BREASTFEEDING DIET: What Breastfeeding Mothers need to know about their dietDr. Anjali Gupta
Obstetrician and Gynecologist
Aarti is a happy young mother who’s just given birth to a beautiful daughter. Her world revolves around the little one. Feeding her, changing her, putting her to sleep leaves Aarti drained at the end of the day. In her excitement of looking after her baby, she’s forgotten about herself.
Are you having a similar experience? When you’re breastfeeding your baby, you don’t have to worry just about your little one, you need to ensure that you’re eating right too.
Why does a Nursing Mother’s Diet Matter?
A baby gets all his/her nutrition from the mother’s breastmilk. What a mother eats and the breastmilk she produces have a close relationship. Thus, the nutrient value of her milk is dependent on her diet.
In addition, looking after a newborn baby is hard work. Breastfeeding too burns calories. So, if the mother doesn’t eat enough food, she can end up feeling exhausted at the end of the day. This makes her irritable and affects her relationship with the baby.
The Ideal Breastfeeding Diet
Breastfeeding mothers should not worry about calorie count. Ideally, the diet for breastfeeding mothers should have 6 or more servings of cereal, at least 3 servings of fresh vegetables, 2 or more servings of fruits, 2-3 servings of fish/eggs/poultry/meat and 2-3 servings of dairy products. This ensures that the mother gets all the required nutrients in the right proportion for herself, and the breastmilk is equally nutritious for her baby.
Ideal Diet should comprise of the following:
Whole grains are a rich source of fiber as well as essential vitamins and minerals. These include barley, oats, wheat, quinoa, and millets. Grains like barley and quinoa boost protein levels while oats are known to aid lactation.
The fiber in these whole grains keeps a mother’s stomach satiated for longer and reduces the urge to snack between meals. Thus, it also aids in post-delivery weight management.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, cabbage, fenugreek, etc. are nutrient-dense foods but low on calorific value. These vegetables act as good sources of calcium, fiber, antioxidants and Vitamins A, C, E, and K.
There are many ways these vegetables can be incorporated into a mother’s daily diet. Stir-fried veggies are a great side dish for lunch and dinner. These green vegetables can even be added to an omelet for breakfast. Spinach and kale can even be made into smoothies.
Legumes and Beans
For vegetarian mothers, beans and legumes are an essential part of their breastfeeding diet. These food items are rich sources of protein needed to build muscle and help the body recover from childbirth. Legumes and beans also act as sources of fiber, phytochemicals and a number of minerals.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds can be enjoyed as a snack on their own or added to a mother’s breakfast cereal. These foods are packed with proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and fiber. They have therapeutic effects on skin health and slow down the signs of aging. The fiber in nuts and seeds also keeps the stomach satiated and reduces the tendency to overeat.
Fish is very beneficial for mothers breastfeeding their babies. It is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that play an important role in the baby’s brain and eye development. These fats are also beneficial for new mothers as it reduces the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Some of the best types of fish new mothers should include in their diet are salmon and tuna.
Along with eating right, mothers should also stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. This keeps up energy levels and aids in the digestive process. It also maximizes nutrient absorption from the food being consumed. Along with water, fresh fruit juices, soups, and non-caffeinated drinks may also be added to the diet.
What Not to Eat
Foods that were a no-no during pregnancy can be enjoyed now. This includes cheese, cold-cuts, and fruits like pineapples. But there are still some foods that should be avoided.
As far as possible, breastfeeding mothers should avoid eating spicy and oily food as well as caffeinated drinks. Spicy food can make the baby gassy while caffeine that goes into the baby’s system through breastmilk can make him/her irritable. Alcohol should also be avoided as far as possible.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience. It’s the ideal time for mother and child to bond. Following the right diet can make this experience even more enjoyable.