You may know how to have a healthy pregnancy diet to ensure you include the required nutrients you and your baby need but what about when your baby is born?
Do you know what to consider if breastfeeding and how a healthy diet will assist this process? Below is some information about nutrients and foods while breastfeeding.
More and more mums are breastfeeding their babies for longer these days and it can sometimes be confusing as to what are the best ways to stay healthy during this time. Your body uses a lot of energy to breastfeed so keeping yourself active and healthy will help you to breastfeed your baby.
It is important not to follow any extreme diets while breastfeeding for example those which advise cutting out food groups or eating too much of one group, e.g. a diet that tells you to only eat protein each time you eat.
Up the calories
The key to a healthy breastfeeding meal plan is to increase your calorie allowance by approximately 500 calories to give your body the extra calories it needs to produce milk.
You can increase your calories by having an extra two to three healthy snacks per day or you can increase the portion size of your meals.
Breastfeeding burns up a lot of energy (calories/kilojoules) to make breast milk, particularly for mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding. These mothers should include 2-3 extra snacks per day (approximately 500 calories).
If you are unsure of how many calories you need in breastfeeding you can work your daily energy needs out here – then you add 500 calories on for breastfeeding. But remember, nothing is set in stone, and if you are hungry eat more or if you are full eat less. See the calculator here.
While breastfeeding, certain nutrients will be in high demand, much more so than during pregnancy. These include:
Since breast milk needs to contain an adequate iodine content to support your infant’s growing brain, a new mother’s iodine requirements are almost double the normal. It is possible to meet these iodine requirements with food, although an iodine-containing supplement is usually recommended. It’s important to speak to your doctor before taking any supplements. Good sources of iodine include bread, iodised salt, seafood, eggs and dairy.
This is essential for skin health, immune function and optimal reproductive health. Good sources of zinc include meats, breakfast cereals, brightly coloured vegetables and fruit. Up your veggies with this Pumpkin, spinach and chickpea salad (pictured above).
Iron is a component of a number of proteins, including haemoglobin, which is important for transporting oxygen around the body. Eat too little iron and you’ll suffer fatigue and a weakened immune system. Red meat, chicken and fish are the best sources of iron, as well as also being good sources of protein and zinc. Smaller amounts of iron can be found in green leafy vegetables and legumes, but they should be consumed with foods rich in vitamin C (such as tomato, broccoli or capsicum) to increase the amount of iron the body absorbs.
Cook up our Deliciously Healthy Beef Chow Mein recipe (pictured above) for a delicious and healthy takeaway alternative rich in iron!
Good old H2O is the best way to quench your thirst without getting the added sugar and kilojoules found in sweetened drinks, such as fruit juices, soft drinks, sports drinks and flavoured mineral waters. Although it doesn’t increase milk production, it’s still important to keep hydrated; a good guide is to drink a glass at each meal and again with each breastfeed.
What To Avoid
Booze is best avoided for at least four to six weeks after birth. It takes most women about two hours to clear the alcohol from the blood and their breastmilk, so plan the occasional drink with this in mind.
Coffee and tea don’t have to be completely off limits. Enjoy in moderation, have no more than 200mg a day (two cups of coffee).
Specific Foods Which May Cause Problems
There are no hard and fast rules about what a mum shouldn’t eat when breastfeeding – other than certain supplements mentioned above and alcohol. However there are certain foods which have been shown to cause upset in the baby – whether that be sickness, eczema, colic, trouble sleeping and irritability.
Each baby is different, though, and you should monitor yours to see how he/she reacts to certain foods and contact your doctor if you are concerned about any reaction. Below is a list of common foods listed by mums and doctors as more likely to cause some kind of reaction with your baby:
- Milk, dairy, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and spicy foods have been linked to colic
- Too much caffeine may make your baby restless
- Eggs and peanuts have been shown to be linked to allergies in babies
More than anything it is important to eat a balanced diet when breastfeeding.
Some babies have allergies, colic or digestive issues and can react to an array of different foods. If your baby is particularly sensitive we advise discussing a food plan with your doctor and sticking to a plain diet with low taste foods to avoid any reaction. And you can read more on this from the ABA here.
Milk supply and breastfeeding
Dramatically reducing calories, restricting certain food groups or engaging in high intensity exercise can all play a role in reducing your milk supply. On the other hand, undertaking a healthy eating plan that focuses on providing your body (and baby) with all the nutrients you need, may actually help support your supply, especially if you’ve struggled to eat properly in the past.
Ensuring that you’re including regular, nutritious meals that contain adequate amounts of protein, carbs and healthy fats in your diet is essential for both your milk supply and own health. A healthy baby needs a healthy mum so taking care of your own health is absolutely vital, especially when breastfeeding.
A healthy and varied diet can help support a healthy supply as well as give you lots of energy, but what about foods and herbs that are reported to give a visible boost to your milk levels? These menu items, commonly referred to as lactogenic foods or herbs, are said to help increase your milk production, boosting your supply temporarily. It is often thought that by boosting your supply, your baby will eat more, which will then encourage your breasts to continue to produce a higher level of milk.
The scientific community errs on the side of caution when commenting on the actual evidential proof that certain foods or herbs can increase milk production, but the anecdotal evidence from other mums often hints strongly at the success of food and/or herbs in boosting their supply. Provided you don’t have any allergies to these foods or herbs, or go overboard, there’s no reason why you can’t include them in your diet if you are concerned about your supply.
The most commonly recommended lactogenic foods and herbs are:
- Carrots and spinach
- Legumes like chickpeas and lentils
- Brown rice
- Brewers yeast
- Ground linseed or LSA mix
- Fenugreek tea or tablets
Did you know that the Healthy Mummy Smoothie is breastfeeding friendly?
The Healthy Mummy Smoothie offers an excellent source of essential vitamins, minerals, nutrients & important antioxidants. It does not contain any weight loss accelerants, caffeine, no gluten and is dairy free. It is also a non Genetically Modified product!
Our smoothie range is also 96 per cent sugar free, breastfeeding safe and is designed to help to support milk supply!
If you would like to learn MORE about our smoothie range download our smoothie information fact sheet here OR you can download the smoothie label and ingredient list here.
You can also check out our delicious flavours HERE.