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Your Nutritional Needs While Breastfeeding

Make sure you get enough nutrients – not just more calories – when you're breastfeeding your baby.

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Do You Need Nutritional Supplements While Breastfeeding?

As long as you are eating a healthy, nutritious diet, neither you nor your baby are likely to fall short of any vitamins or minerals. If you also continue to take your prenatal vitamins after birth -- which many obstetricians now recommend -- then you and your baby are in even better shape.

The one supplement your baby mightneed is vitamin D, necessary to absorb calcium into the bones, says Carol Huotari, IBCLC, manager for the Center for Breastfeeding information at La Leche League International in Schaumburg, Ill. Vitamin D is in breast milk, but in low amounts.

What can you do? The sun naturally converts certain body chemicals tovitamin D, so Huotari suggests taking baby outside for about a half hour each day. "If your baby gets about 20 minutes of sun exposure on their cheeks once a day, then they are probably getting enough vitamin D," she says.

But be careful about exposing your baby to too much sun, which can cause sunburn and raise baby's risk of skin cancer in later life. If you're uncertain about what to do, talk to your pediatrician about this issue, and ask about the proper dose and type of vitamin D supplements for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises daily drops of vitamin D for all breastfed babies.

In addition, if you are a strict vegetarian, your breast milk might be missing adequate stores of vitamin B-12. Ask your pediatrician if your baby needs supplements of this nutrient as well.

Finally, while the water supply in most U.S. cities and towns is boosted with fluoride -- a chemical that can help teeth and nails grow strong -- the levels can be low in certain rural areas. As your local water company how many parts per million of fluoride is in your drinking water. If the level is below 3 ppm, ask your pediatrician if your baby should take fluoride supplements after 6 months of age. Under 6 months old, your baby should not take fluoride supplements, even if levels are low in your water supply.

As you probably already know, alcohol and pregnancy are a dangerous mix. Surprisingly, however, the evidence is far less clear when it comes to alcohol's effects during breastfeeding.

With studies on both sides of the fence -- some showing it may increase the risk of problems, others failing to prove it -- it's not surprising that experts are divided on the subject.

As a result, breastfeeding moms should err on the side of caution. Limit alcohol to one or two drinks occasionally, says Huotari. "Until we know more, it's better to drink less," she says. Her advice is also endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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