Congratulations! You’ve made it this far mama and we’re so proud of you. Baby is growing so well and they are getting all the nutrients that they need from you while pregnant and postpartum wether you nurse or not! But for those of you that do decide nursing is your route, it’s so important to understand the importance of taking care of yourself and keeping up your health and wellness! Alex Gardner, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (LDN), and Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), specializes in fertility, prenatal, and postpartum nutrition. If you are a mama looking to give your baby the best start in life and feel better in the process, she’s the RDN for you! Check out our interview with Alex below:
As a nursing mom, you are eating for two! What are some overall tips for nutrition during this time?
Alex: The most important thing to remember is that breastfeeding burns about 500 additional calories each day. That’s like running 5 miles without actually running 5 miles! It’s really easy to under nourish yourself postpartum. Most moms I talk to are eating WAY less than they need to and don’t even realize it because they’re sleep deprived and are focusing only on the baby. So remember to prioritize eating at least 3 meals and 2 snacks every day.
What are some great things to eat to provide sustenance and nourishment for the mother?
Alex: There’s a big secrete the nutrition industry doesn’t want you to know….There is no special tea or drink or cookie that is going to boost your milk supply. Milk supply has everything to do with nerve signals and hormones. The more you nurse/pump/express your milk, the more nerve signals are sent to your brain to release milk making hormones. What food provides for you though is energy. If you are not eating enough and nourishing yourself well, then you won’t have the energy to do those milk making activities like nursing and pumping frequently. Some nutrient rich foods nursing mamas can focus on are: nuts and seeds, any type of fruits or vegetables (5 servings a day), low mercury fish like salmon or tuna, greek yogurt, beans and legumes, and whole grains.
What are some great things to eat for sustenance and nutrition for the baby?
Alex: When it comes to the composition of breastmilk. Your body will make the exact composition that your baby needs. That’s the magic of breastmilk! It changes as your baby grows and you don’t have to eat anything different for it to do that. Following a healthy dietary pattern that includes a wide range of foods helps cover all your bases. I also recommend continuing to take a prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding to help act as a nutritional safety net.
Can you share any insight into what foods transfer over into a baby’s milk that are extremely beneficial for them?
Alex: Breastmilk is interesting. Proteins from foods pass through breastmilk to the baby. That’s why if a baby has an allergy to cow’s milk or to soy, a mom will cut that out of her diet and see improved symptoms in the baby. If a baby does not have any allergies, it’s important for mom to consume a wide variety of foods, including foods that are potential allergens (as long as mom isn’t allergic as well), because this can actually help decrease the baby’s risk of developing those food allergies in the future. The way that works is the baby’s body is getting exposed to those potentially allergenic food proteins and their immune system starts to recognize them and categorize them as “safe” or not an allergen. One other nutrient that is important for infant brain development is DHA and EPA which are essential fatty acids. Foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids are going to be important to consume while breastfeeding. These include fatty fish, nuts and seeds (especially ground flax, chia, and walnuts), plant oils, and certain fortified foods.
Can you give us a sample day’s meal plan for a nursing mother?
Alex: Nursing mothers need about 2500 calories a day (that is a general estimate and your needs may vary). And that can be kind of difficult if you are not focusing on eating. Like I mentioned previously, most moms I work with postpartum are sleep deprived and focused so much on the baby that even their basic needs like eating 3 meals a day fall to the wayside. Here is a sample meal plan for a nursing mama that totals about 2500 calories. The great thing about meal plans is you can make these things in bulk and have enough for 3 days worth of leftovers which really helps with a new baby. Day 1: Breakfast: One pan potatoes, black beans, and eggs with an orange Snack 1: Chocolate, peanut butter, and banana shake Lunch: Beef and tomato stuffed sweet potato Snack 2: Salt and vinegar roasted edamame Dinner: Maple dijon salmon and broccoli with rice
Do you have any specific go-to meals that you like to suggest for nursing moms?
Alex: Every family has different preferences, but anything that is easy to throw together and takes minimal time is key. For example, breakfast can be as simple as peanut butter toast with a piece of fruit or even a yogurt, berry, and granola parfait. Snacks can be a hand full of nuts, lunch and dinners can be one pot or crock pot meals. The biggest secrete though is making enough for leftovers!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about nutrition for nursing moms?
Alex: Remember that your body will make the exact milk that your baby needs regardless of what you eat. The importance of nutrition during breastfeeding is more to make sure that you as the mama are well nourished so that you have the energy and health to take care of your little one.