Woman eating healthy food

Eating for your baby's health

Taking care of your baby, especially while breastfeeding, can leave you short on time when it comes to taking care of yourself.

Because your baby relies on you to supply the vitamins and minerals she needs, it’s important to make your diet as much a priority now as it was during your pregnancy.

Contributed by Jessica Remitz

Follow these tips on what to eat and how to stay healthy.

Vitamin A

Your breast milk is the ideal food for infants, with over 200 compounds that fight infection and help their immune systems mature, according to scientists. To keep your supply at its healthiest, try to get 1,300 micrograms of vitamin A per day through fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes and tomato juice.

Vitamin C

Nursing moms need 120 milligrams of vitamin C every day, a significant jump from the 85 milligrams needed while pregnant. Get as much as you can by eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables each day, including 1 cup of orange juice, 1 1/2 cups of sliced strawberries or 1 1/2 cups of broccoli.

Calcium

Your calcium needs, 1,000 milligrams per day, are the same before, during and after pregnancy. This nutrient is especially important throughout your first year of breastfeeding as most women don’t meet this minimum regularly. Get your daily allotment with low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified soymilk, juices and cereals, and dark leafy greens.

Check out our breastfeeding guide for the whole first year >>

Folate

Your daily folate requirement dips slightly after you baby is born, from 600 micrograms during pregnancy to 500, but it can still be difficult to reach from diet alone. Taking a daily multi-vitamin will help, as will eating plenty of dried beans, grains and cereals. Reach your daily quota with 1 cup of fortified bran cereal, 1/2 cup of cooked pinto beans, 1/2 cup of spinach, 1 cup of orange juice and a slice of whole-wheat bread.

Protein

Make sure to eat your meat — or tofu — during pregnancy and lactation. Your daily requirement stays the same at 71 grams per day, and can include 2 eggs, 3 ounces of roast beef, 2 cups of low-fat milk, 4 ounces of cooked salmon and 2 slices of whole-wheat bread.

Zinc

Eating right in the middle of a busy day can be challenging, especially when you’re back at work, but try incorporating at least one animal product — like smoked turkey or low-fat yogurt — into your lunch to help reach your requirements for zinc. The daily requirement for this nutrient only increases slightly when nursing, from 11 milligrams to 12, and vegetarians should take note that zinc is only found in animal products. If this poses a problem for you, be sure your daily supplement has enough to cover your needs.

Fluids

Because breast milk is 87 percent water, staying hydrated is just as important as taking in all the foods your body needs. While all beverages including milk, juice, tea, coffee and soft drinks technically count, keep your focus on water and milk. Drink at least thirteen 8-ounce glasses of fluids, and limit your caffeinated beverages to between one and three 8-ounce cups per day. If you live in a warmer climate or exercise, try to drink even more water than your daily requirements.

Read these healthy recipes for nursing moms >>

More about breastfeeding

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Why your breastfeeding baby needs vitamin D
Breastfeeding as a working mom

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