While it hasn't been confirmed that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, is breastfeeding her newborn son, royal watchers have reported that she is. Seems she's been seen wearing some pretty nursing dresses lately.
Whether or not Kate is breastfeeding Prince George, breastfeeding is a fantastic way for new moms and their babies to bond, and there are plenty of health benefits beyond that. Still, even with all the pros, breastfeeding is quite physically demanding for new moms, so here are some things to keep in mind for those who decide to feed their baby breast milk. This is the advice I share in my book, "Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide," and that I followed while breastfeeding both of my kids.
The extra caloric needs during pregnancy are a pretty meager 300 a day. But when you're breastfeeding, additional energy needs increase to 500 extra. So if you were eating 2,000 calories a day pre-pregnancy, you'll need 2,500 when you're breastfeeding. It sounds like a lot, but remember, you're creating a food product several times a day – on demand!
There's no need for new moms to count every calorie that goes into their mouths, but they should focus on fresh, unprocessed foods as much as possible. And the good news is that the "reserves" moms gain during pregnancy will be put to great use as they deliver a very high-quality food to their infants.
Foods to focus on while breastfeeding include fresh fruits, vegetables, calcium-rich foods, whole grains and high-quality protein. To cover your bases, keep taking the prenatal vitamin your doctor prescribed to you. Here's a breakdown of some of the key nutrient requirements:
Choline: 550 milligrams
This nutrient is essential for your baby's brain development. Choline isn't found in many foods – only chicken and beef liver, wheat germ, cauliflower and eggs. You'll get 250 milligrams of choline in two eggs. Make sure to keep the yolk in; that's where the choline and other important nutrients are found. Wheat germ provides 50 milligrams per 1/4 cup and can easily be sprinkled over oatmeal, yogurt and salads, and added to baked goods like muffins.
Calcium: 1,000 milligrams
Your doctor likely encouraged you to eat lots of calcium-rich foods while you were pregnant. Keep it up to protect your bones. Your body will keep a consistent amount of calcium in your milk, and if it's not coming from your food supply, it will be drawn from your bones and teeth – yikes! Dairy foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir and cottage cheese are fabulous sources of calcium, providing about 300 milligrams of calcium per serving. You can also get calcium from dark leafy greens and tofu.
[Read: 5 Non-Dairy Foods With Calcium.]
Vitamin C: 120 milligrams
Fresh fruits and veggies are your go-to sources for this antioxidant. One cup of raw bell pepper will give you 118 milligrams of vitamin C, and the same amount of strawberries provides 89 milligrams. Cooked vegetables can be good sources too: 1 cup of cooked Brussels sprouts nets you 97 milligrams.
Zinc: 12 milligrams
This important mineral helps keep your immune system going strong. Vegetarian sources of zinc aren't absorbed by the body as easily as animal sources, so make sure to up your intake of zinc-rich foods if you don't eat meat or seafood. One cup of fortified cereal has 15 milligrams, 3 ounces of steak provides 6 milligrams and an 8-ounce yogurt touts 2 milligrams.
Potassium: 5,100 milligrams
It sounds like a huge amount, but potassium is found in lots of foods, especially fruits and vegetables. One banana has nearly 500 milligrams, and a large baked potato has a hefty 1,600 milligrams.
Most breastfeeding moms find that they are incredibly thirsty all the time. And no wonder – making breast milk requires a lot of H2O! A total of 3 liters per day is recommended.
If Kate is indeed breastfeeding, we may see her sporting fitted dresses more quickly. Lots of moms find that breastfeeding helps shed the baby weight more quickly, while some breastfeeding moms still struggle to drop those pounds. But hey, burning 500 extra calories a day can't hurt!
And what about when Kate wants to get back to her regular workouts? Breastfeeding is totally compatible with exercise! Just make sure to wear a supportive exercise bra and keep drinking water while you're working out to replace what you're losing through sweat. Refueling immediately after a workout (250 to 300 calories) will also ensure that your milk supply won't skip a beat.
I hope that Kate and Prince William are both basking in the glow of new parenthood. And I'll raise a glass of 1 percent milk to her and all the new moms out there who have made the choice to breastfeed. Cheers!
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Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, is a best-selling author and nationally recognized health expert, and the former Food and Nutrition Director at Health magazine for nearly eight years. Prior to that, she was part of the editorial team at the Discovery Health Channel and was managing editor at FoodFit.com. Frances is the author of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide and co-author of the best-selling The CarbLovers Diet and The CarbLovers Diet Cookbook. Her cookbook, Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family will be published in January 2014. Frances earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York.