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Experts Corner

Nutrition

Nutrition During Lactation
By Mediconsult's Nutrition Services

Q. Do I need to follow a special diet to breastfeed?

A. Nutrient needs for lactation are similar to pregnancy needs except the need for iron is much less. Lactating women usually don't menstruate so their need for iron is even less than that of a non-pregnant woman that is having regular menstrual cycles. The pregnancy diet guide is a good place to start for helping with basic food selections. Here are some additional tips:

Nutrition During Lactation
Calories A breastfeeding woman needs to consume a minimum of 1800 calories per day. If you are breastfeeding twins or more, you may need a lot more calories. If you are losing more than one to four pounds per month while breastfeeding, you may not be eating enough. Overweight women, or women who gained a lot of weight during pregnancy, may be able to lose four to six pounds per month without compromising their breastmilk production, but rapid weight loss should be monitored by their physician.
Protein Protein needs are increased for breastfeeding moms. Be sure you are including a healthy portion of protein with at least two meals each day. Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, tofu, and many dairy products are good sources of protein.
Calcium Calcium needs for lactation remain elevated as in pregnancy. Continue to choose at least 3-4 calcium-rich foods daily. Teenage mothers should consume 4-5 servings.
Fluid Producing breastmilk requires water. Drink at least 8 - 10 cups of fluids each day. Remember, your urine should be pale or colorless when you are well hydrated. Drinking extra fluids will not increase your milk supply.
Chemicals Both caffeine and alcohol are passed through breastmilk and negatively effect breast-fed infants. Cigarette smoking can reduce a mother's milk production, and smoke is an environmental toxin effecting infant lung development. All illicit drugs should be avoided, as they are hazardous to both mother and infant. Prescription and over-the-counter medications should be approved by your physician and the baby's pediatrician.

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