Knowing what to eat and what to avoid
A breastfeeding mother should eat a healthy and nutritious diet. Here are some dietary guidelines that new mothers should follow.
Breastfeeding mothers should add enough protein to their diet
- You should also add an optimal amount of mega-3 fatty acids to your diet.
- New mothers should drink plenty of fluids throughout the day
- Remember to have enough green leafy vegetables
You have just given birth to a baby. You have a few questions about breastfeeding and what you need to do to ensure your baby is feeding adequately. “Will what I eat affect my baby?” “,” What should I eat to ensure adequate breast milk? “,” What should I avoid while breastfeeding? Fortunately, the answer to the first question is no. Most of what you eat does not affect your baby. While breastfeeding your newborn baby, your hunger level is likely to be at an all time high as breast milk production can be demanding on the body, requiring additional calories, protein, and other nutrients. It is recommended that you consume an additional 500 calories per day.
What to eat:
Make sure you have a good amount of protein in each meal – eggs, nuts, pulses, beans, tofu are all good sources of protein.
Eating fish like salmon and sardines or for vegetarians, nuts and flax seeds, would ensure a good amount of omega 3 fatty acids (DHA) which are essential nutrients for neurological development and vision of your baby. .
Stay hydrated throughout the day. Breast milk contains 87 percent water, which is enough to quench a baby’s thirst. Breastfeeding can make you feel dehydrated, keep sipping generous amounts of water, fresh juice, tender coconut water, buttermilk, milk, etc. Too little liquid can slow milk production.
There is no scientific evidence that drinking milk will ensure more lactation. While yes, milk is a good source of protein and calcium, if you don’t like to drink milk, you can ensure adequate lactation through other lactogenic foods. It is important to eat foods rich in calcium, as the body will draw calcium from the bones to ensure adequate amounts in breast milk, thus depleting your body’s stores. Besides milk and dairy products, green leafy vegetables and legumes are a good source of calcium.
There is a common teaching that breastfeeding helps you lose weight. While this applies to a large percentage of women, it is not universally true. Healthy weight loss in a nursing mother would also require a moderate amount of exercise and spacing out the extra calories needed in small, frequent meals, rather than large, heavy portions.
What are “lactogenic foods” or in layman’s terms, what do we eat to “increase milk production”:
Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach (paalak) and fenugreek (methi) are excellent stimulants of milk production.
A small amount of fenugreek seeds soaked overnight in water and eaten on an empty stomach, while not particularly palatable, can work wonders in boosting lactation in a matter of days.
Nuts, oats, and garlic are also great milk production boosters and could be included in the daily diet.
What to avoid while breastfeeding:
Alcohol, in addition to causing a decrease in breast milk production, can alter sleep patterns and hinder a baby’s development, so it is best to avoid it.
Caffeine, to some extent, can cause a slight decrease in lactation and it is best to avoid or minimize it, especially if your baby is having trouble sleeping.
(Dr Shalini Chico is a neonatologist and pediatrician at Fortis la Femme Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore)
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