It’s Fourth of July Weekend, and you’re getting ready for the best feast of the summer. Barbeque, hotdogs, potato salad, chips and dips, smores, lemonade, wine & beer, and anything red, white, and blue. But, you’ve just remembered that you’re breastfeeding--can you really indulge in all this food that you’ve been dreaming about since last year? Ultimately, the choice is up to you! With the variety of foods presented on this day of celebration, be mindful, but don’t feel guilty about eating those tasty treats--you deserve it! This article dives into the nutritional aspects of food and drinks that may be lingering in your mind as you head from gathering to gathering. The following suggestions are made by various professionals and experts in motherhood, and discuss how what you ingest may influence you and your baby’s growth postpartum and during breastfeeding.
A lot of changes happen to a woman’s body after birth. You’ve been eating extra calories while you were pregnant to satisfy your little one, but should you continue doing that? The answer is yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights that breastfeeding mothers should consume 450-500 calories more per day to maintain proper nutrition and to produce sufficient breast milk. However, this number will differ depending on if you are exclusively breastfeeding or supplementing your breastmilk with formula. Regardless, it is important to recognize the nutrients you are still giving to your baby are not being retained by yourself.
So that covers how much you eat, but what about what you eat? Just as every mother and child’s breastfeeding experience is different, what a mom can eat and drink while breastfeeding will also vary based on the mother and her baby’s tolerance to specific foods. Some moms have found that eating fiber-filled foods makes their baby gassy, while for others, beans and broccoli don’t affect their child. Noting your baby’s reactions to certain foods will be important during this time to make sure they are relaxed and happy.
As always, eating a variety of foods is salient to your recovery and health. Lots of fruits and vegetables, proteins like meat, cheese and milk, as well as plentiful liquids, will aid you as you navigate this fourth trimester. In addition, it is recommended that mothers continue taking their prenatal vitamins to make up for the vitamin loss that may be experienced post-birth and during breastfeeding. Maintaining a well-balanced, nutritious diet is key for breastfeeding mothers and their babies.
La Leche League highlights that there are really no foods that a mother should avoid while breastfeeding, but that they should vary their food intake and think about what they are putting in their body. Some foods may change the flavor of your breastmilk, but it is likely your baby is already familiar with the types of food you typically eat and won’t mind a flavored beverage! On the flip side, the CDC proposes that mothers should continue to avoid certain types of fish as they contain some amounts of mercury, which can affect a growing baby. Swordfish, Shark, King Mackerel, and Tilefish are types of fish that contain excess amounts of mercury and should be avoided.
Motherhood is hard, and after taking care of a crying baby late at night, a cup of coffee or soft drink for that energy boost in the morning or throughout the day is almost necessary. The Medela Family recommends that on a daily basis, a breastfeeding mother should limit her daily caffeine intake to about 300 milligrams, which is a little over one cup of joe. Too much caffeine may cause your little one to be a little extra fussy and may stay awake longer than usual. However, every baby operates differently, and some days you may need that extra cup, so we encourage you to closely monitor the effects and make your own choice accordingly.
Alongside caffeine, that special bottle of wine you have been waiting to open since you found out you were pregnant may be coated with a thin layer of dust--in that case, it’s time to open it. If you’ve been staying away from alcohol because you’re unsure how it affects your baby and breastfeeding, the CDC notes that with excessive drinking, an infant's sleep patterns and development may be altered, alongside the fact that milk production will decrease with too much alcohol; regardless, one standard drink has not been shown to be harmful to a breastfeeding baby. So, enjoy that glass as your baby rests - just be mindful about not drinking heavily before you breastfeed your child again.
With both caffeine and alcohol, be sure your baby has already been well fed before drinking and won’t need to feed for a couple of hours. Alongside this, compounding caffeine and alcohol intake with an equal amount of water will aid in dilution and result in a happy, healthy baby and a well-rested mother.
So, what should your game plan be for the Fourth? Luckily, making sure you eat enough calories won’t be a problem. Let yourself indulge in the red, white, and blue cupcakes, but consider combining those tasty treats with a nice plate of veggies and fruits. Have a glass of wine with a side of water as you watch the parade go by and engage in fruitful conversation with your friends and family. You’ve entered the fourth trimester, a time of recovery--but also a time to enjoy yourself. Make the most of your Fourth of July, and keep in mind the health and growth of not only your little one, but also yourself. Happy Fourth!