Q&A: A healthy diet for breastfeeding
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Every breastfeeding mother has questions about what she can or cannot consume and how this will affect the quality of her milk. Of course, it is always best to hear the answers from the experts.
Q. Are there specific foods I should eat while breastfeeding?
Yes and no. There are no specific foods (such as cow’s milk) that every breastfeeding mother must have. Cows don’t drink milk to make milk. The nutrients in breast milk are drawn from the available nutrient reserves in the mother’s body. It is therefore essential for the nursing mother’s health to replenish those nutrients. It is unlikely that the baby will not get sufficient nutrition if the mother has a balanced diet and continues taking her prenatal supplements for the duration of her breastfeeding.
“FENNEL AND FENUGREEK SEEDS ARE KNOWN FOR THEIR LACTOGENIC SUPPORT PROPERTIES.”
Q. Which foods should be avoided by breastfeeding moms?
Generally speaking, there are no foods that all mothers must avoid. In most cases, there is even no need to steer clear of potentially sensitivity triggering foods such as chocolate, spicy foods, onions, garlic, broccoli or cabbage. In many countries, such as Thailand and Mexico, mothers eat spicy foods while breastfeeding with no ill effects on their babies, as that has been their diet throughout pregnancy.
Keeping a food diary and paying attention to how your baby reacts to breast milk after consumption of certain foods could be a useful tool if you suspect that your nutrition habits are contributing to your baby’s fussiness. However, you need to be mindful that certain foods may stay in your system for up to three days and so the reaction to the breast milk will be just as long. It is also wise to remember that moderation is key in balanced nutrition.
Q.What about cow’s milk?
Cow’s milk protein intolerance or allergy is a common cause of fussiness, acid reflux and discomfort in infants. Removing all dairy products including cow’s milk of any type (including Lactaid), yoghurt, cheese, butter and cream sauces for two to four weeks may be recommended by your paediatrician if you suspect that it is cause for baby’s discomfort. It takes several weeks for the protein to fully leave your milk and your infant’s body. You can also find out whether you or your baby are intolerant to milk by having an intolerance test that will test a for a wide variety of potential food and environmental triggers including lactose. https://www.thehealthcoach.academy/intolerance-deficiency-toxin-test
Q. How will I know if my baby is reacting to something I’ve eaten?
Keep in mind that almost all babies have fussy periods and their fussiness might be unrelated to your diet. Other than fussiness, there are other signs in a baby to watch out for to detect an intolerance to food such as dry skin, congestion, rash and, in the worst cases, wheezing and bloody stool. If you suspect a food is affecting your baby, try avoiding it for a period of one to two weeks and then try eating it again. If your baby reacts, you’ll know. Keep in mind that most babies will not react after about six to nine months of age and this is where preventative intolerance testing might be useful. The most likely culprits are protein foods such as dairy, soy, egg white, peanuts and fish.
Q. Do I need to eat more than usual to have a sufficient milk supply?
Eat to satisfy your hunger. Your fat stores at birth provide much of the fuel needed to make milk. Research has found that your metabolism may be more efficient while nursing than at other times. This may reduce your need for extra calories.
Q. If my diet is not perfect, will my breast milk have all the needed nutrients?
Although eating a nutrient-dense diet is vital for you as it replenishes the depleted nutrients and therefore boosts your energy and immune function, a calculated and prescribed diet is not necessary to produce good-quality breast milk. All over the world women produce adequate and even abundant milk on very inadequate diets. Studies have found that in famine conditions it several weeks before a mother’s milk is affected.
Q. Can I diet for weight loss while I’m breastfeeding?
Yes and no. Breastfeeding helps burn fat stores but adjusting your diet to promote weight loss should be done under the supervision of a health coach or nutritionist, who will help you lower calorie intake and not your lowering nutrient intake. It is best to lose the weight gradually and ensure both healthy milk supply, sound health and a long-term positive outcome.
Q. How much hydration do I need while I’m breastfeeding?
Drink to thirst is the simple guideline. Research has not yet found a link between the fluids a mother drinks and her milk supply, if she is not dehydrated. If your urine is dark yellow, this is a sign that you need more fluids. If you struggle to drink water as you dislike the taste, try fruit infused water.
Q. Are there foods that will increase my milk supply?
Fennel and fenugreek seeds are known for their lactogenic support properties. Milk supply is also based on how many times each day your milk is drained well from your breasts. The more times you breastfeed or express your milk, the more milk you will make.
Q. Can I maintain a vegetarian diet while breastfeeding?
Yes. All protein is originally from plant origin and what we call “animal protein” is a plant-based protein that has been consumed by the animal and converted into animal tissue. However, if you have a vegetarian, you will need to consume foods that contain Vitamin B12, such as eggs or dairy, or take supplements. If you are on a vegan or macrobiotic diet or any other diet that does not include any animal products, be sure to take adequate supplementation. And most importantly, have a varied and balanced diet.
Q. What about caffeine?
One or two cups of coffee (or other caffeinated drinks such as teas or colas) are not likely to cause a reaction. Unless a baby is unusually sensitive, there is no need to abstain. Once again, moderation is key.
Q. Can I have an occasional glass of beer or wine while I’m breastfeeding?
Moderate to heavy or regular drinking is very risky for your baby. Mothers who want to avoid any alcohol in their milk can have their drink right after nursing. Research shows that alcohol passes quickly into a mother’s milk, peaking within 30 to 60 minutes (60 to 90 minutes when taken with food). But it also passes out of milk quickly. For a 60kg woman, it takes two to three hours for the alcohol in one glass of beer or wine to leave her milk. As blood alcohol levels drop, alcohol leaves the milk. If a breastfeeding mother has a stronger drink or more than one glass of beer or wine, it will take longer for the alcohol to pass out of her milk. So, it might be best if you are going to have a celebration to express in advance and bottle-feed your baby with expressed milk until the alcohol passes through your system.
Q. Will milk stout increase milk supply?
Despite what your granny might have told you, sadly a bottle of stout won’t enhance milk supply. However, regularly drinking more than two units of alcohol daily may affect a