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If you think that having delivered your little peanut means you can hop off the good-nutrition bandwagon, think again.
Even if you aren’t breastfeeding, you need a healthy diet to help repair your battered body—and if you are, it’s even more important to eat right. After all, don’t you want to make the best milk possible for your baby?
Here’s a look at the latest nutrition guidelines for nursing moms from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Family and Consumer Sciences division of The Ohio State University:
GO EASY ON THE WEIGHT LOSS
Though weight loss may be rapid in the first few weeks as your body sheds the fluids and other artifacts of pregnancy, it’s important that you not continue to lose too rapidly. Aim for 2 to 4 pounds per month after the first month; anything more may put your milk supply at risk.
LOAD UP ON WATER
Milk production requires ample fluids, so be sure to drink, drink, drink. While experts used to suggest a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses a day, the more current thinking is that nursing moms should drink enough that they’re never thirsty (it’s called “drinking to thirst”), then a bit more. Having trouble staying on top of it? Try drinking one full glass every time you nurse.
Aim for five or six small meals and snacks throughout the day, rather than three large ones. Doing so will help keep your appetite in check and give you energy throughout the day.
CHOOSE “SMART” FISH
The same rule applies while nursing as during pregnancy: Avoid high-mercury seafood such as king mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish. Some experts are adding albacore tuna to that list.
WATCH THE CAFFEINE
Though late-night feedings may be stoking your craving for a midafternoon pick-me-up, too much caffeine can make your baby jittery or irritable. (Remember, what goes in eventually comes out … and into your baby via your breast milk.) Try to limit your intake to two or three cups of coffee or tea a day.
STEER CLEAR OF COCKTAILS
While some experts say it’s OK to “pump and dump” after indulging in a drink or two, the USDA advises abstaining completely to ensure that no alcohol passes to your baby.
TALK TO YOUR DOC ABOUT CONTINUING YOUR PRENATALS
To make sure you’re getting what you need, many experts recommend taking a prenatal or regular multivitamin the entire time you’re breastfeeding. For more information, including how much of each food group you should be eating each day, visit choosemyplate.gov.