• Sumo

As a soon to be mother or father, having a healthy child is of paramount importance. The benefits of breastfeeding over soy formula and infant formula are well documented and thoroughly studied. Breast fed infants often develop into healthier children, and later adults. If you’re able to breastfeed your infant, deciding to breastfeed is a prudent choice for the optimal development of your child.

You are what you eat though, so what does that say about the vegetarian diet and its effects on breastfeeding? If you’re vegetarian, it’s only natural to ask this question. This article will put you on the right track to getting your infant all the nutrition they need through breastfeeding, and allay any preconceptions or fears you may have.

Increase Calorie Consumption

f you currently follow a healthy vegetarian diet, you’re already on your way to providing for your infant. Eating a variety of foods daily, from all the necessary food groups, is essential: whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and moderate intake of dairy and eggs.

When you begin breastfeeding your infant, you will want to increase your daily calories consumption by about 500, depending on your size. This should include an extra 10-20 grams of protein, as well. If you are on the lighter side, you’ll want to eat a few calories more. If you are on usually on the heavier side, you’ll want to increase your caloric consumption a little less. A 500 calorie increase can be met by eating a serving of black beans, a slice of whole wheat bread, and a glass of juice, so it shouldn’t be too hard to slip those calories into your day. You should naturally become hungrier anyways, so listen to your body and eat when you think it’s appropriate.

Foods to Keep In Mind 

What you eat on the vegetarian diet is transferred to your baby through your breast milk. Some caffeine in your diet is alright and won’t affect your infant, but try to limit the amount you consume – act as if a small cup of coffee is a true treat, and learn to savor and enjoy that cup thoroughly. Alcohol should also be minimized and, ideally, avoided all together. Also know that strongly flavored foods, like garlic and food with heavy spices, can be transferred through your breast milk. If your baby is responding poorly to your breast milk at any given time, try eliminating these foods and replacing them with more mild tasting ones, and this may be the issue.

It’s also easy to forget to drink your liquids, but remember to stay hydrated. Drink as much water as you think your body needs to keep you and your infant healthy and feeling great.

Nutrients to Include 

You’ll want to make sure you continue getting enough calcium and vitamin B12 in your diet while your breastfeeding. You should be getting 1200mg of calcium a day, and this can be achieved by taking a supplement, or eating calcium rich foods (collard greens are a good source of plant based calcium). Vitamin B12 can be obtained from eggs and dairy products, but are not found in any plant based foods. Try taking a B12 supplement. If you follow a vegan diet, you can get B12 from fortified soy milk, fortified nutritional yeast, and fake meats – although you should also take a supplement, as these types of B12 are not as readily absorbed by the body.

Vegetarian Breastfeeding and Your Child 

If possible, consider breastfeeding your child for at least 6 months, and ideally for a full two years. Your breast milk not only provides the perfect source of nutrition for your child, it protects them from infection and offers a whole host of other health benefits.

Know that the vegetarian diet can easily support both you and your child through this important time in both your lives. Make sure to increase the amount of calories you consume, increase your protein, calcium, and B12 content, and make sure to eat a balanced, healthy diet that includes all the food groups.