Nutrition for Breastfeeding
Everyone’s feeding journey is unique and special in its own way so it is very important to say that whilst this article is related to breastfeeding, we believe that fed is always best - and a happy feeding environment is where babies thrive - be that with breast or formula milk.
This article aims to guide breastfeeding mothers through the best ways to support their feeding, with recipe ideas to boost milk supply, nutrition tips and guidance on what to eat and how much to eat.
Similar to when you were pregnant, there are a few things to avoid or limit in your diet when you are feeding.
The first of these is caffeine. As a guide you should be having no more than 300mg per day - this is the equivalent of 2 cups of filter coffee.
Next up is alcohol- which ideally wouldn’t be consumed whilst breastfeeding. If you were to have a small amount you should wait 3 hours before feeding your baby to allow the alcohol to leave the milk or alternatively express the milk and dispose. The NHS does suggest that one or two small glasses of wine a week would not cause harm to the baby.
Strongly flavored foods and ingredients such as garlic, curries and spices can cause the breast milk to taste different to usual. However, babies are used to this from the amniotic fluid they were surrounded by in the womb, so you do not need to worry about cutting these out. Some even suggest it can help with weaning as the babies are used to different flavours.
Lots of breastfeeding mothers avoid dairy for a while whilst feeding. This can often be because the baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) and any dairy in the diet will come to the baby through the milk and worsen the symptoms. If you are noticing that your baby seems unsettled, or showing signs of CMPA you can try eliminating all dairy from your diet. The common symptoms tend to show as rashes, reflux and mucus build up in babies. You should see your GP if you have any concerns.
Breastfeeding, and producing breast milk for pumping, can burn anywhere from 300-600 calories per day meaning you are likely to feel really hungry! With a newborn in the house it can be challenging to find the time to prepare your own meals and snacks, and this is where your batch cooked pregnancy meals will come in really handy. Try to eat as soon as you start the day and look to have a breakfast full of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats- eg a smoked salmon and eggs with avocado and toast. Snacking throughout the day (and often night!) is essential too. Try the no bake energy balls for a grab and go snack that can be prepared ahead.
Often, during the feeding journey there are times where milk supply might suffer a little. There are a variety of foods you can add to your diet to help boost your milk supply. Some of the most common and recommended by mums and nutritionists are:
Fennel and fennel seeds
Dark, green leafy vegetables
To help boost your lactation, try to include these foods in your daily diet. The apricot & coconut flapjacks, lactation cookies and sweet potato and barley risotto are all easy recipes to prepare ahead, and are rich in ingredients to help increase your supply. It may be helpful to keep a food diary and see if you notice any changes in your supply when you eat different foods.
Hydration during breastfeeding is very important. Breast milk is made up of 90% water and therefore you must keep your own water intake up too, to avoid dehydration. As a guide, try to have a large glass of water each time you feed and aim for 3 litres of water per day. Herbal teas count towards this intake if they are something you find easier to drink.
Vitamin D is essential in the diet to help support the absorption of calcium as well as aiding your immune system. Babies who are exclusively breastfed will not get the amount of Vitamin D required from the milk alone and will need to be supplemented with Vitamin D drops which are available over the counter. For breastfeeding mothers, it is recommended to support your well balanced diet with a supplement containing the essential vitamins (including Vitamin D), which is suitable for feeding.
To conclude, if you choose to breastfeed or express your milk and bottle feed, you don’t need to drastically change your diet. Focus on keeping up your protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats and limit alcohol and coffee. Remember to stay hydrated and have easy to eat snacks at the ready!