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Breastfeeding Diet And Nutrition

It is said that breast milk is one of the most nutritious foods for your infants. And rightly so. It contains the right amount of fats, carbohydrates and other food groups which are so necessary for the growing baby [1] . Breast milk is truly a complete meal on its own for the baby. This is the reason why doctors recommend exclusive breast milk for at least the first six months of your infant's life [2] .

Pregnancy can be quite hard for the mother. It is quite common for you to be advised to eat for two once you have conceived. However, the quality of the food should take precedence over the quantity. This means to say that it is okay if you do not eat for two but each of your meals should definitely be nutrient rich. And this may have to be continued after your delivery as well.

Breastfeeding Diet And Nutrition

Breastfeeding your baby after birth may be one of the challenges that you will be facing as a new mother. However, a bigger task is for you to eat healthy in order to make healthy breast milk for your baby. Your body will suck in a lot of the calories and other nutrients that you consume from your food and use it to manufacture breast milk for your baby [3] . This means that the more healthy foods you consume, the more nutrient-rich would be your breast milk.

Consuming Calories During Breastfeeding

Calories play a very important role while breastfeeding. After giving birth, most of the mothers would want to shed all that extra kilos to get back to their pre-pregnancy figure. If you are one of them, you need to remember that this will have a negative impact on your breast milk supply. Your body needs a whole lot of calories in order to manufacture breast milk for your baby. Therefore, if you are restricting yourself to consume limited calories, you may not be able to make enough breast milk for your baby.

And if you are worried about your weight, do remember that breastfeeding your baby will help shed your pregnancy weight faster. This is indeed scientifically proven. Typically, a woman requires around 1560 calories per day [4]   .

Importance Of Eating Nutrient-Rich Foods While Breastfeeding

Your body requires a lot of the nutrients that you consume to make nutritious breast milk for your baby [5]  . It is also important to remember that your body is recovering from pregnancy and it needs to heal. Though you cannot pack all the nutrients in one single meal, it may be wise to consume foods that supply you with most of the nutrients [6] .

According to researchers, here are a few foods that are high on nutrition and will help increase the quantity as well as the quality of your breast milk [7] .

  • Meats like chicken, mutton, beef and organ meats like liver: These will supply you with the necessary amount of protein and fat. Proteins are known to be the building blocks on muscles and hence are important.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetable, especially apples, berries, veggies like kale and garlic: Including a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetable in your diet will help you stack up on various vitamins and minerals that will make their way to your breast milk and on to your baby.
  • Fish and seafood: A natural and healthy source of omega 3 fatty acids, fish and seafood should be a very important part of your breastfeeding diet. However, be sure to stay away from mercury filled fish like king mackerel, shark or swordfish. Instead, you can gorge on salmon, sardines, trout or herring. You can also enjoy shrimp.
  • Nuts and seeds: The elders in the family always advise us to snack on nuts and seeds during pregnancy and the postpartum period and it may be wise to listen to them. Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews and apricots contain minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, copper, selenium and the right amount of fats and fibre which are essential for the proper functioning of the human body. These minerals will also pass on to your baby through breast milk.
Breastfeeding Diet And Nutrition
  • Other foods: whole foods such as eggs and whole grains such as quinoa and oats are said to be quite healthy for breastfeeding mothers to consume.

Foods To Avoid During Breastfeeding

When you are breastfeeding, you do not have to worry about only eating healthy, you may have to avoid certain kinds of foods as well. There are some foods that have chances of affecting your baby in a negative way [8] . These are as follows.

  • Chocolates: While chocolates can help you feel better and elevate your mood, they are also high in caffeine, which needs to be avoided while breastfeeding your baby.
  • Raw foods: It is important for you to stay away from certain kind of raw foods for the fear of food poisoning.
  • Dairy: Cow's milk and other milk products have been known to counteract with the breast milk and cause to develop lactose intolerance in babies. Therefore it is best to avoid these foods while breastfeeding.
  • Spicy foods: consuming spicy foods during lactation may result in colic and rashes in your baby. It is best to listen to the advice of the elders and avoid consuming overly spicy foods if you are breastfeeding.
  • Vegetables like pumpkin and broccoli: Excess consumption of pumpkin and broccoli have been known to increase colic in babies and also result in a decrease in your milk supply.

Things To Remember While Breastfeeding

  • Though a non-vegetarian diet is good for breastfeeding mother, if you are an adhered vegetarian you may want to discuss with your doctor regarding any supplements you can take [9] .
  • Drinking enough water is one of the best ways to increase your breast milk. Even if you are eating a healthy diet, not drinking enough water may only result in low milk supply [10] .
  • Caffeine is something that is harder to digest for your baby and interestingly, a huge amount of it transfers to your baby via breast milk. Therefore, it is clear that you need to stay of caffeinated drinks while breastfeeding. Too much caffeine can also cause dehydration so this is another reason for you to substitute your morning cup of coffee with something healthier [11] .
  • Alcohol is another thing that gets transferred to your baby via your breast milk. It is highly advised that you avoid alcohol if you are breastfeeding your baby [12] .
Breastfeeding Diet And Nutrition

Healthy Breastfeeding Practices

Breastfeeding definitely has its own set of challenges. Here are a few pointers that will help make this process easier for your baby and you [13] .

