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Dietary Needs for Mom

Many breastfeeding mothers wonder if their "normal" diets are good enough to breastfeed. While breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to eat a well-balanced diet, it's not "mandatory" for her to do so. It is often hard to do a really well balanced diet, and many mothers (breastfeeding or not) don't have a "perfect" diet. Yet, if she strives to eat a variety of foods, she will feel better herself and her body will thank her.

To help mothers know what foods, and in what amounts, would be good for her to consume on a daily basis, here is a guideline from the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council.

Food Group and Recommended servings each day:

Milk Group (or equivalent) - 5 servings a day (other sources indicate 3 - 4 servings are enough)

Meat, fish, poultry (or equivalent) - 3 servings a day

Vegetables - 2 servings a day (other sources increase this to 4 servings daily)

Fruits - 2 servings a day (other sources increase this to 4 servings daily)

Breads and cereals - 6 servings a day

Other foods (fats and oils) - in moderation

Liquids (in addition to milk, preferably water) - 6 to 9 servings a day

Desserts and snacks - in moderation.

Use natural sugars rather than chemical sugar substitutes.

The Basic Food Guide of 2100 to 2900 calories a day includes the caloric requirements to breastfeed a single baby. Of these calories, 400 to 500 are needed to breastfeed the baby. When you are breastfeeding twins, consuming 800 to 1000 additional calories is recommended. You should add these extra calories to your normal caloric intake, because your normal caloric intake maintains your own body's functions and weight. The Food and Nutrition Board, a division of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, calculated these particular caloric requirements.

If you are curious as to what a serving equals the following guide should help.

Milk/Dairy: One serving equals 1 cup of milk, 8 ounces (1 cup) of yogurt or 1 to 1 ounces of natural cheese.

Meat/Protein: One serving equals three ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish.

Vegetables: One serving equals cup cooked or raw. For leafy vegetables a serving is one full cup.

Bread/Grains: One serving equals 1 slice of bread, hamburger bun or cup cooked cereal.

Because Calcium, Protein and Iron are important, the following additional information may be helpful to breastfeeding mothers:

Calcium requirements for breastfeeding mothers, at least 1200mg per day.

Most women do not get enough calcium in their diets. Breastfeeding mothers need at least 1200 mg per day. Calcium supplements should include zinc and magnesium, easily available in supplemental form, to ensure optimal absorption by the body.

Protein requirements for breastfeeding mothers, about 65g daily.

Most experts indicate that from 10 to 15% of total calories should be comprised of protein. Breastfeeding moms need an extra 12 to 15 grams of protein per day. Sources of protein include meat, fish, liver, poultry, eggs, milk and soybeans. To try to make this easier for moms, it helps to know that one glass of milk provides 8 grams of protein, and one egg provides 7 grams of protein, so it's not too difficult to get your daily protein requirements in the normal foods (and in the normal amounts) you eat daily.

Iron requirements for breastfeeding mothers, about 15mg daily.

The RDA iron recommendation for women is 15 mg. Iron is best absorbed in an empty stomach, but if you eat citrus fruits or tomatoes an hour or so before iron rich foods, the iron will absorb more efficiently. Mother's consumption of iron does not influence the amount or concentrations of iron in breast milk.

You can read more on diet and breastfeeding here: 

Copyright 2000 - 2006  Jim Yount

Send email to Paula Yount for any questions or comments about this site.

Disclaimer:  The pages contained herein are meant purely for informational purposes and every effort is made to provide accurate and up-to-date information. This information, however, is not meant to take the place of your doctor, nor should the information contained on this web site be considered specific medical advice with respect to any specific person and/or any specific condition. The author, therefore respectfully but specifically disclaims any liability, loss or risk - personal or otherwise - that is, or may be, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from use or application of any of the information provided on this web site.