Breastfeeding Fuel

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Just like when you were pregnant, eating a healthy diet while you are breastfeeding offers benefits for you and your baby.

Now that you are busy with a newborn, it can be tempting to just scarf down anything edible that you can easily unwrap with one hand. But while you are breastfeeding, your need for good nutrition is at its highest, and what you eat can help (or hinder) your baby’s development.

  • Protein-rich foods such as beans, legumes, nuts and lean meats provide the long-lasting energy new moms need. Meats also provide iron, which boosts energy levels for you and your baby, as well as vitamin B12, which helps your baby’s developing nervous system.
  • Low-fat dairy products contain the calcium and vitamin D your baby needs to develop strong bones.
  • Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and broccoli, contain vitamins A and C, both of which are essential for your child’s optimal health and growth.
  • Whole grain breads, cereals and pasta are fortified with folic acid, which is vital for your child’s developing nervous system.
  • Water provides the fluid intake nursing moms need to ensure an adequate milk supply. Try to drink one glass of water for each time you breastfeed.

Foods to Avoid

What about the foods that could cause your baby discomfort or harm? Here’s a list.

  • Caffeine passed in breast milk may cause some babies to become restless. According to the La Leche League, nursing mothers may want to limit caffeine consumption to two 12-ounce servings per day.
  • Fish containing mercury, including shark, swordfish, mackerel or tilefish, should be avoided while pregnant or nursing.
  • Strong-tasting foods, such as garlic and onion, can add an unpleasant flavor to breast milk, which may discourage baby from feeding.

Breastfeeding and Food Allergies

If breastfeeding moms consume certain foods such as shellfish, wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts or soy, babies with a food sensitivity may experience symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal discomfort or gas
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or bowel movements containing mucus or blood
  • Skin rash, especially on the face
  • Vomiting

If you suspect that your diet may be causing your baby to have feeding problems, discuss it with your pediatrician. Note that sudden facial swelling or trouble breathing may be a sign of a severe food allergy. If your baby develops these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Schedule doctor visits for your child online at! Day or night, schedule appointments for next day and beyond with pediatricians Alan Brown, M.D., or Bird Gilmartin, M.D., here.

Drs. Brown and Gilmartin are members of the medical staff at Evanston Regional Hospital.