Breast feeding your baby can be the equivalent of running a 24 hour marathon, in terms of the calories your body is burning and the nutrition you are using up. You will produce between 23 and 27 ounces of milk per day, with up to 300 total milligrams of calcium. This will burn about 500 calories per day, making your nutrition vital to both you and your baby.
Quantity and quality of your breast milk is affected by your diet. Failing to meet your own nutritional needs, heightened in the postnatal period, will deplete your energy as your body garners dietary resources to meet its number one priority – feeding your baby. Milk production, much like the nutritional needs of your baby in utero, overrides your needs. A baby weighing only a few pounds may be taking in over 1000 calories of breast milk daily.
According to the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital, you should increase your water consumption by at least a quart a day while breast feeding, for a total of up to three quarts. Be careful not to exceed three quarts, as too much water may reduce the production of milk. You should also increase your food intake to around 2500 calories per day. If you are planning to breast feed for longer than three months, you should shoot for 2800 calories per day. Eat plenty of protein, at least one gram of protein each day per pound of your body weight. Stick to healthy, well balanced meals; eating three meals and at least two “snack times” during the day. Low fat yogurt or fruit are healthy snack choices. Asparagus, corn, chick peas, cabbage and spinach are foods high in folic acid, an essential nutrient for your baby’s developing nervous system. Olive oil and other unsaturated oils are also good for your baby. You should continue to take your pre-natal vitamins, especially if you are starting back on oral contraceptives. A calcium and zinc supplement may also be a good idea.
You should not take any medication, while breast feeding, without consulting your physician. Realize that whatever passes through your body can also be passed along to your baby. Regular alcohol consumption, especially in large quantities can retard your baby’s growth. If you want an occasional glass of wine, have it after you have nursed. Nicotine and pesticide residue are easily passed through breast milk and should be avoided.
There are stories of certain foods causing gas or changing the flavor of your milk. The best advice is to keep track of what you are eating, especially if you are trying something out of the ordinary or extremely spicy, to see how your baby reacts in the next twenty four hour feeding schedule.