Breastfeeding is a unique way to bond with your baby while giving the best nutrition possible. To maintain an adequate milk supply and help your baby grow, you should eat a variety of foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish are healthy foods that include most vitamins and minerals essential for your baby’s growth and development. Eating healthy while breastfeeding also increases your energy level and boosts your immune system.
Vegetables are key sources of iron, fiber, folate, beta-carotene, vitamin C, lycopene, flavonoids and beta-glucans. Eating iron-rich foods helps maintain your energy level and can prevent anemia. Folate or folic acid is essential in the formation of red blood cells. If you like raw vegetables, try spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and mushrooms. If you prefer cooked vegetables, think okra, peas, corn, potatoes, squash, lima beans and kale. You should eat three to five servings of vegetables daily.
Fruits are healthy and light, and make great snacks between meals. Many fruits contain vitamins A, B, K and C. Vitamin C is necessary to build a healthy immune system for you and your baby. It also helps your body absorb iron. Blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries and strawberries contain antioxidants and high amounts of fiber. Fruits can be eaten in a natural state, frozen or juiced. You should eat three to five servings of fruit daily.
Whole grains are healthy sources of vitamins B and E, selenium, potassium, folate, protein and iron. Whole grains are healthier than refined grains because they contain the most nutrients and natural fiber; refined grains have their nutrients removed during the milling process. Whole grains can be found in oatmeal, whole-grain breads, quinoa, bulgar, brown rice, pasta, and barley. You should eat six to 11 servings of whole grains daily.
Nuts contain lots of protein and are good sources of healthy fat in your diet. Protein is important because it produces and repairs important cells in the body. Many nuts also contain vitamins B, E, C, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Sufficient levels of calcium are needed to build healthy bones and teeth. Healthy nuts to snack on include walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and pistachios.
Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your baby’s growth and development. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nursing mothers should not eat shark, swordfish, King mackerel, or tile fish due to their high levels of mercury. It is generally safe to eat up to 12 ounces a week of low-mercury fish including canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.