Pregnancy : Best Diet for Breastfeeding

Kjerstin Gabrielson

Comfort cooks preparing meals for breast-feeding mothers can provide an important nutrition boost.

Laurie Relling, lactation specialist at Providence Portland Medical Center, says nursing moms should eat foods that are healthy and familiar. Even if that food is spicy curry or salsa.

"Babies learn to love the food of their culture by what mom eats during pregnancy and lactation," Relling said. "So if a mom is from Mexico, and she eats tortillas and beans and chilies ... that flavors the breast milk. And that builds a bridge from the breast to the table."

One precaution: What moms eat flavors their breast milk, and sometimes babies will object to an overly strong flavor. "It doesn't mean you have to NOT have something," she said.

To help nursing moms meet their nutritional needs, Relling recommends meals heavy on fruit, vegetables, protein and calcium. Fish is a particular powerhouse, but she cautions that varieties known to be higher in mercury, tuna for instance, should be limited to one or two servings a week.

Worried about foods causing gas pains for babies? Relling says you probably don't need to. "If you eat beans, that doesn't make your baby gassy. ... Babies are gassy because babies are gassy." It goes back to familiarity. Foods that were part of a mom's pregnancy diet should be fine for her to eat during lactation.

What about the occasional glass of wine or a bottle of beer? Relling says moderation and timing are key. "Alcohol does get into the breast milk for sure. ... If you have one drink, it takes your liver about two hours to remove that alcohol from your breast milk."

So if you're craving a glass of wine, nurse your baby, have the glass, then wait a couple of hours before the next feeding.

-- Kjerstin Gabrielson

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