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For nine months you nourished your body from the inside out to develop and deliver a healthy new life. However, the journey is just beginning. Keeping your body fueled with the right foods is critical to maintaining your energy to keep up with a new baby as well as recover from the stress of pregnancy and childbirth.
You are probably anxious to get that baby weight off, but remember that your body needs to recover from pregnancy and childbirth, too. A loss of two to four pounds per month is advised. Losing more than five pounds per month could leave you feeling fatigued and cause malnutrition if caloric intake is too low.
From increased immunity to reduced risk of obesity later in
life, breast-feeding has numerous benefits to the baby, not to mention the
emotional nurturing you share. Nursing mothers can also experience benefits
such as reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis and the
ability to return to prepregnancy weight and shape easier.
The calories for milk production come not only from extra caloric intake, but also from stored fat on the new mother’s body. Aim for taking in at least 1,800 calories per day and do not follow a restrictive dieting plan. If you don’t eat enough it could cause malnourishment, a decrease in milk, and too much weight loss too quickly.
Stay hydrated! While nursing you need about 15 cups of fluid every day. These fluids can come from water, milk, juice, or any liquid that has no or low levels of caffeine.
Many medications pass into breast milk, so talk to your doctor about prescriptions and any over-the-counter products you are taking while breast-feeding. Nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine also pass into breast milk, so avoid nicotine and use alcohol sparingly or not at all. Caffeine is fine in moderation, but try to limit yourself to one to two cups of caffeinated beverages per day.
The need for most nutrients increases while nursing. You can meet most of the additional needs by eating a nutritious diet, but it is advised that most women continue taking a prenatal or multivitamin while they are nursing. In addition, extra vitamin D intake is recommended. Ask your doctor about having your vitamin D blood level checked to determine how much extra you need. Research also shows numerous benefits to getting omega-3 fatty acid Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for brain development. Aim for at least 300 mg of DHA per day.
By taking care of yourself with proper nutrition and physical activity, you can better take care of your growing family.
Written by: Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N
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