Written by Chhavi Sachdev, Validated by Karishma Chawla

New to mommy-hood? Yourbreastfeedingconcerns are probably twofold: first, ensuring your baby is getting the best nutrition possible, and the second, I’d wager,is losing the baby weight quickly and easily. Right?

The first rule of thumb for breastfeeding moms is that while you’re certainly also feeding a second person, you’re no longer really eating for two. Hang on, breathe in. Breathe out -- you’re not expected to cut back to pre-pregnancy food intake as soon as you’ve delivered your baby. General medical wisdom decrees that lactating mothers do need about 500 calories more than they would normally consume. And that it can take up to a year to return to the shape you were in. Be patient, stay focused on being healthy and the rest will follow.

We’ll leave exercise for another post (quick summary: yes, please exercise) and focus on nutrition here. Most new mothers do feel pretty hungry and quite often. Your body is not only adjusting to physical changes, it’s also working hard to produce milk.

The good news is that even if you fall off the healthy eating wagon once in a while, your breast milk will not reflect that. But know that breast milk composition varies from day to day, and there is no doubt it is heavily linked to your food and liquid consumption.

Doctors generally advise limiting your caffeine intake to under 3 cups of tea or coffee a day. Caffeine in your breast milk may agitate or irritate your baby. Also, no amount of alcohol in breast milk is okay. If you must drink, try to express the milk before you do, because alcohol doesn’t clear your system for a few hours depending on the type of alcohol and your body weight.

Some women avoid fish when they’re lactating because of the mercury levels in ocean fish, especially from the West Coast of India.

Try to eat nutritious food and limit your between-meal snacks to foods that have a lower glycemic index and keep you feeling full longer. Don’t eat crackers and cookies, instead eat some nuts and dense fruit. Restrict simple carbs, go for more complex whole grains. Move to healthier oils like olive oil, while avoiding partially hydrogenated fats and trans fats. Eat lots of vegetables, lean meatsandeggs. sStay hydrated – since milk is a fluid tissue, having adequate fluids is beneficial. Along with water, try soup, milk and buttermilk as well. Also, be mindful of what your infant could be allergic to. Common allergenic foods include cow’s milk products, fish, eggs, penuts or wheat. Tomatoes, onions, cabbage, chocolate and spices may also not agree with the infantsdigestivesystem.

You can also use lactagogues – foods which stimulate the production of milk like garlic, milk and almonds. Avoid laxatives and self-prescribed drugs as these can be transferred through the breast milk.

Finally, eating healthy is more about taking care of you and making sure you’re well and energized enough to maneuver this new physical and emotional terrain. If your nutritional reserves fall, you’ll start feeling tired and too weak to keep up with the demands of taking care of a newborn, and you certainly don’t want that. Stay healthy, be kind to yourself (but not indulgent) and that’ll go a long way toward a contented, healthy baby, as well as a quick return to your pre-pregnancy shape.

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