Advice to Breast-Feeding Mothers : 'Feed Yourself to Feed Your Baby'

Breast-feeding mothers who want to lose prenatal weight gain should do so very slowly until they're finished breast-feeding or their milk supply will suffer, warns a Stanford University Medical Center dietitian.

"You have to feed yourself in order to feed your baby," said JoAnn Hattner, registered dietitian who specializes in maternal and pediatric nutrition. "Drastically reducing your nutrient and calorie intake will also reduce the amount of milk you produce."

The key to maintaining milk supply while losing weight is consuming sufficient calories and fluids from a varied diet that includes foods from the four food groups--milk, meat, vegetables and fruits and breads and cereals.

Gradual Weight Loss

A woman can maintain her milk supply and still lose an average of 3 1/2 pounds per month by consuming about 2,200 calories daily, according to Hattner.

To get all the nutrients necessary for optimum health during lactation, Hattner recommends a daily diet that includes a minimum of four servings of milk group foods, three servings of meat or meat alternates, four servings of vegetables and fruits and four servings of breads and cereals.

Serving sizes for milk group foods equal one cup of milk, one cup yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces cheese. One meat group serving equals two to three ounces of meat, one cup of cooked dried beans, two eggs or four tablespoons of peanut butter. A vegetable-fruits group serving equals one-half cup cooked vegetables, one piece of fruit or four ounces of fruit juice. A breads-cereals serving equals a slice of bread, a tortilla, a half-cup of rice or pasta, one cup of dry cereal or half an English muffin or bagel.

Maintaining Optiumum Levels

This food plan supplies about 1,600 calories, leaving between 500 and 700 extra calories a breast-feeding mother needs to maintain optimum breast milk levels. Hattner recommends consuming more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and an extra serving of dairy products to get extra nutrients and calories.

Between-meal snacks are good for filling in the extra calories, according to Hattner. Try eating cheese or peanut butter and crackers, yogurt and fruit or oatmeal cookies and a glass of milk for snacks that provide extra nutrients.

Remember that butter, margarine and cream sauces, as well as jam, jellies and mayonnaise, will also add calories but few nutrients to your diet, Hattner adds.

Mothers concerned about consuming adequate fluids need to make sure they are drinking four glasses of milk in addition to fruit juice and water everyday, Hattner says.

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