Once a mother holds her newborn baby into her hands, she may feel an almost overwhelming sense of love and affection and a strong desire to care for and protect them. As a mother, you will make everything to offer and protect your baby to ensure a strong health and brilliant future.
Every mother has been encouraged to breastfeed her newborn as it offers multiple health benefits for her and the most important for her child. Once this term “breastfeeding” is in relation with your infant health, you will search different ways to enhance or improve it. From the past and until now, the most critical thing to take into consideration was “mother nutrition”.
What will be the impact of mother nutrition during the lactation period after it has played an important role during your pregnancy ? What types of food should or should not be eaten during breastfeeding ? To know more, continue reading!
Lactation is a biological, hormonal response that occurs during and after pregnancy to feed a newborn baby. It is the process of producing and releasing milk from the mammary glands in your breasts.
Maintaining lactation is mostly based on supply and demand. The more your baby breastfeeds or the more milk you express with a breast pump, the more your body will make.
The World of Health Organization (WHO) actively promotes breastfeeding as the best source of nourishment for infants and young children, and is working to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months up to at least 50% by 2025.
Mothers who breastfeed need to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet to meet the demands placed on their bodies. Your plate should feature the five food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein.
The truth is no solid scientific evidence proves that any one food ramps up lactation. Think of it this way: It’s not one thing you eat that makes the difference. It’s everything you eat.
As a mother, you can produce enough milk to feed your baby if you breastfeed frequently and for as long as the baby wants at each feed.
Maybe your breasts seem soft and empty but they are producing milk. Moderate malnutrition has little or no effect on milk production. Milk production is only likely to be reduced if a mother is severely malnourished.
It is important to consult your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant that will provide you with clear information and professional support.
A breastfeeding mother doesn’t require special foods to produce milk or increase her milk supply. Unless there is a physical or physiological reason for low milk production, milk production is determined by the amount of milk removed from the breast.
There is no particular food that must necessarily be eaten. All the nutrients that are found in one food are also found in others, for example, omega fatty acids can be gained through algal or soybean oil, walnuts, chia, hemp and flax seeds instead of fish.
It is also good to know that mothers are not obligated to drink milk to produce milk in their role. Human beings are the only animals that consume milk produced by other animals. No other mammalian mothers drink milk, yet they all produce milk perfectly tailored to the needs of their young. Milk is sometimes seen as a source of calcium, but there are plenty of other easily available foods such as broccoli, peppers and spinach which contain even more calcium per serving as well as other nutrients too.
Breastfeeding can make you use up more calories than usual and feel more hungry and thirsty. Breastfeeding mothers generally need more calories to meet their nutritional needs. An additional 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day is recommended for well-nourished breastfeeding mothers, compared with the amount they were consuming before pregnancy.
You can easily get these extra calories from one or two extra healthy snacks.
You don’t need a ‘perfect’ diet for breastfeeding. In general, your diet is important for your own health and energy levels, rather than affecting your breastmilk and your baby. However, some points should be taken into consideration. Let’s take a look at them below:
Especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid shown to support infant vision and brain development.
Nursing mothers need slightly more vitamin C than they did during pregnancy. If you are 18 years of age or younger, you should get 115 milligrams of vitamin C per day. If you are 19 or older, you should get 120 milligrams per day.
Iodine keeps your baby’s brain and nervous system developing. Your baby depends on your breast milk as a source of iodine. So when you’re breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you take an iodine supplement of 150 micrograms per day. If you have or not any pre-existing thyroid problems, check with your doctor before taking a supplement.
Vitamin B12 is very important for your baby’s developing nervous system. Your baby gets vitamin B12 from your breast milk. If you follow a restricted diet, particularly a vegan diet, you need to be extra careful about making sure you get enough vitamin B12. You might need a supplement, consult your doctor before.
Vitamin D helps your baby absorb calcium, for bone growth and development. Your baby gets vitamin D from your breastmilk or when there’s direct sunlight on the baby’s skin. You might be at risk of vitamin D deficiency if your skin is dark, covered, or you rarely go outdoors. If you’re deficient, you and your baby might need to take a vitamin D supplement, so consult your doctor.
You need enough direct sunlight on your skin to make vitamin D. There are also small amounts in oily fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and butter.
While breastfeeding you should drink at least 8 cups of water each day. Have a glass of water each time you nurse your baby. But also, you might need more on hot or humid days or if you’re very active. If you’re not sure whether you’re getting enough fluids, have a look at your urine that should be pale yellow. Dark yellow urine is a sign that you need to drink more fluids.
