Essential Nutrients For Breastfeeding Moms
Breastfeeding has amazing benefits for both mommy and baby. It creates balance in the post-pregnancy body, helps provide emotional and psychological well-being and of course, helps baby and mommy bond. The oxytocin released during breastfeeding helps the uterus to contract back into its original size and health, plus it's not called the love hormone for nothing. Oxytocin provides a sense of deep relaxation and affection.
Unfortunately, not every mother springs a fountain of this baby-building, mommy loving, nutrient powerhouse right away. And for those who have the natural capacity for overflowing wells of milk, your diet might not be providing the nutrient balance and calories you need to adequately feed your little one and stay healthy and energetic.
Here are the key nutritional needs for breastfeeding mamas to help with those bountiful bosoms:
A large portion of the breast milk produced is made of water. There is a reason that many mother’s report extreme thirst the moment they sit down to feed their little one: dehydration. Stay hydrated with three to four quarts of water daily and increase depending on your level of activity or exercise.
There is actually a simple formula to sort out just how many more calories you should be consuming post-pregnancy. A breastfed baby needs two to three ounces of breast milk per pound of body weight. That means that an eight-pound baby would need approximately 20 ounces of breastmilk each day. For each ounce, mom needs 20 extra calories. So your eight-pound baby just gave you 400 extra delicious, nutritious and satisfying calories to enjoy each day!
Folic acid is key to staying healthy during pregnancy and post-pregnancy. During pregnancy mothers are meant to consume approximately 600mcg of folic acid each day. Once lactation begins, moms should drop their folic acid intake by about 25 per cent. If you are breastfeeding, you now only need 450mcg of folic acid daily.
Vitamin B is well known for its impact on stress and energy levels. New moms know better than anyone how sleep deprivation can effect how awake, focused and anxious a person becomes. Extra B to alleviate symptoms related to sleep deprivation can be super helpful for mom and B vitamins will also help baby’s nervous system development. Taking too much B6 however can have a negative effect on milk production. It is recommended that moms supplement with a B complex vitamin that contains no more than 50mg of B6 each day.
Brewers yeast, red raspberry, blessed thistle and fenugreek are all natural supplements that claim to increase milk supply and improve the lactation experience. With very little research the best and most well established supplement is fenugreek. Fenugreek capsules can be taken three times daily. A dose of two to three capsules or 1200-2400 mg three times each day. The added benefit of fenugreek is reduced blood sugar. Mom’s generally notice a difference in three to four days after they begin taking fenugreek.
Regardless of your nutritional needs, food is the best source of vitamins and minerals. To learn about the best foods for breastfeeding moms take a look at our lactation recipes and our Ten Best Foods For Breastfeeding article.