By Kate Horney

As a hormonal nutrition consultant AND an exclusively breast-feeding momma, I can attest to the fact that Breast-feeding nutrition can be confusing… even for the experts.

How much should you eat? What should you avoid? How might your diet affect your baby?

These are just a few of the many questions I have been asked by the moms I coach (and asked/researched for myself when I began breast-feeding my son!)

As breast-feeding moms, our goal is to give our babies nutrients that will promote his or her growth and health… but do you know about what foods and drinks are best for you- and how your diet might affect your breast milk and your baby?

Here are 8 of my basics for breast-feeding nutrition:

1. Drink up! It’s important for breast-feeding moms to stay hydrated. Be sure to drink frequently, preferably before you feel thirsty, and to drink more if your urine appears dark yellow. I like to make sure I have a glass of water nearby when you breast-feed Jackson- and I carry around water with me throughout the day as well.

2. Eat enough. On average, most moms need an additional 400 to 500 calories a day to keep up their energy and milk supply. You don’t need to count calories (what busy mom wants to/has time for THAT?!)- Just make sure you’re fueling yourself and are monitoring your hunger, energy and cravings.

3. Eat real food. Rather than processed foods, opt for a variety of whole foods with a focus on lean protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables. (note: make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables to reduce exposure to pesticide residue).

4. Try a variety of different foods!
Breast-feeding will change the flavor of your breast milk, and this will expose your baby to different tastes, which might help him or her more easily accept solid foods down the road. I focus on eating an assortment of different flavors, herbs, spices and foods…. And now that we’re introducing Jackson to solid foods, he has done fabulously! No picky eaters here!

5. Take a prenatal vitamin if needed.
If you’re unsure that you’re getting all the proper vitamins and minerals while breastfeeding, you may consider continuing to take a daily prenatal vitamin until you wean your baby.

6. Limit caffeine.
I love my morning coffee as much as the next mom, but too much caffeine can be troublesome. Limit yourself to no more than 2 to 3 cups (16 to 24 ounces) of caffeinated drinks a day. Caffeine in your breast milk might agitate your baby or interfere with your baby’s sleep (which is something NO breast-feeding momma wants!).

7. Understand alcohol.
If you choose to drink alcohol, avoid breast-feeding until the alcohol has completely cleared your breast milk. This typically takes two to three hours for 12 ounces (340 grams) of 5 percent beer, 5 ounces (142 grams) of 11 percent wine or 1.5 ounces (43 grams) of 40 percent liquor, depending on your body weight.

8. Watch for allergies. Certain foods or drinks in your diet could cause your baby to become irritable or have an allergic reaction. If your baby becomes fussy or develops a rash, diarrhea or congestion soon after nursing, consult your baby’s doctor. These signs could indicate a food allergy. Consider eliminating dairy products or other allergenic foods or ingredients, such as: Cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy or fish.

Remember there’s no need to go on a “special diet” while you’re breast-feeding. Simply focus on making healthy nutrition choices- and you and your baby will reap the rewards. 🙂

Kate Horney is part of the Momsanity Team, which is a community of Moms striving to achieve balance through physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. You can read more about this amazing program here, and also get information about the Momsanity Sisterhood here. The Sisterhood is a closed group with nutrition guidelines, workouts designed for fat loss and strength building, daily spiritual guidance, and more!