Just when pregnancy ends, another transformative and challenging moment begins for many new moms. Enter: breastfeeding.
The process of breastfeeding your infant can be exhausting and confusing, and doesn't always come with ease to all new moms and babies. Plus, you need to keep in mind that what you eat affects what your baby consumes.
While breastmilk is always best regardless of the feeding manner, for as long as your baby is getting their nutrition from you, it’s important to know the ins and outs of nutrition for breastfeeding moms.
BRIDES spoke with Hoboken-based registered dietician Vanessa Rissetto for advice and insight.
Don’t Worry About The Baby Weight
While it’s tempting to want to start your journey to post-baby fitness right away, Rissetto warns that when you’re first trying to establish breastfeeding and regulate your milk supply, you don't want to restrict calories to try and lose the pregnancy weight. She reassures that while it will come off, it’s time to focus on the task at hand first. “If you’re stressed out about your weight, it’s going to affect your mindset and make successful breastfeeding difficult,” she says.
There is some truth to the concept that breastfeeding helps you shed some baby pounds. Rissetto explains that research tells us that both more frequent breastfeeding and doing it for longer than six months increases maternal weight loss.
Things to Limit
After a long nine months, there’s no shame in looking forward to the occasional glass of wine. But Rissetto advises to watch the booze and the caffeine. “Meaning, don’t drink five or six cups of coffee, as it it take 12 hours to leave the system, so it can affect your baby," she says. "Alcohol eventually gets metabolized so you don’t have to pump and dump if you have one glass of wine, but if you feel very impaired, you might want to not feed your baby until you are feeling well enough that you would be able to drive a car.”
Aside from those two big temptations, breastfeeding moms may have to play around with with eliminating or limiting other ingredients, too.
“Often babies are fussy and the pediatrician will recommend cutting out all dairy, gluten, soy, or nuts,” Rissetto says. So, she recommends keeping track of your baby’s reactions and then adjusting your diet accordingly.
Your pediatrician can be incredibly helpful during this time too, so don’t be afraid to communicate.
Things to Increase
Most importantly, you’ll need to increase your water intake. Rissetto recommends at least two liters per day—if you aren’t consuming enough water on a daily basis, you’ll be dehydrated and your supply of breastmilk will be low.
It’s also important to be sure to get adequate amounts of protein, vegetables and carbohydrates. “You want to make sure you’re getting enough macronutrients so you aren’t depleted,” she says.
You may have heard that you’ll need an increase in calories during the time you’re breastfeeding. While that’s true, Rissetto explains that there is no hard and fast rule, but that, in general, 500 extra calories per day is adequate.
In fact, she says studies show that maintaining an intake of about 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day supports adequate milk supply.
Just as prenatal vitamins helped to fortify you during pregnancy, it’s worth considering what supplements may be vital during this time period, too. (Just speak with your doctor, of course!)
Rissetto advises that calcium might be a good thing to add in the mix—if you are low in calcium, your body will break down bone to get enough. Now that you’re nursing your baby, the body will do what it needs to maintain homeostasis.
Be Wary of Gimmicks
Thanks to the age of the internet, pregnant mommas who have been actively Googling might now be inundated with ads for lactation cookies, supplements, teas, and more. But Rissetto warns that many aren’t actually scientifically backed.
Words of Wisdom
Breastfeeding is tough, and Rissetto offers her own wisdom and humor to all moms who might be struggling. As a mom of two who breastfed both for over a year, she says: “There is no need for guilt if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you. There’s going to be plenty in parenting that you can feel guilty about. Just do your best, and your kid can still go to Harvard even if he/she had some formula.”