Your Nutritional Needs While Breastfeeding

Make sure you get enough nutrients - not just more calories - when you're breastfeeding your baby.

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte E. Grayson, MD

During pregnancy, your appetite can soar. Your growing baby is drawing from your nutritional stores. But you're also hungry because your body is hard at work helping to prepare your milk supply. After you give birth, good nutrition is even more important than during your pregnancy. It can make a difference in the quality of your breast milk and affect how quickly your body rebounds from childbirth. Though doctors once routinely recommended an additional 500 calories a day for breastfeeding moms, today, experts say what you eat matters far more than your caloric intake. "Beyond a doubt, the nutritious quality of the foods you eat is of major importance during breastfeeding. Simply adding empty calories, like those found in sugary snacks or junk food, is not going to help you or your baby," says Linda M. Hanna, IBCLC, program coordinator for Lactation and Prenatal Education Services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. In fact, she says, if a mother isn't feeding herself with enough nutritious foods, the number of "dirty diapers" goes down, a sign that your baby may not be getting enough to eat. Complex carbohydrates are among the best foods you can eat while breastfeeding, says Hanna. Build these into your daily diet:

  • Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, squash, and beans
  • Fruits such as apples, berries, plums, oranges, peaches, and melons
  • Whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, rye bread, and brown rice