A breastfeeding mom has increased dietary needs because of the extra energy and nutrients needed to produce breast milk. One of the many nutrients needed in a nursing mom's diet is protein. All you need to know is the amount of protein needed and which healthy options to choose.
Protein's Role in the Body
Proteins are the building blocks for many tissues and organs in the body. When a mom is breastfeeding, she needs additional calories, protein and other nutrients to maintain her own body and provide protein in her breast milk for her baby.
How Much Protein is Needed
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Reference Intakes, breastfeeding moms need about 71 grams of protein each day. This is an increase of 35 percent for most adult women, who are recommended to consume 46 grams of protein each day. However, not all breastfeeding moms will have the same protein needs because it will vary based on age, body weight, activity level and other health issues. If you have concerns about your dietary protein needs, talk to your health care provider or a registered dietitian.
Healthy Protein Options
Numerous protein sources can be consumed in order to meet the needs of a breastfeeding mom. To meet the recommended 71 grams of protein a day, moms should aim to eat three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods and 5 1/2-ounce equivalents from the protein group. Each of the following counts as 1 ounce equivalent: 1 ounce of lean beef, pork or poultry; 1 ounce of fish or other seafood; 1/4 cup cooked dried beans or legumes, 1 egg, 1/4 cup tofu, 1/2 ounce of nuts; 1 tablespoon nut butter. Seafood may be consumed, but those containing a higher mercury content should be avoided, including shark, swordfish, tile fish and king mackerel.
Other Important Nutrients
Breastfeeding is demanding on a mother's body. In addition to protein, many other nutrients need to be consumed. According to health care experts from the University of California San Francisco Beinoff Children's Hospital, it is important to get enough calcium, iron and vitamin C while breastfeeding. Because the body demands more energy for the production of breast milk, it is recommended that nursing moms consume 200 calories a day more than during pregnancy. Eating a balanced diet that contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains and dairy products can help ensure optimal nutrition for you and your child.
- National Institutes of Health: Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes Macronutrients
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Kids Eat Right: Breastfeeding Basics for Healthy Babies
- Ohio State University Extension: Nutritional Needs of Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- University of California San Francisco Beinoff Children's Hospital: Nutrition Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers