Breastfeeding is a nutritious way for mothers to make sure their children get the nutrients they need. There are incredible benefits for both the baby and the mom when a mother chooses to start feeding her child this way.
The Healthiest Diet for the Breastfeeding Mom
The mom needs to eat healthily while she is breastfeeding. Filled with important nutrients, breast milk is a great way for growing babies to get the food they need. What the mother eats will greatly affect what goes into breast milk. Mothers looking for the best breastfeeding tips should consider the following foods:
Eating More Calories
The body needs its calories to keep making breast milk. Breastfeeding is said to increase a mother’s need for energy by up to 500 calories a day. This increased need also requires that a mother gets more nutrients, so a mother needs to have a varied diet.
While many mothers want to lose their baby weight as soon as possible, they need to be patient. It’s even normal not to lose any weight or for them to start gaining more weight after giving birth.
Hormonal changes in the body may lead to mothers having a larger appetite, which is why eating a lot of calories at this time is important.
Eat Foods High in Nutrients
Women’s nutrient needs are quite high when they are breastfeeding. Consequently, the mother’s breast milk transfers these nutrients to the baby. This is why mothers should try to eat as many whole foods as possible.
The following nutritious foods are best for mothers and their breast milk:
- Fish and seafood: salmon, shellfish, sardines, and seaweed.
- Meat: Lamb, liver, pork, and beef.
- Fruits and vegetables: Cabbage, kale, broccoli, and garlic.
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
- Other foods: Oats, eggs, potatoes, quinoa, dark chocolate, and buckwheat.
In addition to making a dedication to eating more nutritious foods like those above, it’s important that breastfeeding mothers avoid processed foods, unhealthy fats, and added sugars.
Breastfeeding Mothers Should Focus on Nutrient Groups
Dr. Dan Raiten, an NIH children’s nutrtion expert, says, “Breastfeeding is the gold standard for feeding infants.”
This overview explains the nutritional values of breast milk. A mother’s breast milk can be separated into two groups. Group 1 nutrients in a mother’s milk are based on her daily dietary intake. Conversely, group 2 nutrients refer to nutrients secreted into the breast milk with no regard for the health or nutrient intake of the mother.
Group 1 Nutrients
The following are nutrients found in group 1:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): Pork, fish, nuts, seeds, and bread.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Red meat, cheese, almonds, eggs, oily fish, and nuts.
- Vitamin B6: Nuts, poultry, fish, pork, dried fruit, and bananas.
- Vitamin B12: Oily fish, shrimp, crab, shellfish, and liver.
- Choline: Beef, chicken, liver, eggs, peanuts, and fish.
- Vitamin A: Carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy greens eggs, and organ meats.
- Vitamin D: Oily fish, cod liver oil, fortified foods, and mushrooms.
- Selenium Seafood, seeds whole wheat, and Brazil nuts.
- Iodine: Dried seaweed, milk, cod, and iodized salt.
The group 1 nutrients are important for your baby. If your diet doesn’t contain enough of the aforementioned foods, consider adding them by way of supplements.
Group 2 Nutrients
The following group 2 nutrients are important to a breastfeeding mother’s health:
- Folate: Lentils, leafy greens, avocados, asparagus, and beans.
- Calcium: Yogurt, legumes, cheese, and milk.
- Iron: Pork, red meat, poultry, green vegetables, dried fruit, seafood, and beans.
- Copper: Whole grains, shellfish, nuts, potatoes, organ meats, and beans.
- Zinc: Red meat, oysters, poultry, dairy, nuts, and beans.
If a woman’s intake of the group 2 nutrients is low, the body will try to take the nutrients from the mother’s tissue and bone stores by secreting them into the breast milk.
This is why it is so important for the mother to ensure she is eating healthily.
Supplements the Mother May Benefit From
Many breastfeeding tips suggest that mothers take supplements. While supplements are a good way for a mother to make up the nutrients she is lacking, it is essential to ensure that the supplements are right for the mother, as they will be broken down and passed to the baby.
