Today I am going to chat about some of the topics surrounding nutrition and breastfeeding.

So before we talk about foods to avoid I first want to look at the benefits of breastfeeding and specific nutritional requirements women require when breastfeeding. 

Fed is Best

Before I proceed I would like to point out that although we have often heard ‘Breast is Best’, I fully understand that there are some circumstances that a Mum won’t breastfeed either through choice or for medical reasons. Every Mum has the right to make their own decision about breastfeeding. I want to emphasise that although this article is about breastfeeding, no one way is the right way. It’s what’s best for Mum and baby that counts.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is advocated around the world because breast milk provides all the nutrients that a young baby requires.  This method not only helps to protect the baby against ill-health by supplying the necessary antibodies and lymphocytes, but also helps to boost their immune system. 

It also offers significant health benefits for the mother too.  For example, breastfeeding helps the uterus to contract and bleeding to cease more quickly after delivery, whilst reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Some studies have even suggested that breastfeeding can cut the risk of postpartum in half.  In addition to the appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein and fat, breast milk also provides vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes and hormones.  I will outline further benefits both to Mum and baby in a later blog.

Nutrition and Breastfeeding

In the meantime let us take a look at Mum’s diet whilst breastfeeding.  There are no special dietary requirements, but there are a few sensible guidelines can make sure that both Mum and baby are getting all the correct nutrients they need.

Hunger

Did you know that breastfeeding can take up an additional 500 kcal per day?  This can leave a Mum feeling hungrier than normal. It is important she responds in a sensible way when these hunger pangs coming calling. For example, eat regular meals and snacks so that her energy levels are kept up.

Healthy but Quick

Foods eaten should be nutritious so Mum needs to ensure that she stays away from quick fix foods that are high in fats and sugar. Thus ensuring that the breast milk she creates will be healthy for the baby. Demands upon her time once baby arrives will also mean that meals need to be easy and quick to prepare, as there can be little time to cook.

Fluid Intake

Hydration is extremely important as breastfeeding women have a much higher fluid requirement and, therefore should drink regularly throughout the day.  There are no specific recommendations but it is thought that around 1-2 litres of fluids (all drinks count here) per day should be more than sufficient for a Mum’s needs. The consumption of tea and coffee should be kept to a minimum because it is excreted in breast milk and has a strong possibility of keeping the baby awake… something I am sure all parents would want to avoid!

Vitamin D

Last week we spoke about the importance of Vitamin D in the diet. The recommended dose by the Department of Health, is that breastfeeding Mums should take 10 mcg of Vit D as a daily supplement. This and other vitamins and minerals have been all been tabled in an earlier blog, so do remember to check that out if you haven’t already done so.  If mum has been taking supplements throughout her pregnancy, it shouldn’t be a problem to continue the habit.

Foods to limit or avoid

As in pregnancy, certain types of food need to be limited or avoided whilst breastfeeding. Why? Because they may contain substances that can pass to the baby via Mum and, as a result, cause harm.

Oily Fish

Limited to two portions a week because of the pollutants it can contain. This includes salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines. Other fish to be limited to one portion includes marlin, shark and swordfish.  Such predatory fish tend to consume smaller fish so accumulate high levels of mercury. However, I must admit that in today’s world, I think most Mums are conscious of sea life and the environment, and would probably choose to steer clear of these types of oily fish!). With regards to other fish, there are no limits.

Caffein

When a Mum consumes caffeine a very little amount gets passed through her milk to baby.  However, because babies are much more susceptible to the effects of caffeine even a little amount can affect a baby’s mental and physical state.  This is because babies can’t metabolise caffeine, especially in the case of a newborn. As a result, he/she can become unhappy and jittery and prone to disturbed sleep.  So ideally Mum should avoid caffeine altogether, as least whilst baby is so young.

Alcohol

Like caffeine alcohol can pass from Mum’s bloodstream into her breast milk and cause her baby to be agitated and have disruptive sleep.  In larger quantities alcohol can have a sedative effect!  Opinion here is divided over whether or not a pregnant or breastfeeding Mum should drink or avoid it completely.  However, if a woman chooses to drink, then the recommendation is no more than one to two units. The impact can be reduced if the Mum consumes the alcohol after a feed so that her body has time to process before the next feed.

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So I hope the above has been informative! Remember, each Mum has her own choice to make,. Being informed helps that decision, and once taken each Mum should remember that they are doing the very best they can for their baby.  See you on the next blog!

Happy Body, Happy Mind, Happy Baby