Eve Casale MacNally arrived at 9:51 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2017 in Chicago, Ill., weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches in length. She’s great; Kate’s fine; Andy’s glowing; and my wife Mary is absolutely delirious.
Once again, I was like a cat on a hot tin roof, remembering every bizarre, rare, potential complication of pregnancy and delivery and recalling the whole spectrum of congenital abnormalities known to man. Internally agitated, externally the epitome of confidence, reassurance and calm.
Rowan’s getting along well with her new sister, much to the work Kate and Andy have done over the last few months getting her ready for sharing as “The Best Big Sister, Ever.”
So far, Kate’s feeling pretty good, getting used to seeing her toes again and gently readjusting her diet.
You see, when you’re pregnant, you’re hyper aware of the fact that you’re eating for two. You make sure you’re eating all the proper foods and taking vitamins to support your growing baby. But once your baby is born, your life suddenly revolves around that infant’s sleep and eating schedule, with dirty diapers sprinkled in between.
This is such a big life adjustment that you may inadvertently let your nutrition fall by the wayside. While it’s essential to dote on your newborn’s every need, if you’re breastfeeding, it’s important to remember that you’re still eating for two. Here’s what you need to know about your diet as a breastfeeding mother:
If you’re breastfeeding, your breast milk is giving your baby all the nutrients that are needed to promote his or her growth, development and health.
Just one benefit of breastfeeding for the mother is that it burns extra calories — anywhere from 300 to 500 calories per day. While you may be concerned with losing pregnancy weight, you may need to eat to make up for some of the extra calories you’re burning.
If you still have baby weight from your pregnancy, the extra calories you’re burning from breastfeeding will naturally be used for your milk. If you have already lost your pregnancy weight, you may need to eat an additional 300 to 600 calories each day in order to keep your energy up.
Once your baby starts eating other foods at 6 months, you’ll be producing less milk, and then you can cut back on the additional calorie intake.
Just like when you’re pregnant, it’s best to turn to nutrient-rich and healthy choices for those extra calories when breastfeeding.
Healthy diet choices help fuel your milk production. Include protein-rich foods like lean meats, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils and seafood low in mercury in your diet. You should also incorporate a large variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Ideally, you should eat protein two to three times per day as well as three servings of vegetables, two servings of fruit, and whole grains such as whole wheat breads, pasta, cereal and oatmeal daily.
The amount of fluids you take in is just as important as what you’re eating while breastfeeding.
You should drink frequently, preferably before you feel thirsty — since thirst is an early sign of dehydration. Some mothers feel thirsty while breastfeeding their baby, so it’s a good idea to keep a glass of water nearby while feeding your baby.
What you drink matters, too. Juices and sugary drinks can contribute to weight gain or inhibit your efforts to lose your pregnancy weight. Caffeine can also be troublesome.
You should limit yourself to no more than two to three cups of caffeinated drinks per day. Caffeine is passed into your milk, but most babies aren’t bothered by it. However, caffeine in your milk may agitate your baby or interfere with his or her sleep.
Some women look forward to their first drink after their pregnancy is over. But, just like caffeine, alcohol is passed into your milk, and there’s no level of alcohol in your milk that’s considered safe for your baby.
If you wish to have an alcoholic beverage, wait two to three hours after each serving. Pumping and dumping your breast milk doesn’t speed up the elimination of alcohol from your body. For reference, one serving of beer is 12 ounces, wine is 5 ounces, and liquor is 1.5 ounces.
If you’re making healthy choices, taking in enough calories, and avoiding or limiting caffeine and alcohol, you don’t need to go on a special diet while you’re breastfeeding. You and your baby will reap all the rewards breastfeeding has to offer if you simply focus on those healthy choices.
Thanks to all of you who’ve expressed your congratulations and good wishes. It feels like the Eve of something really wonderful!
Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is Associate Chief Medical Officer for Geisinger Health and Chair of the Geisinger Cardiac Institute. Readers may write to him via [email protected]