As a breastfeeding mum, I know all too well that if I decide to eat a spicy curry for lunch, that decision will probably come back to bite me on the behind when it upsets my baby’s tummy. And I also know when it’s safe to have a glass of wine to ensure there’s no alcohol in my breastmilk come feed time.
The food we eat has a direct impact on the quality of our breastmilk and in order to produce milk that’s nourishing for our baby, we need to ensure that we have a balanced and healthy diet. Breastfeeding mums also need to consume an extra 400-500 calories per day to aid the supply of milk. So which foods can we turn to in order to ensure we’re maximising the health benefits for both mum and bub? We spoke to Susan Williams, Accredited Practising Dietitian from Zest Nutrition Consulting who gave us the low down on the foods that are best for feeding mums.
Breast milk is a rich source of fat for your growing baby. It is important to get a range of fats in your diet, ideally from foods rather than added as part of processing. Mums fatty acid intake is reflected in the fatty acid profile of breast milk. Healthy fats like the fat found in avocado have important roles in visual and brain development and are good for both mum and baby.
Meats and oily fish
These are a great source of protein and again are packed with healthy fats. If you are well nourished this will help you to feel as energetic as possible whilst being sleep deprived and breast feeding. Meat and oily fish are full of nutrients which are important for an overall energy boost.
Cooked or served as a salad, lots of colour in vegetables is indicative of high levels of antioxidants which are beneficial for our body and the milk that is being made for baby. These foods are also a great source of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre which is important for bowel health. Think lots of red, orange, purple, yellow and green.
Grains, nuts and seeds
Antioxidants, vitamins and minerals can be found in nuts and grains and they are a fantastic source of fibre. They are whole foods which is good for the body to work hard to break down and receive all of the nutrients. A nice muesli is a good way to up your intake, or a small handful of nuts for a snack is a great way to get a boost for your body.
Dairy is full of healthy fats and protein which are so beneficial for both mum and baby. It can be tempting to cut dairy because of its fat content, but it’s a rich source of wholesome carbohydrates and protein which is perfect for mums in need of an energy boost.
Eggs are not only chock full of protein, but they are a great source of zinc and iron. Zinc is great for boosting your immune system and iron is important for transporting oxygen around the body. Regularly including eggs into your diet is a simple meal with big benefits.
Your fluid needs do increase while breastfeeding. You should also find that your thirst increases too Our body is wise, we do best when we pay attention and trust it. On average you may need an extra 3-4 cups of water a day. A good idea is to set up the area that you usually breastfeed in with either a glass of water or a drink bottle so you can have a drink whilst baby feeds.
Breastfeeding mums will find that their appetite increases and they will naturally get the extra energy they require by eating to appetite. Fruit is a great option for feeding mums, as it is a great source of fibre and is a lovely sweet treat. It’s also easily consumed with one hand and requires little to no preparation making it an easy snack for busy mums.
Ensuring sufficient carbohydrate in mums diet is important to be able to produce enough breast milk for her baby. Rather than heading for sugary treats to satisfy hunger, make sure there are a range of nutritious carbohydrate containing foods available at meals and snacks. Wholesome carbohydrate foods are also good sources of fibre, which can help mums bowels after birth. Think brown rice and wholemeal pasta, multi grain breads and crackers with hummus can make for a great snack option.
Treats are treats and are part of a normal healthy diet. If you can, try to savour these favourite foods and serve them when you’ve got time to really enjoy them. If you’re grabbing them on the run or using them to boost energy and they’re replacing other foods, it may be worth looking at where you might use some planning to improve your overall diet. However it is important to be kind to yourself and prioritise what is really important to you.