Breastfeeding, much like motherhood, can be a nerve-wracking, thrilling and ultimately fulfilling roller coaster ride. For vegan or vegetarian moms, however, the issue of nutrition often adds another dimension of stress to the experience. Fortunately, lots of medical research has proved that there is no need to fret.
Our first tip to you is to stick to your guns. Whether for health or moral reasons, your decision to abstain from meat and other animal byproducts is yours to make. There is no reason to compromise your beliefs to ensure your infant's health. By taking a few precautions you can make a healthy choice for the both of you.
Paying extra attention to a few essential vitamins and minerals is key to successfully planning a smart diet.
- B12 plays a crucial role in brain development and is readily found in animal protein. A deficiency in this vitamin is only an issue for those who do not consume these types of protein. For vegetarian mothers eating dairy and eggs can easily remedy this issue. A simple blood test can quickly register a deficiency while supplements can be provided by your doctor.
- 'But where do you get your protein?' is the perpetual question all vegans and vegetarians face. Protein, when breastfeeding, is just as important in day to day life. In fact, a lactating woman needs 12-21 extra grams of protein a day. Fortunately it is abundant in legumes, tofu, beans, tempeh, nuts and whole grain products.
- Maintaining adequate levels of calcium is very important for breastfeeding mothers. Mothers who don't consume dairy should check to make sure they are getting sufficient amounts of these minerals. Calcium can be found in spinach, broccoli, almonds, other nuts and fortified juices and cereals.
- Iron is commonly depleted during breastfeeding and can be found in leafy greens and nuts. Vitamin C is key to boosting the body's ability to absorb this essential mineral. Vitamin D, which comes from sunlight and zinc are also key.
- Make sure to consume essential fatty acids via avocados, legumes, nuts and healthy cooking oils like olive, safflower and flaxseed.
Most importantly, make sure to consult your doctor about any nutritional concerns and before you take any supplements. In your quest to be the best mother possible, they can be your greatest ally.