As a nursing mother, I am thinking about what I put into my mouth more than usual, considering that my daughter is consuming what I'm consuming. As I watch her grow before my eyes, I can't help but be amazed that I am solely responsible for her growth and development up to this point. As empowering and amazing as that feels, I can't help but feel an enormous amount of pressure. What I eat and drink directly effects both her short term and long term health. Luckily, if I make sure that I eat a balanced diet most of the time, enjoying treats here and there is perfectly fine. In fact, your breastmilk will provide the ideal source of nutrition to your baby even with a less-than-ideal diet, although your health as the nursing mom will suffer if your nutrition is not up to par.
Along with continuing to take my prenatal multivitamin and eating a well balanced diet overall, here is a list of foods that I make sure are in my diet when I'm nursing, as they all pack a nutrition punch.
Salmon is a low mercury fatty fish that provides an excellent source Omega-3 Fatty acids, DHA and EPA. These two forms of Omega-3 are essential, meaning we do not produce them on our own, so we need to get them through the foods that we eat. Eating salmon is one of the best ways to reap the benefits of Omega-3. DHA and EPA are directly linked to brain, eye and nerve development in infants and toddlers and they also protect against cardiovascular disease. Salmon can also help to stabilize your blood sugar and control your appetite, which aids in healthy weight loss after pregnancy.
One cup of strawberries contains only 50 calories but about 150% of your daily Vitamin C needs! They also provide a great source of fibre, which is especially important for new moms. Strawberries also provide a healthy dose of potassium, manganese, and folate.
Greek yogurt has become very popular over the past few years, mainly due to its high protein content and delicious thick texture. Greek yogurt is an easy, convenient, and healthy snack for busy new moms and because of its high protein content, will help you feel fuller longer and will also help with post-partum weight loss. Yogurt also contains healthy bacteria, probiotics, which will keep your and your baby's digestive track in tip top shape.
Milk is an excellent source of Calcium and Vitamin D, which are both essential for building strong bones and teeth in your baby not to mention maintain your own bone health. Milk is also a great way to stay hydrated while nursing, provides a great source of protein and is super convenient. A glass of milk or chocolate milk is my favourite go-to snack while I'm nursing because it hydrates as well as nourishes me and my baby (and I can drink it with one hand!).
Almonds are not only a great source of protein, healthy poly-unsaturated fats and fibre, they are also a rich source of Vitamin E which, B Vitamins and phytosterols. Whole almonds, on their own or in a homemade trail mix, make for a convenient and healthy snack while nursing. Almond butter is a nice alternative to peanut butter and can be used as a spread on toast or a sandwich or can be added to oatmeal or a smoothie. If you notice any sort of reaction in your baby after consuming nuts of any kind, make sure to see your baby's doctor to rule out a possible nut allergy.
Leafy greens such as spinach, swiss chard, and kale are jam-packed full of fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and much more. One of the minerals that is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women is iron and leafy greens boast a lot of it. It's important to note though that plant sources of Iron are not as well absorbed as animal sources (such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs), but if you pair these iron-rich leafy greens with either iron-rich animal foods or foods high in Vitamin C such as citrus fruits, strawberries or bell peppers, this helps with the absorption of the iron. Enjoy leafy greens in a salad, in soups or sandwiches or throw them into a smoothie (one of my go-to snacks while breastfeeding).