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Feeding and Diet

Calorie Needs and Weight Loss
The number of recommended servings from the four food groups remains the same when you are breastfeeding as when you were pregnant. However, as a breastfeeding woman, you need additional calories. You can obtain these by increasing your servings from all the food groups.

Milk production requires extra calories; an additional 500 calories daily above your prepregnancy needs is recommended throughout lactation. This should allow for gradual weight loss.

Foods to Avoid
There are no foods that need to be routinely avoided by breastfeeding mothers; however, breastfed babies occasionally react adversely to foods in their mother's diet. Traces of anything in the maternal diet can show up in breast milk. It normally takes approximately one to three hours for components from fluids and 12 hours for components from solids to appear in breast milk. Some foods, such as onions or garlic, may flavor the milk; however, most babies do not appear to mind.

A small amount of the caffeine a breastfeeding mother ingests will pass into her milk. Caffeine is present in milk as early as 15 minutes after ingestion by the mother and reaches peak levels at approximately one hour. Drinking one to two cups of caffeinated coffee daily does not seem to affect breastfed infants.

Artificial Sweeteners
Saccharin and aspartame are currently the most commonly used artificial sweeteners in the United States. Saccharin in large doses has been shown to be potentially cancer causing in animal studies. Use of this product in moderation does not appear to affect breastfed infants.

The current Recommended Daily Allowance for protein intake during lactation is an additional 15 grams daily during the first six months and 12 grams daily thereafter.

Because the body cannot manufacture calcium, it must be obtained from the diet. If dietary intake is not adequate, calcium will be taken from the bones, weakening them. Women who are breastfeeding should consume 1200 milligrams of calcium daily.

If you are breastfeeding, you should drink fluids to satisfy your thirst. Drinking increased amounts will not increase milk volume produced and excessive amounts may actually cause a decrease in volume.

Pregnancy Diet
Helpful tips for eating while you are pregnant:

  • Women at a healthy weight should consume an additional 300 calories a day.
  • Protein supports the developing baby and increasing maternal tissue. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for pregnant women is 60 grams of protein a day.
  • Pregnant women have an increased need for vitamins C, E and B. In addition, folate is required to make red blood cells; the RDA for pregnant women is 500 micrograms.
  • Pregnant women also have an increased need for iron and calcium. The RDA for iron is 30 milligrams; the RDA for calcium is 1,000 milligrams. Calcium supplements may be taken with meals throughout the day in 200-300 milligram increments.
  • Do not take iron supplements at the same time as eating foods rich in calcium and zinc. The iron supplements may decrease the absorption of these nutrients.
  • Pregnancy weight gain guidelines:
    Underweight  28-40 pounds
    Desirable weight 25-35 pounds
    Overweight  15-25 pounds
  • Review our sample menu for a healthy diet.

(Weight gain during pregnancy consists of several components. The baby, placenta and amniotic fluid can make up approximately 11 pounds.)

Foods high in folate:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Cantaloupe
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Peas
  • Peanuts
  • Whole grain, fortified breads and cereals

Foods high in iron:

  • Beef, poultry, fish and shellfish
  • Lima, kidney and navy beans
  • Iron fortified breads and cereals
  • Egg yolks
  • Tofu
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Baked potato
  • Raisins, figs and dates

Foods high in calcium:

  • Milk and milk products
  • Calcium fortified orange juice
  • Fish with bone
  • Broccoli
  • Almonds
  • Dried beans

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