Tired of eating like an expectant hawk? Then you’ll be happy to hear that your breastfeeding diet is in many ways similar to your pregnancy diet — with much more relaxed rules.
That’s because although you are often what you eat, your breast milk isn’t, so much. The basic fat-protein-carb combo of human milk isn’t directly dependent on what foods and drinks you put into your body. Even women who aren’t well-fed can feed their babies well, since if a mom doesn’t consume enough nutrients to produce milk, her body will tap into its own stores to fuel milk production.
That said, you'll still be aiming for plenty of nutrient-dense foods and steering clear of less healthy ones. The good news: Lots of your favorites are back on the menu.
How many calories do you need when you're breastfeeding?
Just because you can make milk on a less-than-adequate diet doesn’t mean you should. The goal when you’re nursing should never be to deplete your body’s store of nutrients. That’s too risky for your short- and long-term health, and it will short-change you on much-needed energy as well as potentially interfere with your milk supply.
Your body generally burns around 300 to 500 extra calories a day while you're breastfeeding depending on whether you're nursing exclusively or not (if you are, it's typically up to 450 to 500).
So while you don't need to be hyper-vigilant about counting calories and consuming more, definitely keep your extra nutritional needs while nursing in mind. As long as you stayed within your doctor's recommended weight gain during pregnancy and your postpartum weight is within normal ranges, you shouldn't have to take in any more or less than that, but check with your pracitioner if you're not sure.
What to eat when you’re breastfeeding
Eating well when you’re nursing means getting a variety of nutritious foods. And since a varied diet changes the taste and smell of your milk, it will expose your baby to many different flavors (so the carrots, Thai or salsa you’re eating today may have your baby reaching for those foods in the future).
In fact, expanding your little one’s culinary horizons well before she starts solids might even minimize the potential for pickiness.
Here’s what to aim to consume each day to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need and offering your baby a taste for the healthy stuff early on:
How much water to drink
Aim to drink more water than usual a day, so at least 8 cups along with fluids from fruits, vegetables and other sources — especially in the weeks after birth, since it will help your body recover. To ensure you’re getting enough, a good rule of thumb is to drink a cup of water at every nursing session. In all, you'll need about 128 ounces of fluids a day from all sources (so don't worry, you don't have to down 16 glasses of water daily while you're breastfeeding).
Keep in mind that your milk supply won’t be affected unless you’re seriously dehydrated, but your urine will become darker and scanter. Not drinking enough can also set you up for health issues including urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation and fatigue. So just be sure to drink whenever you're thirsty, which will likely be often when you're breastfeeding!