Nutrition Notes for Nursing Moms
As a milk factory, you need about 25 percent more calories per day than you did before pregnancy. That's why you should eat three snacks a day; if you're losing more than two pounds a week, add another daily snack or increase the portion size of meals. It's important to consume enough protein -- a key building block of body tissues -- and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that supports infant brain and eye health. (To get DHA, eat fish twice a week, choose foods fortified with DHA, or ask your doctor about a supplement.)
You also need choline, a B vitamin vital for brain, muscle, and cell development; good sources include egg yolks, lean beef, poultry, fish, leafy greens, and cauliflower. If you don't eat animal foods and dairy, consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement to avoid a serious deficiency. It's also important to get enough fluids -- from water and other beverages as well as fruits, vegetables, soups, and cooked grains like oatmeal. Try to drink one cup before each meal or snack and while you're nursing. Doctors advise limiting alcohol or waiting a couple of hours after having a drink before breastfeeding.
Originally published in the February 2010 issue of Parents magazine.