Between caring for a newborn and being completely sleep-deprived (see: caring for a newborn), I don’t exactly have the time or energy to whip up fresh and healthy homemade meals for myself. I am breastfeeding, though, so I want to make sure I’m getting the nutrients I need. If I focus on only three things, what should they be?
A: As a new mom who is still breastfeeding a 6-month-old, I can completely relate to you regarding sleep deprivation—hang in there! As far as nutrition and lactation go, there are several key points to remember …
Nursing moms have increased nutrient requirements.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you are your baby’s sole source of nutrition. In order to make high-quality breast milk, your body requires extra nutrients, specifically vitamins A, C and E; choline; iodine; manganese and selenium. Taking a daily multivitamin is a good idea to help you fill any nutrition gaps in your diet; however, whole foods are still important.
There are plenty of foods rich in these nutrients to keep stocked in your fridge and pantry. If time is a concern (and obviously, it’s going to be), consider adding these grab-and-go foods to your next shopping list: instant oatmeal, single-serving low-fat Greek yogurt, low-fat mozzarella string cheese, prewashed organic greens (spinach, kale), canned wild Alaskan salmon, pre-cooked organic brown rice bowls, fresh citrus fruits (oranges, clementines), a variety of nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, peanut butter), hard-boiled eggs and whole-wheat breads.
Repeat after me: calcium, calcium, calcium!
Your body will work its hardest to make the best quality milk it possibly can for your baby—even if you don’t give it the supplies to do so. This is especially true regarding calcium. Your body will go as far as leaching calcium from your bones to supply it in your breast milk.
To maintain your bone density while providing enough calcium in your milk, aim to consume three servings of calcium-rich foods per day in the form of low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, bok choy) or calcium-fortified foods (orange juice, soy milk, tofu).
Think fat quality, not quantity.
Did you know that the type of fat you consume affects the fat composition of your milk? Steer away from any foods containing trans-fats, which might also be labeled as “shortening” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” in the ingredient list. Add omega-3s into your daily routine in the form of fatty fish, walnuts, ground flaxseeds and chia seeds. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that promote your baby’s eye health and neurodevelop- ment; they can be found in cold water fatty fish like salmon. If you aren’t a fan of fish, consider DHA-fortified foods such as milk and eggs. Vegan options include vegetable-based DHA supplements derived from marine algae.
—Eleana Kaidanian, RD, CDN, CPT, mom of one, nutritionist and founder of Pregnant Island