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Nutrition While Nursing: Keeping Your Newborn (and Yourself!) Healthy and Happy

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Just like during pregnancy, while breastfeeding your diet directly impacts the health of your newborn. Your body is still the main source of all nutrients for this child, and as a newcomer to this world of germs and infections, your baby will need all the natural protection against infection that he/she can get. By ensuring that you have access to a healthy and balanced diet that incorporates essential vitamins and nutrients, you will be taking huge steps to promoting your baby’s health, growth and development.

Furthermore, what you eat while breastfeeding plays a large role in how quickly you return to pre-pregnancy weight and fitness. Breastfeeding consumes around 500 calories each day, so it is important that you get both the quantity and quality of foods necessary, not restricting your caloric intake too sharply in an attempt to shed baby-fat. However, if before you were pregnant you tended to rely a little too heavily on the junk food portion of the food pyramid due to your high caloric output at this postpartum stage, now is an excellent opportunity to initiate healthy eating habits and weight management plans that you can maintain for the rest of your life.

Many mothers find that what they eat impacts their baby’s temperament, as your diet can change the taste and smell of your breast milk. Each child is different and may react more sensitively to certain kinds of dishes, so it is important to expose him/her to a variety flavors and experiment conscientiously with all sorts of options. If you notice a change in your baby’s eating patterns after eating spicy foods, for example, this may be a sign that he/she is not a fan. A few things to watch for: families with a history of allergies may want to avoid eating foods that trigger reactions (like nuts). Though you are safe to slowly re-introduce certain pregnancy food no-no’s back into your diet, keep consumption of caffeine, alcohol and certain herbal supplements at a minimum, as they will be passed through breast milk to your baby.

Due to the hard work it is doing, your body still requires a balanced diet that features energy-producing foods and agents that protect against infection. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that mothers eat a diet of around 3000 calories/day during lactation, and focus on including foods high in calcium, protein, iron-rich foods, Vitamin C and whole grains. They should also try to drink eight cups of water, as dehydration can deplete your milk source and exhaust your body.

The recipe below is high in calcium, protein, iron, fiber, Vitamin C and good fats. It is packed with nutrients and vitamins, can be spiced to whatever level you and your baby are comfortable with, and makes a perfect side dish for any meal (that can be enjoyed by both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding parties). It will help build strong bones, maintain a healthy immune system, and prevent anemia -- all crucial factors for breastfeeding moms and their infants. It is fast and easy to make -- definitely a recipe that can be prepared, cooked and enjoyed in between naptimes.

Coconut Kale Stir-fry

1-2 bunches of kale (about 4 cups roughly chopped)
1 yellow onion, sliced
¾ cup of coconut milk
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
Olive oil for sautéing
Black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

1. Sautee onions in a pan until transparent.
2. Add kale and allow to wilt – about 2 minutes.
3. Pour in coconut milk, lemon juice and spices.
4. Allow to simmer 5-7 minutes or until flavors have combined and kale is tender.
5. Enjoy! Breastfeed and notice how much your new baby loves the healthy food you eat!


The Breastfeeding Diet. What to Expect. Web. Aug 21, 2011.

Nutrition During Breastfeeding. American Pregnancy Association.
Web. Aug 21, 2011. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/firstyearoflife/PEnutritionbfeeding.html

Your Nutritional Needs While Breastfeeding. WebMD. Web. Aug 21, 2011

10 Benefits of Coconut Milk. Alternative Therapies-Therapies for Common Ailments. Web. Aug 21, 2011.

Reviewed August 22, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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