What To Eat While Breastfeeding
Congratulations, you made it through nine months! Hello again my old friends: soft cheese, ham, ice cream and sushi. You may be keen to lose any ‘baby weight’ too, but if you choose to breastfeed, now is not a good time to cut back on the calories, so go ahead and eat that cheese.
Breastfeeding can be hard work. An extra 2000kj a day is needed during breastfeeding (lactation) for the first 6 months1. How many kj you need exactly varies depending on your activity level and rate of weight loss. Short-term reductions in energy intake however will not decrease milk production1. It’s also good to know your diet does not affect the protein, carbohydrate, fat or mineral content of your breast milk. What does change depending on your diet is the fatty acid content and vitamins in your breast milk1.
If you are not eating adequately, the quality of your milk will be maintained, but the quantity may decrease1 and your own stores may suffer. If you take care of mum first, then that really helps baby.
Now that bub is here, you are going to need more calcium, protein and A, B and C vitamins during lactation1 just to name a few. See the table below for a closer look at nutrient needs during lactation.
Lactating mothers need 1000mg of calcium a day, the same as during pregnancy. Consume lots of vegetables high in calcium and dairy or calcium fortified dairy-alternatives to avoid reduction in your bone density2. It is worthy to note that the body quickly recovers from calcium and mineral loss after weaning3.
If protein intake is inadequate then casein, an important part of milk needed for calcium absorption and its immunomodulatory functions, will be low. Protein may also be used for mum’s energy production. The quality of the protein will also have positive effects on insulin regulation4. Since the concentration of protein in your breastmilk is maintained at your body’s expense, it’s important to maintain your intake, approximately 67g/day1, for yourself as well as for your milk. Not getting enough protein will result in less milk being produced, but it won’t affect the quality1.
Vitamins A, B and C
These are some of the vitamins that are effected by maternal diet1, so by ensuring you are keeping up your intake of these, you will maintain good levels in your milk without depleting your own stores.
Making almost a litre of milk a day can be thirsty work, so drink to your own thirst. But gulping down litres of water will not increase breast milk volume1,4 no matter what your grandma or great aunt tells you.
Grains and Vegetables
Grains and veggie needs increase from 6 and 5 serves to 9 and 7.5 serves compared to a non-lactating woman1 to meet your vitamin and energy needs.
For more information on how many serves a breastfeeding mum should be having from each food group, and what is a serve there is a great table here, from the Australian Breastfeeding Association webpage.
When lactating, iron needs are lower than non-lactating women as you are not likely to be menstruating during this time1 which balances out iron losses from childbirth4.
Things to avoid:
Alcohol is thought to be a galactagogue (increases breast milk production), but is in fact a myth5. Your blood plasma level of alcohol is directly reflected in your breast milk and may prevent letdown of milk by blocking oxytocin resulting in a decrease in milk production1,5. Babies of lactating mothers who consume alcohol consume less milk, have disrupted sleep and impaired motor development5. It is important not to stop breast feeding if you would like a drink5; try expressing beforehand or time the feeding after 2 hours for every drink.
The good news is caffeine is okay. A moderate intake of caffeine-containing products like coffee only reflects 1% in your breast milk. But too much may interfere with the sleep or fussiness of your baby1. As with any food, don’t go overboard.
Make sure you are eating an adequate diet of fruit and vegetables, grains and protein to ensure rich supply of vitamins to keep your body going during this nutritionally-intense period of breastfeeding and to ensure that your breast milk is jam-packed with goodness!
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- Radcliffe, Dr. J. (2016) DTN4LPN, Lecture 3, Topic 3, Nutrition During Lactation [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from Department of Rehabilitation, Sport and Nutrition, La Trobe University, https://lms.latrobe.edu.au
- Morin, K, H. (2008). Helping breastfeeding mothers eat well. The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 33(2), 127. Retrieved from http://mobile.journals.lww.com/mcnjournal/_layouts/15/oaks.journals.mobile/articleviewer.aspx?year=2008&issue=03000&article=00013
- Kovacs, C., S. (2008). Vitamin D in pregnancy and lactation: maternal, fetal and neonatal outcomes from human and animal studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 88(2), 520S-528S. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/content/88/2/520S.full.pdf+html
- Segura, S., A., Ansótegui, J. A., Díaz-Gómez, N., M. (2016). The importance of maternal nutrition during breastfeeding: Do breastfeeding mothers need nutritional supplements?, Anales de Pediatría (English Edition), 84(6), June 2016, 347.e1-347.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.anpede.2015.07.035
- Menella, J., A. (2012). Alcohol use during lactation: Effects on the mother-infant dyad. In R. Watson, V. Preedy & S. Zibadi (Eds), Alcohol, nutrition and health consequences. (pp. 63-82). USA: Humana Press.