11 'Super' Foods For New, Breastfeeding Moms
For new mothers, the decision to breastfeed is a very personal matter but it's also one of the most important. Many in the medical community, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), strongly recommend breastfeeding since it reduces your baby's risk of developing asthma or allergies, respiratory illnesses, frequent ear infections, and helps develop a physical and emotional bond between mother and baby.
Of course, every mother and baby is unique, with different needs and abilities, so the decision to breastfeed is up to you. However, if you do decide to breastfeed, there are some important steps you can take to ensure the experience is as natural and comfortable as possible.
As a new mother, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby is to eat a healthy, nutritious diet filled with a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Although you may be in a hurry to shed that baby weight, eating nutrient-rich foods at regular intervals throughout the day can help stabilize your metabolism, boost energy and give you the stamina you need to keep up with your new baby.
For the health and well-being of your baby and yourself, it is essential to obtain the nutrients you and your baby needs by incorporating a variety of healthy breastfeeding foods. A good way to start is to make sure the following 11 'super' foods for new, nursing moms are an integral part of your diet. Your baby (and your body!) will thank you.
Despite the warnings for breastfeeding women to limit their consumption of fish to 12 ounces per week because of potential exposure to mercury, salmon is the exception to the rule. In fact, salmon is a nutritional goldmine for new moms. Loaded with a type of fat called DHA, which is crucial to the development of your baby's nervous system, salmon is one of the best breastfeeding foods out there. While all breast milk contains DHA, levels of this essential nutrient are higher in the milk of women whose diets contain DHA-rich foods, helping mood and according to some studies, playing a role in preventing postpartum depression.
2. Low-Fat Dairy Products
Whatever form you prefer, be it yogurt, milk, or cheese, dairy products are a vital part of any healthy breastfeeding lifestyle. Not only do dairy products provide a great source of calcium to help your baby's bones develop, they also contain protein, vitamin B and vitamin D. It is recommended that nursing mothers include at least three cups of dairy each day as part of a balanced diet.
3. Lean Beef
Iron-rich foods, like lean beef, are a good way for new mothers to boost energy levels and keep up with the demands of caring for a newborn baby. Nursing mothers need to eat extra protein and vitamin B-12 to avoid iron deficiencies which can quickly drain your energy levels, and lean beef offers an excellent source of both these nutrients.
Dark colored beans like black beans and kidney beans are a great choice for nursing mothers, particularly vegetarians because they are rich in iron and a good inexpensive source of high-quality non-animal protein.
Breastfeeding moms should try to get at least two servings of fruit or juice every day, and what better way to meet your daily needs than delicious, antioxidant-rich blueberries? Not only are blueberries filled with numerous vitamins and minerals, but they also offer a quick energy boost in the form of carbohydrates.
6. Brown Rice
Often times new mothers are tempted to drastically cut back on carbohydrates as a quick way to shed that baby weight. However, doctors caution against this, as losing weight too quickly may cause you to produce less milk for the baby and leave you feeling lethargic and sluggish. A much better idea is to incorporate healthy, whole-grain carbs like brown rice into your diet to keep your energy levels up and give your body the necessary calories to produce the best quality milk for your baby.
Oranges are a great, nutritious energy source for new moms, and since breastfeeding moms need even more vitamin C than pregnant women, oranges and similar citrus fruits are also an excellent breastfeeding food. Whether eaten in fruit or juice form, oranges offer a vitamin-C rich product with the added convenience of portability for those hectic days. Sipping on orange juice, particularly calcium-fortified varieties is a good way to get even more nutritional benefit from an already-delicious, healthy beverage.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient to keep your bones strong and help your baby's bones grow, and few foods provide as much natural vitamin D as egg yolks. Eggs are extremely versatile, easy to make, and are even available DHA-fortified to increase the level of this essential fatty acid in your breast milk.
9. Whole-Grain Breads & Cereal
Whole grain breads and pastas are fortified with fiber, iron, and folic acid, which is critical to your baby's development in the early stages of pregnancy. Folic acid is not only important for your own health and well-being, but is also an essential nutrient in your breast milk that is vital to the baby's development and growth. A great way to start the day is with a breakfast of vitamins and nutrient-fortified whole-grain cereal to boost energy and help you meet your daily needs.
10. Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli are chock-full of vitamins and minerals. They're low-calorie, a great non-dairy source of calcium, contain vitamin C, and iron, and are packed with heart-healthy antioxidants. They're also loaded with vitamin A, which your baby gets from your breast milk to ensure healthy development.
New nursing mothers are especially prone to dehydration, which can quickly drain energy. In order to keep energy levels and milk production up, it is important to meet the necessary fluid requirements and stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of water, juice, and milk, but use caution when it comes to caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea because too much can disrupt sleep and cause your baby to become irritable. Keep your intake to no more than 2-3 cups a day, switch to decaffeinated, or better yet, opt for water instead.
The health benefits of breastfeeding are numerous and it can be one of the more enjoyable experiences of new motherhood, providing precious time for you and your newborn to relax as you bond emotionally and physically. While the decision to breastfeed is a personal one, it doesn't have to be made alone. Remember that most women need some help and guidance along the way so be sure to ask your Women's HealthFirst doctor any questions or concerns you may have to ensure the experience is as positive for you as it is for your new baby.
[image via Pregnancy.com]