A well-balanced diet is important for a breastfeeding mother as all her baby’s nutrients come from her breastmilk. Minerals are the building blocks needed for your baby’s development, now and for her long-term health.
Breastfeeding is the best way to give your baby all the nutrients she needs to grow and thrive. And, as a breastfed baby gets all her minerals from her mother’s milk, it’s important that a breastfeeding mother is getting her daily quota of minerals; you get out what you put in. But, if you’re like many women, your diet may be less than ideal following the birth of your baby. You’re mostly likely feeling tired and busy but a nutritious diet is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby. The good news is that a healthy diet is not too difficult to achieve; eating meat, dairy products 5 fruit and vegetables every day is all you need do.
Amongst other nutrients, such as vitamins and protein, minerals play an important role in your baby’s development. A nursing mother should be aware of what minerals are important and what part of her diet provides these minerals.
Calcium is vital for the development and healthy maintenance of bones. Calcium is important for both a breastfeeding mother and her baby. Your baby is growing very fast and, at the same time, her bones are hardening. Calcium is needed for this to happen. Milk is one of the best sources of calcium, so if you like milk, now is the time to drink plenty of it. Milk is not only a good source of calcium but it’s also a good source of protein, zinc, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12. Yu don’t have to drink full-fat milk either; skimmed and semi-skimmed milk contains the same nutrients but with much less fat.
When breastfeeding your calcium requirement is the equivalent of drinking 1 2/3 pints of milk. So, if you drink plenty of milk and other dairy products you’ll be getting all the calcium you need. Don’t despair if the thought of consuming of that much dairy produce is off-putting or if you’re a vegan, calcium can be found in non-milk foods.
The following are equivalent to consuming a third of a pint of milk:
2 sardines from a tin of fish in oil
One-sixth of a pack of tofu
1 glass (7oz) of calcium enriched soya milk
5 dried figs
6 medium slices of white bread
48 whole almonds
4 tablespoons of cooked spinach
Zinc is present in every part of the body and has a wide range of functions. It helps with the healing of wounds and is a important component of many enzyme reactions. Zinc is vital for the healthy working of many of the body’s systems. It is particularly important for healthy skin and is essential for a healthy immune system and resistance to infection.
Zinc is not stored in the body so it needs to be replaced from the food we eat. Only about 20% of the zinc present in the diet is actually absorbed by the body.
The following foods are rich in zinc:
Sardines are an especially good source of zinc!
Babies who are breastfed suffer far less iron deficiency in later life. Iron is important in the first year of life. Iron is needed to make haemoglobin, pigment that is found in our red blood cells. Haemoglobin carries oxygen around our bodies. Foods that are rich in iron are:
Lean beef, lamb and kidney
Dark chicken or turkey meat
Red lentils, chick-peas, baked beans, kidney beans
Green vegetables like broccoli, peas, spring greens, spinach, curly kale
Dried fruits like apricots, prunes and figs
If you eat a well-balanced and varied diet you will get all the minerals you require for breastfeeding your baby. The above minerals are not the only ones required for both you and your child but they are the most important. If you have doubts you should ask your doctor. Breastmilk is an amazing food source; it maintains the right amounts of nutrients required for your baby during its growth, even in women whose diet is not perfect.