Breastmilk provides all the nutrients a baby needs for healthy development. The following is some advice on eating a varied and balanced diet to help keep you, and your baby, healthy when you’re breastfeeding.
Many breastfeeding mothers worry about what food they should be eating. The answer is simple; your diet should be varied.
Everyone is told about the importance of eating fresh fruit and vegetables; this is more so for a breastfeeding mother. A nursing mother should aim to eat 5 portions each day. As well as eating five different portions, a mother should vary the fruit and vegetables she eats as not all vitamins and minerals can be got from one single food item.
Starchy foods are important as they will help give you energy. Being a mother of a young child is an exhausting time, so you need all the energy you can get. Starchy foods include bread, pizza, pasta, rice and potatoes.
After childbirth many women experience bowel problems and can find constipation particularly painful. Fiber can help ease or eliminate both of the conditions. Fiber can be found in wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, pulses, fruit and vegetables.
Protein is needed for muscle development. Sources of protein include lean meat, chicken and fish – you should try for at least two servings of fish a week, including one of oily fish. Eggs and pulses (such as beans and lentils) are another good source of protein.
Calcium is vital in maintaining healthy bones for both mother and her breastfed child. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt contain plenty of calcium. Remember, there’s just as mush calcium in skimmed or semi-skimmed milk as there is in full-fat milk. Non-milk calcium foods include sardines, tofu, figs, almonds, cooked spinach and tahini paste.
There are some foods you should avoid when breastfeeding. Eating shark, swordfish and marling is best avoided and you should limit the amount of tuna you eat. Don’t eat more than one tuna steak a week or two medium-sized cans of tuna a weeks. The reason for not eating these fish is because of the levels of mercury. Some of the mercury in the fish you eat will pass into your breastmilk and high levels of mercury can harm a very young baby’s developing nervous system.
All other foods should be eaten in moderation while you’re breastfeeding. As a general rule, if a food affects you it will probably affect your baby. But remember, it’s normal for breastfed babies to have loose stools.
If you’re breastfeeding you should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D. This vitamin can be produced by the body but only when your skin is exposed to constant sunshine. If you have any doubts or questions, consult your doctor.
Many breastfeeding mothers are tired and too busy to make sure that their diet is as it should be. However, if your eating enough and feel fine yourself, chances are so is your baby. Breastmilk is a resilient foodstuff. Your breasts are remarkable at producing the right consistency of milk necessary to give your child the best start in life, even if your diet is less than perfect.