Diet during breastfeeding
Finally! Baby is now in your arms and you are craving a nice plate of sushi, a good beef tartare or a piece of raw milk cheese?
You can indeed safely consume these foods throughout the breastfeeding period.
However, there are certain tips and recommendations you should follow. Here are some of them…
I have never been so hungry as I was after childbirth! This is normal, because during the first six months of breastfeeding our energy needs are as high as during the 2nd trimester of pregnancy. It is therefore important to balance your meals and snacks with sources of protein, carbohydrates and fiber. If you are running out of nutritious snack ideas, click here! (in French)
If you suffered from anemia during pregnancy or if you lost a lot of blood during childbirth, your iron stores may be depleted. We know that anemia causes fatigue… all the more reason to add good sources of iron to your diet. Are you vegetarian or vegan? Be extra careful to favor foods rich in iron and pair them with vitamin C; the iron will thus be better absorbed.
The body will produce breast milk even if your diet is deficient in energy by drawing on your reserves. However, the quality of the fat you eat has an influence on the lipids in breast milk. Indeed, the famous omega-3 are still top choice! They are beneficial for the unborn child during pregnancy but are just as important during breastfeeding. We know that the development of the newborn's brain is far from over! It's time to eat salmon, trout, mackerel and herring. Vegetable sources of omega-3 (in French) are also favored even if only 2 to 10% will be transformed into DHA, a fatty acid that is recognized for optimal vision and neurological development in infants. As during pregnancy, avoid predatory fish (in French) which accumulate mercury and other pollutants. Canned tuna is not a problem, it can be a great quick and easy option! Light tuna has no consumption limit, while for white tuna a maximum of 300 g per week is recommended, or 2½ cans.
With or without vitamin supplements?
Since 2015, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) has revised its position on folic acid and it now recommends to continue taking folic acid supplements for " four to six weeks postpartum or throughout the breastfeeding period” (in French) for couples where both partners are at low risk of neural tube defect.
The subject is a little less clear-cut with regard to vitamin D. We know that it is recommended to give 400 IU / day of vitamin D to breastfed infants (in Quebec). However, it is not clear whether a woman who takes large doses of vitamin D will be able to provide breast milk that has a sufficiently high vitamin D content. And since the sun is scarce in winter ... food and supplements are our only options! With this in mind, continuing to take prenatal multivitamins provides assurance that the mom is receiving all of the vitamins and minerals needed for ideal health. Personally, I took it a few times a week, when I thought about it!
Finally, it's impossible not to talk about vegan food (without any animal products). Be aware that the amount of vitamin B12 in breast milk is influenced by your diet. One more reason to consult a nutritionist to make sure your diet is balanced!
Bon appétit and have a great breastfeeding experience!
Émilie Masson, Dt.P.
Date of publication: April 15, 2019 - Republication: January 9, 2020
1. Snack ideas : http://www.nospetitsmangeurs.org/les-besoins-nutritionnels-de-la-maman-qui-allaite/
4. Iron sources : https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Food-Sources-of-Iron-FRE.aspx