Breast milk is filled with nourishing nutrients and protective compounds that are essential to the growth and development of your infant. This is why breast milk is known as the “gold standard” for infant nutrition. But if you're breastfeeding, then you're the source of nutrients that are essential for your child’s well-being. Here are a few frequently asked questions about maternal nutrition during lactation.
How many extra calories do I need while breast-feeding?
In order to satisfy their food requirements, breastfeeding mothers usually require more calories. It is suggested to breastfeeding moms to have an extra 400 to 500 kilocalories (kcal) of calories per day for their optimal nourishment. Be guided by your appetite, and eat when you're hungry.
What foods should I eat while breastfeeding?
Focus on making healthy choices to help fuel your milk production. Include foods rich in protein such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, grains, nuts, and seeds 2-3 times a day. Eat 2-3 servings of vegetables, including dark green and yellow vegetables per day. Include fruits in the diet. Include whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, pasta, cereal, and oatmeal in your daily diet.
- Vegetarian diets can be compatible with breastfeeding. If you avoid meat, make sure you eat other sources of iron and zinc such as dried beans, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and dairy. B12 supplements should be taken by those who avoid eating meat. This will prevent the B12 deficiency.
To make sure you and your baby are getting all of the vitamins you need, your health care provider might recommend continuing to take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement until you wean your baby.
How much fluid do I need while breast-feeding?
Research shows that breast milk is made up of 87 percent water, so it’s vital to ensure that you stay properly hydrated while feeding your baby. Drink when you are thirsty, and drink more if your urine appears dark yellow. You might drink a glass of water or other beverages like lassi, buttermilk, coconut water, fresh fruit juices without added sugar.
If you feel very tired, faint, or your milk production is decreasing, you may need to drink more water. The best way to tell if you are drinking enough water is the color of your urine. If it is dark yellow that’s a sign that you’re dehydrated and need to drink more water.
Too much caffeine or tea can be troublesome. It is advised not to intake more than 2 to 3 cups (16 to 24 ounces) of caffeinated drinks a day. Caffeine in your breast milk might cause irritability or interfere with your baby's sleep.
What about a vegetarian diet and breast-feeding?
If you follow a vegetarian diet, it's especially important to choose foods that'll give you the nutrients you need. The diet should contain foods rich in iron, protein, and calcium. Good sources of iron include lentils, enriched cereals, leafy green vegetables, peas, and dried fruit, such as raisins. To help your body absorb iron, eat iron-rich foods along with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits.
Plant sources such as soy products and meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are good sources of protein. Eggs and dairy are also.
Dairy goods and dark green vegetables provide strong sources of calcium. Calcium-enriched and -fortified products such as juices, cereals, soy milk, soy yogurt, and tofu are other alternatives.
Should mothers take any supplements while breastfeeding?
Although a healthy diet is the most important factor when it comes to nutrition during breastfeeding, there’s no question that taking certain supplements can help replenish your stores of certain vitamins and minerals. A multivitamin can be a great choice for increasing your intake of important vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin B-12 is found almost exclusively in animal products, so it's difficult to get enough in vegetarian diets. If you are a vegetarian then taking a B-complex or B-12 supplement is a good idea. You might consider talking to your health care professional about taking an omega-3 supplement if you do not eat fish.
You might need vitamin D supplements if you don't consume enough vitamin D-fortified foods like cow's milk and some cereals and if you have minimal exposure to sunlight. The human baby requires Vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorous. Too little vitamin D can cause rickets, a disease that leads to softening and weakening of the bones.
What shouldn't I eat when breastfeeding?
Certain foods and drinks deserve caution while you're breast-feeding. For example:
- Alcohol: Alcohol is not considered safe for breastfeeding mothers. If you are drinking alcohol, do not breastfeed your baby at the same time or after drinking.
- Caffeine: Stop drinking more than 16 to 24 ounces (2 to 3 cups) of caffeinated beverages a day. A high quantity of caffeine in breast milk could agitate your baby or interfere with sleep of your baby.
- Fish: Seafood is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. However, most seafood contains mercury or other contaminants. Breast Milk when exposed to mercury, can pose a danger towards the development of the nervous system of the infant. To limit your baby's exposure, avoid seafood that's high in mercury, including swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
Does breastfeeding help in shedding extra weight gained during pregnancy?
Fortunately, breastfeeding has been shown to promote weight loss, especially when continued for 6 months or longer. All breastfeeding women should consume adequate calories irrespective of their weight. A combination of a healthy diet and exercise should not affect your milk supply or milk composition, assuming that you are not undernourished, to begin with.
Can my diet cause an allergic reaction in the baby?
Sometimes the baby becomes irritable or develops a rash, diarrhea, or wheezing soon after nursing. This may be due to certain foods or drinks in your diet that triggers this allergic reaction. Consult a pediatrician if such incidents occur. If you suspect that something in your diet might be affecting your baby, avoid the food or drink for up to a week to see if it makes a difference in your baby's behavior. Avoiding certain foods, such as garlic, onions, or cabbage, might help.
Remember, if you are breast-feeding, then there is no need to go on a special diet chart. Simply focus on making healthy choices. You and your baby will reap the rewards.