By Fredrica Syren
Within days of coming home with my new bundle of joy, I started to feel depleted and tired to the bone. My body had just been though labor and delivery, and I now have three kids; so it’s really not that surprising. However, I also noticed that I did not feel like myself and that I was losing weight way too fast, so I knew I had to change something. That something was my diet. I realized that I was not eating as well as usual and was not taking in enough calories to support both the healing of my body and nursing a new baby.
A nursing mom needs to eat about 1800-2200 calories a day to maintain a good milk supply and to support the body’s healing. Usually counting calories is not necessary because when you exclusively nurse a new baby, it is very common to feel hungry much of the time, so I just listen to my body and try not to forget to eat. Once the baby is older, a nursing mom may feel more hungry when the baby temporarily increases his or her milk intake, for example during a growth spurt.
Usually a very healthy eater, I just needed to get back to basics and eat a healthy diet filled with organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains and good fats. I look at it this way: a healthy mom means good milk and that, of course, is essential for a healthy growing baby. It’s the absolute best thing I can do for my child. Since I’m a vegetarian, I know the importance of choosing foods that will provide my body with the most nutrients.
These foods are part of my daily diet and are key ingredients now while I’m nursing:
Vegetables — They are key sources of iron, fiber, folate, beta-carotene, vitamin C, lycopene, flavonoids and beta-glucans. Eating iron-rich foods helps me heal from the birth and maintain my energy level, and can prevent anemia. Folate or folic acid are essential in the formation of red blood cells. I focus a lot on dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard and beet greens. I try to eat these with lunch and dinner; and even a green smoothie is a great snack.
Fruits — I love snacking on fresh fruits during the day and always have some cut up in the fridge for easy access. Fruits are great because they contain vitamins A, B, K and C. Vitamin C is necessary to build a healthy immune system for the baby and me. It also aids in the body’s absorption of iron. Blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries and strawberries are my favorites, and they contain antioxidants and high amounts of fiber.
Nuts — Great source of protein and healthy fats. I snack on them throughout the day. Many nuts also contain vitamins B, E, C, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Sufficient levels of calcium are needed to build healthy bones and teeth.
Whole grains — These are pretty much part of all my meals. I start my day with oatmeal cooked with dried apricots, flax seeds, chia seeds and blueberries. Quinoa and barley are my favorite grains: I eat them with lunch and dinner.
Beans and lentils — These are packed with nutrients such as iron and protein. I love eating red lentils because they cook very fast and are usually easy to digest. However, I try to go easy on the beans since they can cause gas in the baby.
I also like adding these nutrient-rich foods to my diet:
Back strap molasses — good source of iron and calcium
Wheat germ — Great source of omega-3, iron, folate acid and calcium
Dried apricots — good source of iron, fiber and antioxidants
Enriched orange juice — Great source of calcium and vitamin C
To read more about breast feeding and healthy diet go here: