Beautiful images of mothers nursing their newborns seem to be all over social media lately. When you make the choice to breastfeed your own child, you probably envision sweet moments in the nursery rocking chair, gazing adoringly at the sweet baby cradled in your arms. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to connect with your newborn, and it’s the best food for your baby during that first year. But breastfeeding can be a challenge, and many mothers give up before their children turn one. The CDC reports that while 81.1% of moms start out breastfeeding, just over half are still breastfeeding at six months and only 30.7% make it a full year. One of the most common reasons that mothers choose to stop breastfeeding is because they believe they don’t have enough milk. Nutrition can be a powerful tool in increasing milk supply, and eating well will help you lose the baby weight faster, too! So what are some of the best foods for breastfeeding mothers?
Drink Up! (Water, Of Course)
Breastfeeding saps your water supply, but you might not be able to tell by your level of thirst. Lactating mothers need more water, so make sure you’re getting plenty. Carry a water bottle with you at all times, and pay attention to how many times you refill it. Your urine color is a good indicator of how hydrated you are. (It should be light yellow.) Steer clear of sugary juices and sodas and try to quench your thirst with water instead.
This is a time for some pretty major changes in your body. While you may long to squeeze into your favorite dress again, avoid the urge to diet. Making a conscious effort to eat well and often will help you to sustain energy and boost your milk production. When your body is getting what it needs for both of you through good nutrition, it doesn’t have to work as hard.
Have a Plan
Exhaustion and stress can lead to eating the fastest or most convenient food you can find. Unfortunately, that food isn’t always very nourishing and may contain a lot of sugar, salt, or empty calories. Your body is working overtime to provide energy for you and nutrition for your baby, and filling up on junk will only leave you feeling tired and hungry again. Look for healthy foods that you can prepare with minimal effort.
Stock Up On…
Fruits and vegetables. Produce has the added benefit of containing large amounts of water, so you are increasing your water intake while you eat them, too. Plus, they’re portable and many fruits and veggies can be eaten raw. Throw an orange in your bag, or snack on carrots and hummus when you need a quick pick-me-up.
Nuts. Nuts are an amazing source of good fats, and they have lots of protein. They are quick and easy to eat, portable, and filling. Nuts pack a lot of punch, too – there are 100 calories in just fifteen to twenty almonds!
Healthy frozen meals. The freezer section of your grocery store has many options for meals containing high amounts of protein and lots of vitamins. While you should try to eat fresh foods when possible, an emergency supply of frozen meals will keep you from an impulse trip to a fast-food restaurant.
Protein bars. Protein bars shouldn’t replace meals during this time, but tossing one into your diaper bag or grabbing one when you don’t have time for anything else can be helpful. There are many tasty protein bars on the market, but check to make sure your choice is low in sugar.
Beans/legumes and whole wheat pastas. Beans are chock-full of protein, making them a great choice (especially for vegetarian moms). Brown rice and beans is practically the perfect meal. It contains the protein, carbohydrate, vitamin, and fat balance you need when lactating – especially if you add a side of broccoli.
Take It Easy
Don’t stress too much about your milk supply. Mothers have been nursing their babies for thousands of years, and our bodies are designed to produce the milk our children need. Trust in the incredible power your body holds to nourish your little one. Remember, the more you pump or feed your baby, the more milk you’ll make. If you need to throw the schedule out the door while you build your supply, then embrace the unstructured freedom. If you’re feeling discouraged, talk to a lactation consultant or your local La Leche League. Be patient with the process, enjoy the time you have with your baby, and ask for help and support if you need it.