In addition to water, other good liquids are juice, milk, broths, herb teas and soups. Try to avoid soft drinks, flavoured milk, sports drinks and energy drinks.
Certain foods and drinks deserve caution while you’re breastfeeding. For example:
Avoid drinking more than 2 to 3 cups (16 to 24 ounces) of caffeinated drinks a day. Just be sure to consider all sources of caffeine in your total limit for the day, including: Coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, chocolate, cocoa powder, and some pain relievers.
Mothers who use tobacco or e-cigarettes should be encouraged to quit. For both feeding methods (breastfeeding or infant formula), maternal smoking is considered as a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome, lower respiratory illnesses (such as bronchitis and pneumonia), ear infections, and impaired lung function in infants and children.
It is also good to know that during breastfeeding, the chemicals found in tobacco, including nicotine, can be passed from a mother who uses tobacco to her infant through breast milk. Smoking also decreases maternal milk supply, likely through the effect of nicotine, which lowers serum prolactin levels.
Many of you think that E-cigarette aerosols have less risk on health status, however it can contain harmful and potentially harmful chemicals including nicotine and other toxicants, flavorings, and solvents.
In rare cases a breastfeeding baby may develop a food allergy to foods the mother is eating. The most common symptoms are green, mucus-like and blood-specked stools.
A baby could develop an allergy to any food you eat: Keeping a food diary of symptoms along with what you eat might help you know which foods are causing the problem.
As long as your baby is gaining weight and not anemic, the allergy is not going to cause any long-term problems. It is best to consult your doctor once you alert any symptoms.
Your baby could recognize and be comforted by the unique smell and taste of your milk because it has similar flavors to your amniotic fluid (which nourished your baby during pregnancy).
Your milk flavor can be influenced by what you eat. Milk can take on various subtle changes in flavor, depending on your meals. That is one reason why breastfed babies tend to enjoy a greater variety of food and flavors versus formula-fed babies as they begin to eat solids.
Many of you think that they shouldn’t eat spicy food during the lactation period, but it’s fine to eat it while you’re breastfeeding. Traces of what you eat enter your milk, this introduces the idea of different tastes to your baby.
Breast milk is created using a huge range of different parts of your own body. It includes stem cells, white blood cells, proteins, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, hormones, fat, antibodies, carbohydrates and water.
As said before, it is not a single food that has a big impact on breast milk, the most important is everything you eat. A healthy and well nourished mothers with a vegetarian and vegan diet will still produce healthy breast milk that isn’t lacking anything.
If you are a vegan and vegetarian mother, you should take into consideration several vitamins and nutrients that should be eaten in enough quantities such as iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12 for a healthy milk supply.
Breastfeeding requires extra nutrition, mothers need about 400-500 extra calories a day to make the full amount of milk most babies need from birth to 6 months.
If a mother wants to lose weight and can’t wait until she finishes breastfeeding, a slow gradual weight loss of 1 pound per week or 4 pounds per month is a safe goal for breastfeeding moms who wish to lose weight. Women who eat less than 1,800 calories per day may reduce the amount of milk their bodies make.
Instead of cutting calories, fill your diet with good, healthy foods. Try eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and start incorporating good lean proteins and low fat dairy into your meals. Also be sure that you’re well hydrated, especially if you’re exercising.
When we say complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs), it includes vitamins, dietary supplements, aromatherapy and homeopathic products.
You often think of CAMs as safe but there is little research to support their safety. It is important to highlight that many CAMs are not recommended for your use during breastfeeding. It’s best to ask a trusted healthcare professional for advice before you start any new product, especially a supplement that contains herbs. For example, there’s not enough evidence to say that herbs such as ginseng and ashwagandha are safe to take during breastfeeding.
Healthcare providers should always weigh the risks and benefits when prescribing medications to breastfeeding mothers: many medications do pass into your breast milk, most have no known adverse effect on milk supply or on infant well-being. But also there are few medications that are contraindicated during breastfeeding.
Consulting your doctor is an important step in breastfeeding before starting any type of drugs.
While breastfeeding and its benefits are highlighted for both infant and mother health, it becomes a matter of concern to mothers for fear of not being well mastered. Relax ! If you feel that you don’t have enough knowledge about it, you can consult several health professionals such as a dietitian to help you with the subject of food, a lactation consultant that will support and teach you several techniques to succeed your journey. Always remember to be patient and don’t give up.