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, breastfeeding mums shouldn’t follow diets that 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).
How much should I really be eating when breastfeeding?
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 2-3 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.
Key nutrients to consume when breastfeeding
While breastfeeding, certain nutrients, energy and fluids 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. Our delicious Pesto Salmon is a great meal for breastfeeding mums rich in iodine.
This mineral is essential for skin health, immune function and optimal reproductive health.
Good sources of zinc include meats, breakfast cereals, brightly coloured vegetables and fruit. This Sausage And Veggie Tray Bake is full of good veggies and you can just throw it in the oven!
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.
Our Healthy Vegetarian Pumpkin And Chickpea Burgers are a great and hearty veggie option!
Our Super Greens are an easily digestible & nutritional formula, combining real food sources to deliver a powerful blend of nutrients to help give tired mums the energy they need. They’re also safe for use in breastfeeding.
Plus, they contain:
- More IRON than 12 cups of Spinach!
- The Vitamin C equivalent of 1.4 kilograms of Oranges!
- 56 x more Vitamin B12 than a beef steak!
- the calcium equivalent to one litre of milk.
AND it TASTES delicious!
It’s 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
Alcohol is best avoided for at least 4-6 weeks after birth. It takes most women about two hours to clear the alcohol from the blood and their breast milk, so plan the occasional drink with this in mind.
Caffeine in coffee and tea can be enjoyed in moderation – 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.
However, each baby is different 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 Australian Breastfeeding Association 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.
Lactogenic foods and herbs
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 common 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
Check out our recipe for Choc Top Breast Milk Boosting Muesli Bars (pictured above) for a sweet treat!
Milk Supply Boosting Recipes
Looking for more ways to boost your breast milk supply? Check out our Breastfeeding Milk Supply Boosting Recipes eBook where you will gain access to a number of delicious recipes (including cookies and bliss balls!) proven to help mums increase their milk production.
The Healthy Mummy Smoothie
Did you know that The Healthy Mummy’s range of delicious smoothies are breastfeeding-friendly?
The Healthy Mummy smoothie has been created to help mums benefit from a wide range of nutrients which can also help support your healthy eating plan and exercise routine if you are trying to lose weight.
The smoothie range has been formulated by leading nutritionists, dieticians and with input from Monash University.
It offers an excellent source of essential vitamins, minerals, nutrients and important antioxidants.
It’s also free from any weight loss accelerants, caffeine, contains no wheat ingredients, no fructose, is 96 per cent sugar free and is dairy free.
You can download our information fact sheet here. You can also download the smoothie label and ingredient list here.