  • Learn the proper techniques of breastfeeding positions: During breastfeeding, it is important for you to learn to recognise if your baby has latched correctly while feeding. Effective latching will lead to effective suckling. If not, the baby will have difficulty in feeding and you may have to feed them frequently, which may result in you being frustrated [14] .
  • Keep a check on your hunger pangs: It is definitely okay if you are feeling hungry more often than usual while breastfeeding. However, it is important to rely on healthy snacking options. This will not only keep you with a continuous supply of energy but also fill you up with nutrients required for breastfeeding.
  • Include different variety of foods in your diet: It is said that the flavours of your food affect the taste of your breast milk. Eating different flavours of the food will help you in getting all the essential nutrients to the baby and will also make them accustomed to foods with different taste so that they don't turn to be choosy eaters when they grow up.
  • Notice your baby's hunger pangs: If your baby wants to be fed often, it may be due to incorrect latching techniques of low milk supply. Instead of getting frustrated, try to understand the problem and work towards it.

Is Canola Oil Safe To Be Used While Breastfeeding?

Canola oil has long been used as a cooking medium for food to be specifically given to lactating mothers. If you have heard about the amazing benefits of canola oil during lactation and are wondering if you need to include it in your diet, then read on to know more.

Canola oil is a vegetable oil derived from the canola plant. The best things about this oil is that is high in omega 3 fatty acids and low in omega 6 fatty acids which makes it perfect to be consumed during lactation [15] . Regular consumption of canola oil has been known to increase the amount of good fat in the mother and the baby. It also helps stabilise the baby's blood sugar. The warm properties of canola oil help the baby regulate its body temperature and prevent it from getting infections.

View Article References
  1. [1] Boquien C. Y. (2018). Human Milk: An Ideal Food for Nutrition of Preterm Newborn.Frontiers in pediatrics,6, 295.
  2. [2] Hossain, M., Islam, A., Kamarul, T., & Hossain, G. (2018). Exclusive breastfeeding practice during first six months of an infant's life in Bangladesh: a country based cross-sectional study.BMC pediatrics,18(1), 93.
  3. [3] Dewey, K. G., Finley, D. A., & Lönnerdal, B. (1984). Breast milk volume and composition during late lactation (7-20 months).Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition,3(5), 713-720.
  4. [4] Kominiarek, M. A., & Rajan, P. (2016). Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation.The Medical clinics of North America,100(6), 1199–1215.
  5. [5] 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), 347-e1.
  6. [6] Delange, F. (2004). Optimal iodine nutrition during pregnancy, lactation and the neonatal period.Int J Endocrinol Metab,2(1), 1-12.
  7. [7] Yang, H., Eastham, P. R., Phillips, P., & Whittemore, C. T. (1989). Reproductive performance, body weight and body condition of breeding sows with differing body fatness at parturition, differing nutrition during lactation, and differing litter size.Animal Science,48(1), 181-201.
  8. [8] Jeong, G., Park, S. W., Lee, Y. K., Ko, S. Y., & Shin, S. M. (2017). Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding.Korean journal of pediatrics,60(3), 70–76.
  9. [9] Baroni, L., Goggi, S., Battaglino, R., Berveglieri, M., Fasan, I., Filippin, D., … Battino, M. A. (2018). Vegan Nutrition for Mothers and Children: Practical Tools for Healthcare Providers.Nutrients,11(1), 5.
  10. [10] Montgomery K. S. (2002). Nutrition Column An Update on Water Needs during Pregnancy and Beyond.The Journal of perinatal education,11(3), 40–42.
  11. [11] Howard, C. R., & Lawrence, R. A. (1998). Breast-feeding and drug exposure.Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America,25(1), 195-217.
  12. [12] Giglia, R., & Binns, C. (2006). Alcohol and lactation: a systematic review.Nutrition & Dietetics,63(2), 103-116.
  13. [13] Vijayalakshmi, P., Susheela, T., & Mythili, D. (2015). Knowledge, attitudes, and breast feeding practices of postnatal mothers: A cross sectional survey.International journal of health sciences,9(4), 364.
  14. [14] Goyal, R. C., Banginwar, A. S., Ziyo, F., & Toweir, A. A. (2011). Breastfeeding practices: positioning, attachment (latch-on) and effective suckling–a hospital-based study in Libya.Journal of Family and Community Medicine,18(2), 74.
  15. [15] de Oliveira Andrade, F., Fontelles, C. C., Rosim, M. P., de Oliveira, T. F., de Melo Loureiro, A. P., Mancini-Filho, J., ... & Hilakivi-Clarke, L. (2014). Exposure to lard-based high-fat diet during fetal and lactation periods modifies breast cancer susceptibility in adulthood in rats.The Journal of nutritional biochemistry,25(6), 613-622.

Story first published: Friday, May 10, 2019, 13:20 [IST]
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