On the eve of the World Breastfeeding Week, I congratulate all the new moms and wish a Happy Breastfeeding Week.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding are not only about the baby, but also YOU. Thus, every lactating mother is advised a breastfeeding diet plan. Food items are of no direct importance for a nursing baby, but for a lactating mother, they indeed are.
So, this World Breastfeeding Week, we answer your common misconceptions about the breastfeeding diet.
# 1 I can eat anything I like!
Most mothers think, let’s keep eating what we were eating and we can go through it all. But, do you know?
What you eat is reflected in your milk quality and that’s what you feed your baby. Consequently, your need for most nutrients is increased to meet this demand. Also, the food you eat gives the energy to carry on with your work along with the baby.
Eating a healthy and balanced meal also helps to shed the pregnancy weight faster.
Now, this will make you think twice about your breastfeeding diet plan!
#2 I must reduce calories to lose weight!
You just delivered a baby. This is a huge accomplishment in itself.
And now you have to feed him and get on with your life.
So, you need an extra 400 to 500 calories per day. For that, choose energy-dense foods like wholegrain bread, peanut butter, banana or apple, and yoghurts.
You caught me right! If you take these extra calories, how will you lose your pregnancy fat?
Despite the temptation to lose weight, patience is highly needed. It is normal not to lose any weight or maybe gain some more in the first 3 months of breastfeeding. Due to extreme hormonal changes, the body may require a bigger appetite and hold on to the body fat.
If you give in to your temptation to lose fat quickly and restrict your calories, it can decrease the milk supply and the milk quality along with the energy levels you need.
A regular breastfeeding mother loses weight within 3-6 months than those who do not breastfeed. Click To Tweet A combination of proper breastfeeding diet and exercise can help you with it, thereby maintaining a good milk supply and composition.
An underweight woman throughout pregnancy is more sensitive to calorie restriction. She should eat abundant energy-rich food and consult her dietician on time.
Losing weight after pregnancy is a marathon and takes time. Calorie deficient food is not the solution for it.
#3 I produce a good amount of breast milk. I don’t need to focus on quality!
Irrespective of the quantity of milk one produces, it is absolutely necessary to focus on the foods that maintain the milk nutrition and quality.
Thus, you should opt for a nutrient dense and a balanced meal plate. The nutrients you consume enter your breast milk to be fed to your baby.
The nutrients present in the breast milk can be categorised into 2 groups:
Group 1 Nutrients: Totally depend upon the dietary intake by the mother. If these nutrients are not consumed in the diet, their amount decreases in the breast milk with time.
|Vitamin B1||Pork, fish, seeds and nuts,bread|
|Vitamin B2||Cheese, almonds, red meat, oily fish, eggs|
|Vitamin B6||Seeds and nuts, pork, bananas, dry fruit|
|Vitamin B12||Shellfish, lean meat, dairy, eggs|
|Choline||Eggs, beef, liver, chicken, peanuts|
|Vitamin A||Dark green leafs, carrots, mango, papaya, pumpkin|
|Vitamin D||Cod liver oil, dairy, eggs, mushrooms|
|Selenium||Brazil nuts, seafood, whole wheat, seeds|
|Iodine||Dried seaweed, cod milk, iodised salt|
Group 2 Nutrients: Don’t depend on the dietary intake by the mother. If you consume less of these nutrients, the body will take them from the stores in your tissues and bones, and the baby will get the right amount as long as they are stored. Thus, you need them in your diet to maintain those stores and avoid becoming deficient.
|Folate||Beans, lentils, leafy greens, avocado|
|Calcium||Dairy, eggs, leafy greens, legumes|
|Iron||Red meat, poultry, beans, leafy greens, dried fruits|
|Copper||Whole grains, nuts, beans, organ meat, potatoes|
|Zinc||Oyster, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts|
Additionally, avoid processed foods, canned foods, and foods with high sugar and trans-fats.
#4 I can drink whatever I like…after all, it’s about fluids only!
The hormone, oxytocin, secreted during breastfeeding is responsible for increased thirst. Milk is a fluid and you require a fluid base to maintain its composition.
Keep a glass of water near you when you breastfeed the baby.
There is no set amount of water that you should drink per day, but increase the intake if your urine appears dark yellow OR smells strong OR milk production decreases.
As a thumb rule, drink when you are thirsty and till the time you have quenched your thirst.
These require special attention:
- Avoid juices and sugary drinks as a substitution for water. Too much sugar can contribute to weight gain. You are already eating calorie dense foods.
- Limit tea/coffee to 2 cups a day. Too much caffeine can reflect in your milk and make your baby irritable or interfere with his sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and if you have taken, wait for 1 to 2 hours before breastfeeding your baby.
#5 My breastfeeding diet doesn’t affect the baby!
Certain foods in your diet can cause some allergic reactions to your baby like rash, diarrhoea or congestion. Consult your physician as soon as possible so that the food item can be identified and stopped.
If you see your child fussy or irritated and suspect any food item, avoid the food or drink up to a week and notice the difference in the baby’s behaviour. Generally, 2-6% of the babies are allergic to cow’s milk when consumed by the mother. Avoid foods made from cow’s milk, peanuts, soy, wheat, eggs and corn.
Avoiding spicy and gassy foods such as onion and cabbage can also help in some cases.
But, I am a vegetarian!
Vegetarian mothers lack some vitamins and minerals highly required during pregnancy and breastfeeding. That’s because these nutrients are present in animal foods only.
In that case, focus on these nutrients and food groups:
- Iron: include lentils, fortified cereals, wholegrain food products, peas, dark green leafy vegetables and dry fruits for iron. To absorb iron, include Vitamin C rich fruits in your diet. Look here for more iron-rich foods to include in your diet
- Protein can be consumed via milk, paneer, cheese, legumes, lentils, soybeans and whole grains.
- Calcium: Good sources of calcium include dairy and dark green leafy vegetables. Include fortified foods such as cereals, soy milk and tofu in your diet.
- Consider supplements of Vitamin B12 which is essential for the brain development of the baby, Omega-3-fatty acid, deficiency of which has been linked to aggressiveness and cognitive disabilities of the child, and Vitamin D for absorption of calcium and phosphorus. (in case of poor consumption of dairy and limited sun exposure)
Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
So, what can you conclude?
Breastfeeding is more of a plan than a brain teaser. With some special considerations and by making healthy food choices, you can surpass this lactation phase easily.
Take it slow and steady and focus on your health too. Your baby will follow your footsteps right from day one.
Happy Breastfeeding Mothers!
If breastfeeding is something you dread of, feel free to ask your queries in the comments below!
If this article helped you clear your misconceptions about breastfeeding diet, do share it with other breastfeeding Moms!