Diet for a healthy breastfeeding mom
Keep taking your vitamins
It’s a good idea to continue taking your prenatal vitamin while you’re breastfeeding – at least for the first month or so. After that, you can switch to a regular multivitamin and mineral supplement or stay on your prenatal vitamin, depending on your individual needs. (You can discuss this with your healthcare provider at your first postpartum visit.)
A supplement doesn’t take the place of a well-balanced diet, but it can provide some extra insurance on those days when taking care of your new baby keeps you from eating as well as you’d like.
In addition to your prenatal vitamin or multivitamin, consider taking the following supplements:
Calcium: While your prenatal vitamin or multivitamin may have small amounts of calcium, but you’ll need supplemental calcium if you’re not eating at least three daily servings of calcium-rich foods (like milk and other dairy products, canned fish, or calcium-fortified foods like cereals, juices, soy and rice beverages, and breads).
The recommended dose for women before, during, and after pregnancy is 1,000 milligrams (mg) daily. (Teenage mothers need 1,300 mg daily.)
Don’t get more than 2,500 mg daily from all sources. Exceeding this safe upper limit can lead to kidney stones, hypercalcemia, and renal insufficiency syndrome. It can also interfere with your body’s absorption of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
If you’re going to take calcium, also be sure to supplement with vitamin D.
Vitamin D: This vitamin is important for bone growth and overall health. Vitamin D also helps your body absorb calcium, and research suggests it may lower the risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and several autoimmune diseases.
Sun exposure helps your body produce vitamin D, but many women don’t get enough sun (especially in the winter and with the use of sunscreen) to make an adequate amount, and experts think the small amount found in food might not be enough. The best way to know whether you’re getting enough vitamin D is to have your blood tested.
The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines and Institute of Medicine both recommend that all women get 600 IU (15 micrograms) of vitamin D daily, but no more than 4,000 IU. Very large amounts of vitamin D – more than 10,000 IU daily – may cause kidney and tissue damage.
By the way, breast milk doesn’t supply your baby with enough vitamin D. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies who are exclusively breastfed or who drink less than 32 ounces of formula daily receive a supplement of 400 IU (10 micrograms) of vitamin D each day too. Talk to your baby’s doctor about a vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin D is important for bone development and the prevention of rickets in children. Experts think that getting enough vitamin D in childhood may also help prevent certain conditions, like osteoarthritis, from developing later in life.
DHA: The DHA content of your breast milk depends on your diet, particularly on whether you eat fish. So if your diet doesn’t contain a few servings of cold water fish or other food containing DHA (like fortified eggs) every week, you might consider a supplement.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding moms get 200 to 300 mg of DHA a day.