Breastfeeding a newborn can be time consuming, and new mums often find that housework and cooking take a back seat as they devote their time to getting to know their new baby and establishing their milk supply.
Also a lot of mums are confused about breastfeeding diets and if a healthy weight loss can be achieved when breastfeeding – you can read more about breastfeeding diets here.
The vast majority of women find that with regular feeding, their milk supply is plentiful and they even have a little excess which can be expressed and frozen.
However there are a number of factors such as stress or fatigue which can affect the quantity of milk produced, and in these cases, adjusting the diet can improve milk supply.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is beneficial to the health of both the mother and the baby and mums should try and eat a healthy diet full of nutrients.
Breastfeeding does use up some extra calories (approx 500 calories per day) and many mothers find that feeding their babies helps them to shed their baby weight more quickly – but conversely many do not due to the increase in appetite.
Although it’s tempting to gorge on chocolate or chips while feeding, it is best to be guided by hunger and thirst and listen to your body telling you when it is hungry.
The best way to work out how many calories you need is to work out BMR then add an 500 calories per day to account for the calories you need to breastfeeding – you can work yours out here. For extra nutrition or for a healthy breakfast to start the day try one of our Healthy Mummy Smoothies.
There is no need to drink extra fluids or force yourself to drink water while breastfeeding, but many women do find that they are thirstier when breastfeeding. If a mother is drinking between 6 to 8 glasses of fluids per day and is not suffering from constipation, she is probably getting plenty fluids. Mothers should be guided by how thirsty they are and increase or decrease their fluid intake accordingly.
One of the most popular herbs used to stimulate milk supply is fenugreek. Fenugreek has been used to stimulate milk supply for centuries, and a difference can be noticed in some women in as little as 24 hours. Although most women who take fenugreek do so in capsule format, increasing the amount of fenugreek in the diet can have a similar effect and we have included fenugreek in our Healthy Mummy Smoothie.
Fenugreek is also found in some maple syrup products, curry powder and Chinese five spice mixtures. Fenugreek can also be eaten as a salad vegetable and is increasingly becoming more widely available in Asian supermarkets.
Vegetables should form a core part of a healthy, balanced diet and there is increasing evidence that vegetables such as asparagus, carrots, green beans or sweet potatoes can help to boost milk supplies too. All of these vegetables are high in fibre and therefore if a mother is trying to increase her intake of vegetables, she should also increase her intake of water.
Eating a bowl of porridge for breakfast is certainly an excellent way to get set for a busy day. Many mothers also report increased supply after switching their breakfast cereal or toast for a bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal is a good source of iron, and low iron levels post-birth can cause difficulties with milk supply. For those who do not like porridge, anything made with oatmeal – such as adding some oatmeal to your smoothie – can have a similar effect.
Blessed thistle is not strictly speaking a food as it cannot be eaten, but the herb has been used in medicines since the Middle Ages, when it was used as a cure for sufferers of bubonic plague. It is nowadays used to flush out excess water from the body, and as a herbal remedy to increase milk supply.
Although all of these foods and herbs may help increase milk supply, they will not correct poor supply problems caused by a poor latch or restricted feeding. Always consult a doctor, midwife or breastfeeding counsellor first to get advice on technique and feeding patterns.