The transition to motherhood can be challenging, exhilarating, emotional, painful—and often a little bit of each! Breastfeeding nutrition, though, doesn’t have to be rocket science, and it certainly doesn’t have to add to your stress load. Follow these 5 tips for healthy eating when you’re breastfeeding, and you’ll rock breastfeeding, without losing your mind.
1. Don’t Count Calories
Sure, it’s not healthy to eat seven bags of chips every day, but you don’t need to count calories to know this. Breastfeeding is a demanding undertaking, burning anywhere from 300-700 calories per day. Lose too much weight, and your baby won’t get the nourishment he or she needs. Instead, eat when you’re hungry, avoid eating excessively high-calorie foods, and love your body as it is; after all, it’s feeding your baby.
2. Don’t Deprive Yourself
It’s easy to find long lists of things you shouldn’t’ eat when you’re breastfeeding, and it’s wise to heed this advise. If you spend all of your time avoiding “bad” foods, though, odds are good you’ll quit breastfeeding early. A sip of wine here or a cup of coffee there are truly not going to harm your baby, so don’t be afraid to indulge every now and then. You’re doing the best thing for your baby, so you deserve a few indulgences.
3. Load Up on DHA
DHA is a chemical that helps build your precious little one’s brain. You could take a DHA supplement, but it’s better to get this vital nutrient in your food. A 12-ounce serving of salmon is rich in DHA, and some research even suggests that this healthy fish can stave off postpartum anxiety and depression.
4. Don’t Forget About Protein
In a world where more and more people are going vegetarian, protein has taken a backseat to dark, leafy greens and delicious fruits. You need protein now more than ever, though, since protein nurtures your baby’s brain and keeps your body strong and healthy. Aim for 60-70 grams per day, and focus on healthy protein sources, such as grilled chicken, protein-rich veggies, and and healthy grains such as quinoa and sprouted grain rice.
5. Cut Out Processed Foods
Let’s be real: you already know that bagged foods are horrible for your health. They’re high in sodium and fat, low in nutrients, and often contain dangerous chemicals. Processed foods are also more apt to be recalled due to contamination issues, so keep these dangerous sources of poor-quality nutrition out of your diet. Don’t be afraid to experiment, either, since there’s almost always a better source of nourishment. Love potato chips? Try lightly salted edamame instead. Craving milk chocolate candy? Load up on antioxidant-rich dark chocolate instead. By training yourself to crave nutritious foods, you’ll never feel deprived.