If you’re lactating, you have a higher need for many nutrients compared to when you were pregnant and before pregnancy. Nutrition shortfalls while breastfeeding can deprive your body of calories, vitamins, and minerals needed for your breast milk to meet the needs of your baby.
The nutrient content of your breast milk will change, typically, over the first four to six weeks after you give birth. In the first few days your breasts will produce a smaller volume of milk that has concentrated amounts of immune-boosting components. Milk and its nutrient content will change and mature along with your growing baby, adapting to baby’s needs.
Pay attention to vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron.
Vitamin D is present is very low quantities in breast milk unless a supplement is taken during pregnancy. To meet baby’s needs, supplement infants with 400IU of vitamin D daily, or, you can supplement 2000IU during the final six months of pregnancy to six weeks postpartum to deliver the vitamin through breast milk.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Your baby needs omega-3 fatty acids for eye and brain development. Eat at least 5oz (150g) of fish weekly to meet your needs and the needs of your infant. Avoid or limit fish with high mercury content. For other food sources of omega-3 fats, please visit the Dietitians of Canada’s website.
Your period may stop for a length of time while you’re breastfeeding. During this time, your need for iron decreases to 9-10 mg daily.
Special dietary considerations are required for women diagnosed with gestational diabetes, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and other health conditions affected by diet, like renal failure and liver disease. It is always best to create a nutrition plan with a healthcare provider to provide optimal nutritional support for your unique circumstances.