What should you eat when breastfeeding??
This week is #worldbreastfeeding week. As a mother of 3 daughters I can definitely say this is one of the most challenging aspects of being a new mum! During that newborn stage you are both trying to ‘learn a new skill’ and it takes time, patience and perseverance.
During this time YOUR nutritional needs are often at the bottom of your mind. However, your body is very good at adapting to produce high quality milk even at the expense of your own body stores so eating well during this time even more important for you.
So, what should you be eating when you are breastfeeding?
Meals should be balanced and based around the Eat well plate with a mixture of whole grains (whole grain bread, cereals and pasta), lean protein (meat, eggs, fish and pulses), vegetables and fruit and small amounts of unsaturated fat. When you are sleep deprived and trying to learn this ‘skill’ it’s easy to reach for the crisps or chocolates but these foods won’t often provide the nutrients you need. I found having lots of easy healthy snacks around (that could often be eaten one handed!) like slices of wholemeal pitta dipped hummus, handfuls of nuts, plain popcorn even a plain boiled egg were a lifesaver.
Hydration! Hydration! Hydration!
During breastfeeding it is important to stay hydrated. This is something easy to forget when you can be breastfeeding for long periods of time. I found a good tip was to have a glass of water every time you start feeding or keeping a large bottle or jug in the fridge and aiming to drink that throughout the day with the aim of finishing 10-12 glasses a day. Remember tea, juice, squash, soup all counts as fluids too. Just be careful with your caffeine intake it may help keep you awake, but can make your baby restless. Stick to no more than two mugs of filter coffee, 2-3 mugs of tea or 1 mug of filter coffee1.
Don’t you need to eat more when breastfeeding?
Your nutritional needs are thought to be increased by 300-500kcal if you are breastfeeding which is equivalent to 2 slices of wholemeal toast with peanut butter. However, if you are managing to eat your 3 meals and a few healthy snacks and not feeling hungry, you may not need this extra energy.
What about vitamins and minerals?
Your requirements for most vitamins and minerals are slightly raised in pregnancy and breastfeeding most of which can be met through your diet with the exception of Vitamin D. Breastfeeding mums need a 10mcg vitamin D supplement daily and exclusively breastfed babies (i.e. only have breastmilk or less than 500mls infant formula) should also have infant vitamin D drops from birth (8.5-10mcg). If you are taking any supplement always check that it is suitable for breastfeeding mothers.
Special foods to avoid or include?
Breastfeeding mums should only eat 1 portion of oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines or mackerel) a week. This will provide you and you baby with omega-3- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) fatty acids which are beneficial for your baby’s development. If you don’t eat fish try to have soya, nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables instead.
What about alcohol? If you do fancy a drink try not to have more than 1-2 units2 (a standard glass of wine of 175mls is 2 units) once or twice a week. And remember it takes about 2 hours for alcohol to leave breastmilk so wait at least 2 hours before given your next feed.
Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, remember fed is best, and all you mums are doing a great job!!
Contact me for more information on nutrition during pregnancy or breastfeeding
1 European Food Safety Authority. Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine.