Study Investigates Healthiest Diet for Breastfeeding Moms

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We've all heard the expression “I've got to eat for two!” Usually when that phrase is used, it's used in justification of digging out of the ice cream carton during pregnancy. On top of that, it's referring to the amount of food that is being eaten—you know, just the sheer quantity of what's being eaten. However, that phrase can also refer to the nutritional value that you have to be cognizant of. You have to be aware that your nutritional intake impacts your baby's nutritional intake. So, if someone asks if you want a cupcake or a donut or, yes, ice cream, you can respond by saying, “Sorry, I'm eating for two.” 

It's important to be responsible for your own body and the body of your little one. 

{ MORE: Nutrition for Nursing Mothers }

After the birth of a baby, there’s a lot of attention on what he or she should be eating, but moms may not realize how important it is for them to continue eating well during this critical time, especially if they are breastfeeding. In fact, Abbott Research Scientist Christina Sherry said that nutrition during lactation is actually more important than nutrition during pregnancy. 

Caring for a newborn is difficult as it is, so it's completely understandable that some women struggle to eat a well-balanced diet while they're adjusting to a new baby. So many changes are going on in their bodies, their homes, their lifestyles, their sleep patterns, and their responsibilities, and because of all of those added factors, the average breastfeeding-mom’s diet doesn't provide the desired levels of key nutrients that can help to maintain optimal health.

Keep in mind, Sherry said that baby will get the nutrients he or she needs. So if you aren't eating nutritionally enough, it will be your health that suffers. And because of that, keeping in mind all of the changes that were listed above, you've got to eat right.

{ MORE: Postpartum Nutrition: Best Foods for New Mothers }

Results from a study conducted by Sherry revealed that over 50% of women were lacking in nutrients that came from fruits, vegetables, and dairy. These nutrients are:

  • DHA:  (docosahexaenoic acid) a fatty acid essential for a baby’s brain development
  • Lutein: a component in breast milk that supports eye health
  • Vitamin E: an important antioxidant to support developing cells

Many leading dietary organizations say it’s ideal for pregnant and lactating women to consume at least 200 milligrams of DHA and 19 milligrams of vitamin E per day. A desired level of lutein is estimated to be 4-7 milligrams, based on recommended vegetable servings from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. As an example, to achieve the desired levels of DHA, lutein and vitamin E in their diets, women would need to eat three 4-ounce servings of salmon a week as a source of DHA, 1 ounce of almonds or peanuts a day as a source of vitamin E, and 2 cups of cooked broccoli a day as a source of lutein.

It's important for the all-around health of you and your baby that you are eating properly. A healthy mom can better keep up with her healthy baby. As was stated before, nutrition is more important now than it was when you were pregnant, so be aware of your diet and do what you can to have a balanced diet.

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Study Investigates Healthiest Diet for Breastfeeding Moms

Jace Whatcott is a self-diagnosed introvert who loves crossword puzzles, golf, and reading. Despite being a male contributor—one of the few on this particular website—he is not in unfamiliar territory. Because he is an English major, 90% of his classmates are females, so he’s not too worried about being a fish out of water. One of his favorite things to do is to raid local thrift stores for used books. He’s always looking for something to read, or for something to put on his endless to-r ... More

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