Lactation-or producing milk for your baby- requires additional amounts of energy, and can place an increased nutritional demand on your body. For vegans and vegetarians, extra care should be taken daily to ensure adequate dietary intake. Here is some information to help you ensure optimal health for yourself and your baby.
Why does lactation require more energy?
Milk production is most affected by two things:
1.) the frequency at which your baby demands feeding
2.) your own level of hydration. Depending on your baby’s particular needs- your body may need an additional 330-400 calories per day. In fact, to produce just 1 ml of breast milk, your body uses 0.67 of a calorie!
Why is nutrition so important while I am lactating?
It’s not only important to have good nutrition for your own health while lactating, it’s also important for the health of your baby. Milk composition varies according to the mother’s diet. Milk concentrations of fatty acids, vitamin D, selenium, iodine, and B vitamins reflect the maternal. In fact, the breast milk of malnourished mothers has been shown to have lower levels of various nutrients. Therefore, if you are not getting optimal nutrition-chances are your baby might not be either.
As a vegetarian/vegan, what do I need be aware of during lactation?
Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s) suggest an additional 25 g of protein a day is required for lactation. As a vegetarian or vegan, getting those good plant sources of protein daily becomes even more important while you are lactating. Don’t worry-an extra 25 gram of protein is not as hard to fit in as you may think! For example; 25 grams of protein can be added to your diet by adding 1.5 cups of lentils or 3.5 cups of soy milk.
In addition to protein, dietary requirements for zinc increase during lactation. The body’s requirements for zinc are actually higher during lactation than it is during pregnancy. Good vegetarian and vegan sources of zinc include beans, nuts, whole grains and fortified breakfast cereals. Of course, while lactating-it’s important to continue your regular healthy vegetarian or vegan eating regime-which includes adequate amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and a source of omega 3.
For more dietary information related to pregnancy and lactation, please click here. Additionally, you can visit a Registered Dietitian who can help you plan your meals.
References: Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process. Mahan, K.L., Escott-Stump, S.,Raymond, J.L. Thirteenth Edition. 2012.