your baby the best possible start in life? And for mom too? What are the breastfeeding foods to avoid for the health, comfort, and safety of you and your baby?
This time of your life is one of the most taxing on your body and you’ll be needing more energy and nutrients to get through these long and gruelling days. So, how do we know what are the best foods to eat and avoid when breastfeeding? Read on.
Breastfeeding Foods to Eat Each Day
Opt for low glycemic foods as these will prevent the sugar crash in the afternoon. Go for foods that are nutrient rich. The darker your fruits and vegetables, the better they are for you (although all are pretty great!).
Good quality, lean proteins that are organic or freshly farmed produce, such as grass fed beef, are also great foods to eat when breastfeeding. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t buy organic everything, but where you can is great.
Try to have a varied diet with lots of fresh fruits, different coloured veggies (think rainbow), essential oils, wholegrains and legumes, and good quality proteins. If in doubt, follow the info below and make sure you’re eating something from each of the groups each day.
Calcium: Broccoli, dark leafy greens, sardines, marrow, bread with fortified flour, yogurt and cheeses.
Potassium: Bananas, cantaloupe, raisins, nuts, fish and leafy greens.
Fiber: Peas and beans, wholegrains, seeds, apples, strawberries and carrots. Basically, most fruits and veggies.
Magnesium: Almonds, peas, black beans and spinach.
Vitamin A: Eggs, milk, carrots, sweet potato and cantaloupe.
Vitamin E: Avocados, nuts, seeds, wholegrain foods and vegetable oils.
Omega 3: Flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, fish (especially coldwater fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines) and other seafoods, nuts and seeds, flaxseed oil and cod liver oil.
Vitamin C: Oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi, broccoli and red and green peppers.
Iron: Red meat, pork and poultry, seafood, beans, dark leafy vegetables, dried fruit, and peas.
Best Snacking Foods When Breastfeeding
You will undoubtedly be hungry often when breastfeeding. It doesn’t make it any easier to curb the snacking when you’re home with a newborn all the time either!
Snacking is perfectly healthy and great to get some increased energy, but here are some tips for smart snacking:
Vegetables and fruits: Try to find vegetables that have a high water content and low sugar content, they will keep you fuller for longer with the bonus water intake, too. Fibrous veggies will do wonders for your digestion and keep everything moving along — literally.
Nuts and seeds: Not only are these a great source of protein but they also contain essential fatty acids and amino acids. Exactly the reason they are called essential.
Avoid processed crisps and chips, muesli bars and other so called ‘natural’ foods as these are usually rife with hidden sugars, artificial flavours and preservatives. Go fresh and natural if you can at all times.
Breastfeeding Foods to Avoid and Why
There are many reasons that there is a list of foods to avoid when breastfeeding. Some foods are not easy for baby to digest, causing them some discomfort, while others can just reduce your energy levels.
There aren’t many foods that will be completely unsafe for you or your baby to ingest, however you’ll want to avoid these foods when breastfeeding so you and your baby can be the healthiest possible.
Alcohol: There’s mixed reports on whether it is okay or not. We recommend you abstain completely if you are breastfeeding because there hasn’t been enough research conducted on the effects it can have on your baby.
Coffee/Caffeine: Not too much of it anyhow. Not only is it not good for the baby, but it’s not good for you. Caffeine affects your adrenal glands and the effect that these have on your stress levels and cortisol can be harmful if left to their own devices. Caffeine can cause your adrenals to overwork and therefore respond less adequately after time. We know that you’re not getting your usual sleep throughout the night because you’re waking up with a baby, but try to get your energy in other ways and limit the caffeine.
Processed foods: This one is pretty self explanatory. The more the food is processed, wrapped and deep fried, the more energy it takes for your body to break it down and use it. These types of foods can really slow your system down, making you feel sluggish and tired, then wanting a caffeine or sugar hit that may result in a spiral of cravings. Fresh is best at all times.
Diet shakes: If you would like to grab a smoothie as an extra snack, go right ahead. There are some great natural protein powders out there made from pea-protein and not whey (if you’re wanting to avoid being gassy or if you’re lactose intolerant). Mix one up with almond milk, some vital greens, a frozen banana and some berries for a great snack.
Please avoid diet shakes as meal replacements as these do not contain the essential vitamins and nutrients required for optimum brain development for your baby, no matter what the label says.
Special treats: If you are really craving something super special and you’re swaying towards the block of chocolate, go for something from the list below instead. These are much more healthy for you as they contain better nutrients and have a lower glycemic index than the chocolate. Go ahead and treat yourself.
- Dark chocolate
- Frozen grapes
- Avocado mousse
- Cacao yogurt
- Chia pudding
- Vegetable chips
- Macadamia or brazil nuts
- Fruit salad
- Bliss balls such as a peanut butter ball, a cacao ball or a coconut ball
Fluids to Take in When Breastfeeding
Keep your water intake high please ladies. The number one reason women have difficulties producing enough breast milk is not because they are malnourished or not eating the correct lactation cookie, it’s because they’re not drinking enough water.
If you’re not a big water fan then try sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon, a herbal tea or an iced herbal tea (not the pre-bought ones as these contain so much sugar, they should be illegal). Buy yourself a pretty water bottle to ensure you’re never without the H2O.
Dieting When Breastfeeding
When you’re breastfeeding, your body will on average use an extra 500 calories of energy per day. This is of course dependent on your age, weight, exercise regime, current BMI, the appetite and age of your baby, feeding twins etc.
If you’re not eating enough to make breast milk, your body will deplete your stores of not only fat, but also essential nutrients that you and your baby need to function properly.
Many breastfeeding women feel run down and tired because they are desperately trying to lose the weight that they put on when they were pregnant by not eating enough. Not only do they usually become sick, overwhelmed and stressed but they are robbing their baby of essential nutrients for their development also.
Try to think of it as not just pregnancy weight, but baby weight, and you’re still feeding your baby! So relax and do what’s best for you and them. If you do, however, notice that you’re putting on weight while breastfeeding and it’s concerning you, speak to your health care practitioner or nutritionist for advice.
We all know the saying ‘you are what you eat’. Please keep this in mind when you are breastfeeding as your baby is most definitely also eating what you eat. Stick to the above foods to eat when breastfeeding and keep in mind the foods to avoid as well.
Keep up the awesome nutrition that you were when you were pregnant and you and your baby will be happier, healthier, smarter, and fitter in the long run.
Katie is the proud mum of two beautiful girls and has been responsible for all the designs, style and fit at Cake Maternity for over a decade now. Katie is a nursing bra specialist and a fit, pattern and grading technician. She is passionate about breastfeeding and the many benefits it offers to both mum, bub and the environment. She is determined to make the breastfeeding journey a comfortable, supportive and beautiful one for all mums, understanding that it doesn’t always come easy to everyone. That’s why she has made it her mission to empower women as they mindfully navigate the world of motherhood and help make breastfeeding easier, through experience-driven innovation.