Most nursing mothers produce breast milk of excellent quality. However, the amount of milk each woman produces may vary. Your health, your diet, and how much rest you get can affect your milk supply. The biggest influences on milk production are how often you feed your baby (or pump your breasts) and how well milk is removed from your breasts.
Many women have questions about how they will need to change their lifestyles while nursing. They fear that they may be restricted in many ways. In fact, most women can easily follow these simple guidelines:
Breast-feeding mothers need an extra 500 to 800 calories a day. Eat a variety of foods at regular mealtimes and have healthy snacks if you are hungry between meals. Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, non-fat dairy products, and protein-rich meats, fish, poultry, and legumes. If you are on a vegetarian diet, you may need to increase the amount of vitamin B12 in your diet. Infants breastfed by women on a vegetarian diet may not get enough vitamin B12. Talk to your healthcare provider about this.
Your body needs plenty of water to produce breast milk. While breast-feeding, you should drink an extra 2 to 4 cups of water each day. Have a glass of water each time you sit down to nurse. If you feel thirsty, make sure you drink more.
If a certain food or drink seems to upset your baby, avoid that food or drink for a couple of weeks before you try it again. The most common foods in a mother's diet that cause allergic symptoms in nursing infants are cow's milk and other dairy products, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, eggs, fish, shellfish, and soy. Often, the food that causes a reaction in your baby is a regular part of your diet.
If you think your baby is having a reaction to certain foods, talk to your healthcare provider. Do not eliminate a major food group (such as dairy or wheat products) from your diet unless your provider or dietitian agrees. They can suggest other foods that will give you the same nutrients as the foods that bother your baby.
Remember that vitamin and mineral supplements do not take the place of food. You need to eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Caffeine passes into your breast milk and can make your baby fussy.
Alcohol is passed into human milk. Any heavy drinking or daily drinking of even small amounts of alcohol could hurt your baby. Moderate to heavy drinking (2 or more alcoholic drinks per day) can harm the baby's motor development. It also can interfere with the let-down reflex and cause slow infant weight gain. Once in a while, a beer or glass of wine is probably OK, but you should not have more than 1 or 2 a week. Do not breastfeed for 2 to 3 hours after you have alcohol. If your baby is ill, premature, or in the hospital, DO NOT drink ANY alcohol.
The breakdown products from nicotine can pass to your baby in your milk. If you can’t stop smoking, try to cut down. If you must smoke, do it after nursing your baby. Above all, do not smoke in the car with your baby, in the same room as your baby, or even in the house. Breathing your exhaled smoke can hurt your baby. Smoking also may decrease your milk supply, make your baby more fussy, and decrease the time your baby sleeps.
You need to make sure that the drug is safe for nursing babies.
Drug abuse by nursing mothers is very dangerous to breast-fed babies. Even medical marijuana should not be used while you are nursing.
Your body uses the fat stored during pregnancy to make breast milk. This is why most breast-feeding mothers can lose several pounds each month. However, a strict weight-loss diet can decrease your milk supply. Attempts to lose weight should be supervised by your healthcare provider while you are breast-feeding.