You know that you should watch your intake of alcohol and caffeine while nursing since both can transfer to your little one through your breast milk. The foods you eat are also important because the nutrients you take in go toward creating healthy breast milk for your baby. Breastfeeding itself boosts your baby's immunity, but eating foods that promote a healthy immune system offers protection for mom and infant.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins A and C, which play a vital role in keeping the immune system humming along as it should. If you eat enough of them, the health benefits pass to your breastfeeding baby. The best way to ensure an adequate intake is to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your meal plan. However, some are higher in vitamins A and C than others. Citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, kiwi and cantaloupe are healthy choices.
Healthy fats are an important component of breast milk. Getting enough in your diet ensures that your milk optimizes immunity in your baby by being as healthy as possible. The Health Promotion Board recommends salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef, chicken and eggs. Flax oil and flaxseed are other good sources that you can cook with or add to smoothies and oatmeal. Eating each a couple of times per week increases your intake of DHA and ARA, two essential fatty acids that are important in your breast milk.
Yogurt contains probiotics, which are important for digestive health and immunity. Passing them on to your nursing baby helps him digest his food, especially as he transitions to solid foods. When you buy yogurt, make sure the varieties you choose contain live and active cultures as evidenced by the label. If you don't like yogurt or are lactose intolerant, soy milk, miso soup, sauerkraut and dark chocolate also contain probiotics, though they might not contain as much as yogurt does.
Some types of seafood contain selenium, which boosts immunity by killing off illness- and disease-causing organisms. Tuna, shrimp, red snapper and lobster are good sources of selenium. If you can't stomach seafood or are allergic to it, chicken, egg yolks, cottage cheese, some vegetables, Brazil nuts and lamb chops also contain the nutrient. Garlic is a particularly powerful choice because it contains selenium, but it also stimulates the production of white blood cells, according to the Ask Dr. Sears website. Some women report that garlic turns their baby off breast milk, possibly because it changes the taste or smell, so if your baby refuses to nurse after you eat garlic, stick with other immunity-boosting foods.
- Health Promotion Board: An Eating Guide for Breastfeeding Mothers
- Sutter Health: Nutrition for Breastfeeding Mothers
- Ask Dr. Sears: 8 Foods that Boost Immunity
- MayoClinic.com: Breast-Feeding Tips: What New Moms Need to Know
- Ask Dr. Sears: Boost Your Child's Immune System
- La Leche League: The Science of Mother's Milk
- Reader's Digest: 13 Probiotic-Filled Foods
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