I hear a lot of women ask about what kind of diet they should be on for breastfeeding. There are so many conversations about the right way to eat during pregnancy, that many women wonder what "the right way to eat" during breastfeeding is. Is breastfeeding just a continuation of pregnancy?
Well in some ways, yes. Baby is still dependent on mom for everything including nutrition, just on the outside instead of the inside, and we rely on breast organs instead of the placenta organ.
That being said, breastfeeding and pregnancy nutrition recommendations do differ.
Breastfeeding mothers may want to continue their prenatal vitamins throughout the course of breastfeeding (really they're beneficial throughout life). This can ensure that mother's levels of essential nutrients are not depleted. In addition to this she should eat a healthy, well rounded diet, aiming for an additional 500 calories. Basically, the point is, breastfeeding is not the time to try some fad crash diet. While safe dieting usually will not hurt baby, and often won't even hurt milk supply (more on this later). But rather, mom will end up without enough nutrients for her own well being.
But I just can't eat enough. No matter how hard I try, I don't have the appetite... Does this sound familiar? Besides the fact that you may want to have a discussion with your healthcare provider about decreased appetite to make sure it's not a symptom of a larger, underlying condition, it's important to note a moderately malnourished mother will continue to produce quality milk in adequate amounts. You can read more on this through UNICEF here.
If you think about it, even malnourished mothers in third world countries are able to breastfeed! There are some studies that suggest their milk may be of a slightly altered quality, however, infants still thrive, it is still packed with immune properties, and a plethora of other nutritional benefit to baby.
The bottom line is the average breastfeeding mother does not need to eat a special diet or avoid any specific foods, barring cases of food sensitivities. Responding to your body's hunger and thirst cues, avoiding dramatic crash diets and detoxes, and ensuring a well rounded diet is the healthiest way a breastfeeding mother can ensure the health and well being of herself and her baby. If you do have special or unique dietary concerns, consulting with your doctor and/or a registered dietitian could be a good idea.
Okay, so no you know you don't need to eat special foods or avoid special foods... and that little scenario above doesn't apply to you... You're hungry ALL THE TIME. I know this is the case for me, personally, and many other women.
How on earth can I stay full but not binge on unhealthy treats?! Despite the fact I'm about to give you advice on this, I have this very thought every single day of my life. I'm passionate about healthy eating (with a few indulgences here and there because, hey, life is short, might as well enjoy it AND take care of our bodies... right?). But every day I find myself wanting to buy and eat an entire cake or tub of ice cream so that I can just NOT be hungry for five freakin' minutes.
If you can relate, keep reading for some healthy snack ideas!
*Please Note these snack recommendations are just what works for me in my experience. These claims are not endorsing any special diets or foods*
Some of my favorite snack ideas:
Peanut Butter on Whole Grain Toast
Hard Boiled Eggs
Hard Boiled Eggs
Whole Grain Crackers with Hummus
Black Beans and Hummus Lettuce Wrap
Of course these are just a few of my suggestions that exclude many great ideas because of my personal dietary preferences and limitations. Other great ideas could be packets of nuts and seeds, celery and carrot sticks, and so much more.
What are your favorite snacks to stash around the house or munch on when you're experiencing breastfeeding starvation -- errrr, uhh....hunger..?