By Dr. Laurie Teitelman, N.D.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your new baby is to nourish your body with a healthy, balanced diet.
Many women are in a hurry to lose those pregnancy pounds. Did you know that eating foods that boost your energy at regular intervals will provide you with the stamina you need to be the best mom you can be? This is because eating nutrient-rich foods throughout the day can maximize the precious energy your body is trying to preserve as a new mom.
If you are nursing your baby, it is important for you and your baby that the quality of your breast milk stays consistent no matter what you choose to eat. When you are not getting the additionally required nutrients from your diet or supplements, your body will provide them from your own stores. For your well-being, it is best to make sure you are obtaining the nutrients you and your baby need by incorporating a variety of healthy breastfeeding-friendly foods into your nursing mom food plan.
Try your best to incorporate the following 12 foods for new moms as a regular part of your diet; your body — and your baby — will thank you!
Salmon is pretty close to the perfect food when it comes to a nutritional powerhouse for new moms (please make sure it is safe wild Atlantic salmon). One of the best breastfeeding foods out there, salmon, like other fatty fish, is loaded with a type of fat called DHA. DHA is crucial to the development of your baby’s nervous system. All breast milk contains DHA, but levels of this essential nutrient are higher in the milk of women who get more DHA from their diets.
The DHA in salmon may also help your mood. Studies suggest it may play a role in preventing postpartum depression.
One caution: FDA guidelines say breastfeeding women should limit consumption of fish (due to heavy metal contamination) to 12 ounces per week because of potential exposure to mercury. Salmon is considered to contain less mercury when compared to other types of fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish.
2. Low-Fat Dairy Products
Whether you prefer yogurt, milk, or cheese, organic, rBST-free, antibiotic and hormone-free dairy products are an important part of healthy breastfeeding. In addition to providing protein, B vitamins, and vitamin D, dairy products are one of the best sources of calcium. If you are breastfeeding, your milk is loaded with calcium to help your baby’s bones develop, so it is critical for you to eat enough calcium to meet your own needs as well as theirs! Other great forms of milk include almond milk and rice milk.
3. Lean Beef and Turkey
When you’re looking for foods to boost your energy as a new mom, seek out iron-rich foods like lean beef (ensure it is from antibiotic and hormone-free animals). A deficiency of iron can drain your energy levels, making it hard for you to keep up with the demands of a newborn baby.
Also, when you’re nursing, you need to eat extra protein and vitamin B-12. Lean beef and turkey are excellent sources for both of these nutrients.
Beans, especially dark-colored ones like black beans and kidney beans, are a great breastfeeding food, especially for vegetarians. Not only are they rich in iron, they’re a budget-friendly source of high quality, non-animal protein, help stabilize your blood sugars, and are an excellent source of fiber to help keep your digestion regular.
Breastfeeding moms should be sure to get two or more servings of fruit (fresh or frozen) each day. Antioxidant-rich blueberries are an excellent choice to help you meet your needs. These satisfying and yummy berries are filled with good-for-you vitamins and minerals which will give you a healthy dose of carbohydrates to keep your energy levels high, protect your eyes and provide antioxidant protection! Delicious in blended into smoothies or sprinkled onto a salad.
6. Brown Rice
If you’re attempting to lose the baby weight, you might be tempted to drastically cut back on your carbohydrate consumption. But losing weight too quickly may cause you to produce less milk for the baby and leave you feeling lethargic and sluggish. It is wiser to incorporate healthy, whole-grain carbs like brown rice in your diet to keep your energy levels up (an added protein boost would be to sprinkle in some edamame beans). Foods like brown rice provide your body with the calories it needs to produce the best quality milk for your baby.
Portable and nutritious, oranges are a great food to boost energy for new moms. Nursing moms need even more vitamin C than pregnant women, which makes oranges and other citrus fruits an excellent breastfeeding food. Can’t find time to sit down to a snack? Sip on some orange juice as you go about your day — you’ll get the vitamin C benefit and can even opt for calcium-fortified varieties to get even more benefit from your beverage, or similarly, supplement safely with vitamin C as a less sugary option.
Egg yolk is one of the few natural sources of vitamin D — an essential nutrient to keep your bones strong and help your baby’s bones grow (opt for cage-free, antibiotic-free and organic eggs when possible). Beyond that, eggs are a versatile way to meet your daily protein needs. Try scrambling up a couple of eggs for breakfast, tossing a hard-boiled egg or two on your lunchtime salad, or having an omelet and salad for dinner. As part of your diet, you might even opt for DHA-fortified eggs to increase the level of this essential fatty acid in your milk.
9. Whole-Wheat Bread
Folic acid is crucial to your baby’s development in the early stages of pregnancy, but its importance doesn’t end there. Folic acid is an important nutrient in your breast milk that your baby needs for good health. And it’s crucial you eat enough for your own well-being, too. Enriched whole-grain breads and pastas are fortified with this vital nutrient, and they also give you a healthy dose of fiber and iron. Safe supplementation with folate is another great option to keep your body optimally protected.
10. Leafy Greens
The list of benefits you get from eating leafy green vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, and broccoli goes on and on. They’re filled with vitamin A, which your baby needs to get from your breast milk. They’re a non-dairy source of dietary calcium. They’ve got vitamin C and iron. On top of that, green veggies are filled with heart-healthy antioxidants, they’re low calorie, and they’re tasty to boot.
12. Whole-Grain Cereal
After yet another sleepless night, one of the best foods to boost energy for new moms in the morning is a healthy breakfast of whole-grain cereal. Many cold cereals are available that are fortified with essential vitamins and nutrients to help you meet your daily needs. Or, whip up a healthy hot breakfast by stirring blueberries and milk into a delicious serving of oatmeal or quinoa and toss in your favorite nuts for added protein and sprinkle in some yummy cinnamon.
Dehydration is one of the biggest energy drains there is. New moms who are breastfeeding are especially at risk. To keep your energy levels and milk production up, make sure you stay well hydrated. You can vary your options and meet some of your fluid requirements by drinking water regularly throughout the day. Careful with coffee and regular tea since caffeine enters your breast milk and can cause your baby to become irritable and sleep poorly. Opt for herbal teas instead.