Developing the best Breastfeeding Diet

As all nurses, doctors and Mums say breast is best for both Mum and baby.

Evidence shows that breast milk ensures babies remain healthier since the milk helps boost the babies immunity.  It also helps protect against infection by providing anti bodies to increase babies ability to fight common infections.  Colostrum is the milk that mothers produce just after birth and this vitally important milk contains a higher proportion of infection fighting substances just when a new born needs that boost. Research also shows that a baby fed by the breast attains a higher IQ which will last into adulthood.

Knowing that babies are healthier and stronger if they are breast fed, a new Mum will need to look at her diet to ensure that she is absorbing sufficient nutrients and goodness to maintain her health and ultimately her newborn baby’s health.

While breast feeding the nutritional quality of milk will remain good almost regardless of the Mums diet since it is natures’ way of ensuring the health and wellbeing of a new born baby.  However, the quantity produced will certainly be affected if the diet of the mother is poor.  So to maintain the health of both Mum and baby a diet packed with nutrients for Mum is beneficial for both.

A nursing Mum will provide 25 to 35 fluid ounces of milk daily.  To do this Mum will need an extra 500 calories daily contained within her diet and must therefore increase her daily intake from around 2000 calories a day to 2500 calories. It is important to say here that these are approximate values and everyone has different requirements; what is important is not to go on a strict diet while breast feeding unless you have consulted a doctor or dietician. A controlled and balanced diet is what we should aim for whether in pregnancy or following birth and this regime should be maintained with just the additional quantity to account for the increased calorific requirements of the baby,

One problem is that we all rarely adopt a correct diet in our daily lives, not to mention when we are pregnant or have given birth!!…we really should concentrate on a good healthy general diet with a few additional supplements to assist the baby.

Foods to eat while breastfeeding

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables which provides vitamin C which is essential for a nursing Mum.  The recommended amount is 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day but it is worth considering increasing this in take to nine portions as vitamin C is essential for the absorption of iron so keeping Mum healthy.  So select five vegetables such as carrots, asparagus. sweet potato, spinach and broccoli  and four fruits such as berries, pears, bananas and apples.
  • Protein (70-100g) such as meats, chicken, beans, tofu and eggs.
  • Polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats.  This includes, nuts, avocados and olive oil as well as two portions of oily fish a week especially fish such as salmon which good for brain function in both baby and Mum.  However it is worth noting that in pregnancy it is recommended that tuna, swordfish. shark and marlin should not be eaten as there is a high mercury content in these fish.  Some sources say that it is fine to eat these once a week  but I would just choose to avoid avoid eating these fish if possible.
  • Foods rich in Vitamin B12 such as red meats, fish, milk and fortified cereals.
  • Foods rich in Vitamin D such as eggs, salmon and mackerel.   In pregnancy again there are recommendations to also take a vitamin D supplement and while breastfeeding there is research to suggest that this is still a good idea.
  • Foods rich in calcium particularly milk and dairy products.
  • Complex Carbohydrates (6-9 ounces) such as wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice and quinoa

What foods should a breastfeeding Mum avoid?

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There are lots of old wives tales as to what you can or cannot eat while breast feeding but the truth is that it is possible to eat anything within reason.

However every baby is different and sometimes just a mother’s instinct is the only way of determining whether a food is affecting her baby.  Sometimes if a baby has colic it may be worth cutting out certain foods to see whether this improves. While breast feeding one of my daughters I found if I drank orange juice my baby seemed to have colic but by cutting this out she became far more settled!

What is certain though is that a baby becomes accustomed to the flavour of their mothers’ milk for example babies in Thailand are used to highly spiced foods affecting the taste of their milk, in European countries garlic is used to flavour food and this all filters into breast milk. What is important is to consider how the baby is responding and whether the baby is contented.

It is not common but it is possible for babies to have an allergic reaction to foodstuffs contained in Mums diet and if you suspect this it is worth consulting your doctor or dietician.

Fluid intake

Fluid intake is very crucial when you breastfeed a baby. This is due to the fact that 90 % of breast milk consists of water. Following childbirth Mum will need to raise her water consumption to about 3L of water daily.  Most Mums find that when they breastfeed they are far thirstier than normal so it is fairly easy to drink the extra fluid needed! A wonderful way to obtain  enough fluids on a daily basis is to drink a glass of water while nursing the baby. This will ensure both Mum and baby stay hydrated!

What else should be avoided?

Drugs should not be taken while feeding your baby however drinking alcohol occasionally is fine. The suggestion is if you are going to have a drink then to drink it just after  feeding your baby since it may take about 3 hours for alcohol to be metabolised by your body. However this is not to say that drinking regularly is a good idea.

It is also recommended that although caffeine is safe to drink its best to minimise its intake. It is essential to avoid too much caffeine because baby’s behavior may be affected by caffeine in breast milk. So try reducing caffeine consumption to one diet soda or two coffees daily.

For mothers that are vegetarian, we would advise eating a variety of foods to ensure a well balanced diet. Nursing vegetarian mums can easily become deficient in Vitamin B12 so it is worth considering taking vitamin supplements as well as fortified yeast to ensure that both you and your baby remain healthy.  We also advise you to consult a dietitian.

Eating well-balanced foods is essential for the newborn and the mum. It provides a good postpartum recuperation for the mother as well as a healthy satisfying start for the child.

 

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