Most popular supplements for mothers contain stimulants, herbs, and active substances that can be transferred through the mother’s breast milk.
The most likely substances to benefit the mom are:
Mothers that lack key nutrients should take multivitamins. Without the nutrients found in multivitamins, mothers may find that they have pregnancy-related nausea.
To avoid this, mothers can use daily multivitamins to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need.
Vitamin B12 supplements are generally a good way to prevent vitamin B12 deficiencies. However, mothers need to consult with their doctors before deciding to add these supplements to their diet.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can be taken as well. The omega-3 fatty acid is found mostly in seafood like algae and fatty fish.
These fatty acids are important to the eyes, skin, and central nervous system. DHA is an important factor for brain function and development.
Mothers can also add DHA into their baby’s formula as it has improved babies’ vision.
Vitamin D can be found in fish liver oils, fortified foods, and fatty fish. However, Vitamin D is typically only present in meager amounts. This vitamin’s deficiency often occurs if the mother lives in an area with limited sun exposure.
Drinking Enough Water
Mothers often experience a particular thirst as the hormone oxytocin is released when feeding their child.
When the baby latches onto the mother’s breast, the mother’s oxytocin levels increase. This reaction allows the milk to flow more readily.
This release of breast milk also stimulates the mother’s thirst. This is so the mother will drink an adequate amount of water to meet her baby’s needs.
Many breastfeeding tips suggest that mothers should make sure they stay hydrated. If you feel faint or tired, this is is an indication that you should be drinking more water.
Foods and Beverages to Consume in Moderation
When putting together a diet, it’s essential that mothers consider the types of food that they should avoid. When consumed in larger quantities, certain foods stand to affect the health of a baby negatively.
Moms should be careful to schedule their drinking and feeding at separate times. As alcohol can pass through breast milk, women should avoid feeding following drinking.
While “pumping and dumping” will remove the milk from your breasts, it doesn’t take the alcohol levels out of your blood or the milk. It’s best to wait until the alcoholic beverages have cleared the body before feeding again.
Though the level of alcohol a mother should be consuming will vary for each person, it’s typically safe to breastfeed following one alcoholic beverage, one shot, or a beer. Ideally, mothers should have their drink after they breastfeed. Then, it’s better to wait a few hours before nursing again.
Tired of those late nights with your baby? Lucky for you, caffeine is fine for mothers, as long as it is consumed in moderation. Caffeine should be limited to three cups of caffeinated beverages each day.
Caffeine does pass through the mothers’ bloodstream, so it is important to note that feeding right after drinking coffee can make babies jittery. However, when consuming caffeine in chocolate, the levels are too low for the baby to experience anything.
While fish has essential nutrients, mothers should eat it in moderation, as all fish contain a certain amount of mercury in them. As a neurotoxin, this mercury stands to affect a baby’s brain.
Fish that should be avoided are king mackerel, tilefish, swordfish, and shark. The older, predatory fish tend to have the most mercury, so these should be eliminated from a mother’s diet.
Most breastfeeding tips suggest that moms should aim to eat 12 ounces of fish a week. The best options include catfish, pollock, salmon, and shrimp.
Parsely, Sage, and Peppermint
These herbs are anti galactagogues. In higher doses, they will decrease the mother’s breast milk production. Mothers should think twice before applying peppermint oil or adding three herbs to their diet.
Excessively spicy foods aren’t something that should be explicitly avoided. However, mothers must remember that these flavors will be transferred to their breast milk. The baby may develop a taste for these things, which may shape their preference as they grow.
Final Thoughts on Diets for Breastfeeding Mothers
You are what you eat certainly applies to a feeding baby. Mothers would do well to keep this in mind when searching for breastfeeding tips.
With a comprehensive guide like this one, mothers will be able to see where they can improve their diet and what they should cut back on. Remember, the health of your baby must first start with your own health.