Are you wondering what to eat and what foods to avoid when breastfeeding? Can you stick to the foods you normally eat? Here’s our article on what to consume and the foods to avoid when breastfeeding.
Since the nutrients from the food nursing mothers eat make their way through your breast milk to the baby’s system, it’s normal for any breastfeeding mother to wonder if there are eating the right type of food and that the foods won’t have any negative impact on the baby.
According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding is the best source of nourishment for infants and it is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. Unfortunately, nearly 2 out of 3 infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6 months and this has not improved for decades.
Why is it important to both the baby and the mother?
Breastfeeding is basically feeding your baby breast milk, usually directly from your breast. You may also call it nursing.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a mother is recommended to breastfeed her baby exclusively for 6 months and continuing all through the baby’s first year of life after the introduction of other foods.
Breastfeeding has enormous benefits for both the mother and the baby as discussed in the next section.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Baby
Breast milk provides all the nutrition babies need. It consists of vitamins, protein, fat, and other several nutrients that the baby needs to grow. These nutrients are present in a form that is easily digestible by infants.
Breast milk contains antibodies that fight off viruses and bacteria. This reduces the baby’s risk of having ear infections, respiratory illnesses, diarrhea, asthma, and allergies.
Research has linked breastfeeding to higher IQ scores in later childhood. According to research, babies who are breastfed for a longer score higher on IQ tests than adults.
Breastfeeding plays a big role in the prevention of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). It lowers the risk of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers.
Breastfeeding Benefits for the Mother
- Studies show that breastfeeding lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer later in life.
- Since milk production is estimated to burns about 300 to 500 calories a day, it can help you lose pregnancy weight. It also triggers the uterus to shrink back to pre-pregnancy size.
- Breastfeeding lowers your risk of osteoporosis. The body of a breastfeeding mum absorbs calcium much more efficiently. This makes her bones denser than before pregnancy.
- A breastfeeding mom heals quickly after delivery. The uterus contracts and return to its normal size more quickly as the baby-nurses.
- Nursing your baby delays ovulation, and hence delayed menstruation. This is some form of natural birth-control protection although not as reliable as the pill or other forms of birth control.
- Breastfeeding connects the mom and the baby: the eye contact, noises, and cuddles that mom and baby exchange during a nursing session give you closeness with your baby.
What are the best foods to eat when breastfeeding?
With breastfeeding, there is not a single perfect diet. What is most important is to have a healthful, rounded diet. This will add the necessary nutrients to your body and the breastmilk for your baby. Therefore, when nursing your baby, endeavor to add the following foods to your daily meals.
Drink plenty of water
Water is very important especially in the first few weeks after childbirth. The body needs fluids to increase milk production when breastfeeding. Otherwise, dehydration can affect the milk supply. In case you normally forget to hydrate, keep a water bottle in every room so that you are constantly reminded.
Fruits are good sources of many nutrients. They have fiber that helps constipation that most mothers experience after giving birth. Fruits are also good sources of potassium and vitamins. Make sure you have at least 2 cups of a variety of fruit per day. These may include cantaloupe, honeydew melon, bananas, mangoes, apricots, prunes, oranges, and red or pink grapefruit
Breastfeeding mothers should have at least 3 cups of vegetables a day. Vegetables contain vitamins, potassium, and antioxidants which are very important for both the mother and the child. Include vegetables such as; spinach, kale, collards, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and pumpkins.
Whole grains like brown rice and whole-wheat bread are nutrient-dense. Exclusively breastfeeding mothers should eat at least 8 ounces a day. Grains like quinoa are good sources of protein, which is good for nursing mothers. But always stick to whole-grain cereals because they have no added sugar.
Nursing mothers need at least 65 g of protein per day. In fact, experts recommend having some protein in every meal. Good protein sources include;
Lean meats: beef, lamb, veal, pork, kangaroo
Poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, emu, goose, bush birds
Fish and seafood: fish, prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams
Dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese
Nuts and seeds: almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds
Legumes and beans: all beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, tofu.
Both pregnant and breastfeeding moms always use up all the calcium from the bones, putting them at risk of osteoporosis in case they don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D from the food they eat. They should therefore have at least 3 cups of dairy products each day. Good sources of vitamin D and calcium include; milk, yogurt, and natural cheese
What are the foods to avoid when breastfeeding?
When it comes to the foods to avoid, nursing moms should not be worried about which foods they must not eat. What they should know is that some foods can hurt their health and that of a baby is consumed in large quantities.
Here’s a list of foods that mothers should partially avoid or limit while nursing, and the reason behind the limitation.
Alcohol can pass through breast milk into a baby’s system. But if you can, have that drink after breastfeeding the baby and give it a space of 2 to 3 hours before your next breastfeeding so that the body can clear the alcohol. Other mothers can choose to pump before drinking so that they can have breast milk on hand.
You can you caffeine but in moderate amounts. So you enjoy your morning coffee, afternoon tea provided you limit your caffeine intake to no more than 3 cups a day. You can choose to enjoy your coffee or tea after the nursing session and give it up 3 hours before your next nursing session. So that caffeine leaves your system.
According to the CDC, fish such as sharks, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel contain the highest levels of mercury. And mercury affects the baby’s brain. Limit the consumption of this type of fish or stick to fish that have lower mercury levels like shrimp, salmon, Pollock, and catfish.
Limit herbs such as peppermint, Parsley, and Sage
These herbs are known to decrease breast milk production in high doses.
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Do you need a lot of calories while breastfeeding?
Experts say that nursing mums need around 500 than non-nursing mums a day. But still insist that not all mums are the same. Mums have different energy needs all through their breastfeeding journeys.
The calories a mother may need largely depends on the baby’s age, size, and appetite, as well as the body mass index (BMI) of the mum, body activity of the mum, and whether the baby is breastfeeding exclusively or not.
So you don’t need to count calories or consume more, just follow your extra nutritional needs while breastfeeding provided you stay within your dietician’s postpartum recommendations.
Most mothers face challenges during breastfeeding more so if it is their first time giving birth. They feel so overwhelmed to the extent that they wonder what to eat and what foods to avoid when breastfeeding.
But the truth is that; the well-being of the mother is a healthy baby. Proper nutrition is important for both babies and their mothers. There is not a list of foods to avoid when breastfeeding but rather foods to limit. Always listen to your body, and eat what feels right. This will give you enough energy and emotional resources to care for the baby.
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