When referring to breastfeeding diet, it doesn’t mean that mothers need to follow strict guidelines on what foods to eat, and how many calories to consume. They are free to eat whatever they like as long as it’s balanced.
This blogpost will guide you through all aspects of breastfeeding diet, from how important it is for you and your baby’s health to what should and shouldn’t be consumed.
What Are the Guidelines for a Healthy Diet When Breastfeeding?
Guidelines for a healthy breastfeeding diet are very simple:
You do not need to take in lots of extra calories while you are breastfeeding, nor do you need to eat anything special – just make sure that you have a healthy, balanced, nutritious diet while breastfeeding.
Eating well while breastfeeding or producing breastmilk, does not necessarily mean spending lots of time in the kitchen: many nutritious foods are great for snacking on, or can be prepared very quickly. You may find it easier to satisfy your hunger by choosing foods that keep you feeling energetic.
As a general rule, it is recommended to consume an addition of 300 – 400 calories a day to ensure you have enough energy to produce milk.
Breastfeeding Diet Plan
Making a breastfeeding diet plan is a great way to track everything you’ve consumed. This is especially great for mothers that struggle to keep track of what they can and can’t eat.
It doesn’t have to be a fully professional diet plan, it could be as simple as ensuring you eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day, drink plenty of fluids including 2l water and have protein daily.
What are the Best Foods to Eat When Breastfeeding?
As mentioned above, breastfeeding mothers are recommended to eat almost anything, apart from foods that should be avoided. Starchy foods in particular, such as wholemeal bread, pasta and potatoes are highly recommended to ensure mothers are producing enough breastmilk.
Doctors also recommend lean meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables as they provide essential nutrition for a balanced and healthy diet that will support you and your baby’s nutritional needs.
Drinking While Breastfeeding
If you notice your breastmilk production decreasing, as well as tiredness and dark coloured urine – this is a sign of dehydration.
Breastfeeding women can often feel thirsty and dehydrated due to the production on breastmilk, so make sure you drink enough fluids - water, milk and unsweetened fruit juice are good options.
Ensure to also always have a drink to hand when you settle down to feed your baby. Drink to satisfy your thirst, but don’t overdo it – there is no proven link between fluid intake and milk supply.
Vitamins When Breastfeeding
There are certain vitamins and minerals that need to be consumed to ensure they reach your baby through your breastmilk:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
Majority of these nutrients can be found in the everyday food that you consume such as fish, cheese, chickpeas, yoghurt, eggs, carrots, mushrooms, wholewheat, and milk. However, if you think you are not getting enough intake of these nutrients, speak to your doctor as they may suggest taking multivitamin supplements.
Breastfeeding women area also more at risk of vitamin D deficiency. 90% of the body’s vitamin D is formed in the skin with the help of sunlight. Your GP or health visitor can advise you on vitamin D supplements.
Foods to avoid while breastfeeding
Although it is generally okay to eat the majority of foods while breastfeeding, keep in mind that what you eat does affect your breastmilk and understanding what you should eat to support your breastmilk production will help in a successful breastfeeding journey.
Although there are exceptions, most breastfeeding mothers find that they can eat what they like (in moderation, of course), including spicy foods, without it having an effect on their baby. However, you will want to avoid too much of some foods and types of drinks as they are proven to be harmful for the baby:
Caffeine while breastfeeding
Too much caffeine while breastfeeding can keep your baby awake, or make them unusually fussy, so it is better to limit the amount of drinks you have containing caffeine (not only tea and coffee, but also energy drinks). Some cold and flu remedies contain caffeine, and chocolate also contains a substance (theobromine) that is very similar and can produce the same effects.
Oily fish while breastfeeding
Eating fish is good for you, but don’t have more than two portions of oily fish a week. The Department of Health advises a limit on oily fish for women because it can contain low levels of pollutants that can build up in the body.
Alcohol while breastfeeding
Alcohol passes to breastfed babies in very small amounts and it is unlikely that having an occasional drink will harm your baby. However, it is sensible to drink very little (no more than one or two units once or twice a week) when you are breastfeeding.
If you intend to drink more than this on a special occasion, expressing breastmilk in advance is a good idea. Also, if you have been drinking alcohol, never share a bed or sofa with your baby.
Breastfeeding and Weight Loss
You would have gained some weight prior to delivery to ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby. However, you may feel the urge to lose all the weight you’ve gained and go to your pre-pregnancy form.
Before you stress yourself over your weight and rush to sticking to a restrictive diet, remember that the less you eat, the less breastmilk you may produce. Having a healthy weight is not only important during pregnancy, but also during breastfeeding.
With all the hormonal changes taking place during pregnancy, weight loss can take time. If you have low body weight, you need to ensure you have a healthy and balanced diet and do not restrict yourself on calories as it can alter your and your baby’s health negatively by depriving you of some essential nutrients.
For more information on how to look after yourself after baby is born, read more here. Feel free to also check out Lansinoh’s range of breastfeeding products, designed with both mum and baby in mind. We have everything, from breast pumps for an easier breastfeeding experience to nipple creams for healing sore and cracked nipples.
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