Grantly Dick-Reed (British obstetrician and a leading advocate of natural childbirth) once famously said,
A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three.
The quote, in a nutshell, combines all the important benefits of breastfeeding.
Women have been breastfeeding since time immemorial. That, however, does not mean women are born bearing every detail about breastfeeding. Even though there is no dearth of information when it comes to breastfeeding, they often leave you more confused than informed. It is normal for new mothers to have innumerable queries about breastfeeding or breast milk. To help you out with these queries, we present to you the must-have guide for breastfeeding that every mother should have. Read on we tackle questions about your dietary practices and things you should avoid during breastfeeding.
What Should You Eat During Breastfeeding?
Nutrition is of paramount importance for any breastfeeding mother to help milk production. Breastfeeding relies heavily on your energy levels, making a healthy diet essential. While there isn’t anything special that you need to eat during breastfeeding, a combination of healthy foods will provide you the required nutrition. You should choose from a healthy mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to maintain your nutritional needs. Some of the food items you can include in your diet are:
Some of the food items you can include in your diet are:
- Green Leafy Vegetables: Children may hate it, and sometimes adults too, but the benefits of it can’t be negated. A powerhouse of vitamins A and C and iron, green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach should be a part of every breastfeeding mothers’ diet. Rich in antioxidants and low in calories, they are important both for you and your baby.
- Salmon: Considered a nutritional powerhouse for new mothers, salmon is loaded with DHA. An omega-3 fatty acid, DHA is crucial for the development of your baby’s nervous system. While breast milk does contain DHA, women who get more DHA from their diet have a higher level of it.
- Lean Meats: Iron-rich foods are an important part of any breastfeeding mother’s diet to boost energy. Any lack in it makes it hard for the new mother to cope up with the needs of her newborn. Lean meats like chicken and fish are not only rich in iron but also provide extra protein and vitamin B-12.
- Legumes: For vegetarians, legumes are a great way of incorporating protein into their diet. Rich in iron, particularly the dark-coloured ones like black beans and kidney beans, they are great for breastfeeding mothers.
- Eggs: Eggs are not only a great source of protein, but also a vital dietary source of vitamin D. These two work together to help strengthen your infant’s bones and muscle while providing you with much-needed energy.
- Low-Fat Dairy Products: For a healthy breastfeeding, low-fat dairy products should be included in your diet. Products like yogurt, milk, or cheese are known to provide a healthy dose of vitamins B and D. Other than that, they are the best sources of calcium available for new mothers. Calcium is required not only for the development of your baby’s bone structure but also for your own well-being.
- Whole Grains: Inclusion of whole grains in your diet provides important minerals to you and your baby. Whole grain cereals like oatmeal, brown rice and barley provide you with essential nutrients like protein, vitamins, iron and other minerals. The help in the overall growth and development of your baby and provide energy and stamina to you.
- Nuts and Seeds: A rich source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, nuts and seeds are packed with nutrition. They are great to snack on in-between meals to satisfy your hunger pangs. Nuts and seeds are also known to protect you from heart diseases and aging.
How Much Fluid Do You Need During Breastfeeding?
Most mothers have heard the old-wives tale of drinking lots of water to keep up with their breast milk. However, in reality, your body is more than capable of producing the required amount of breast milk, even while going thirsty. Rather than forcing yourself to drink, it is better to drink enough to satisfy your thirst. To remind yourself to drink water, it is a good idea to have a drink nearby while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers release a hormone called oxytocin, which makes them feel thirsty. Drinking at least one glass of your water while feeding your baby, as well as in-between when you feel thirsty, keeps that in check.
To remind yourself to drink water, it is a good idea to have a drink nearby while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers release a hormone called oxytocin, which makes them feel thirsty. Drinking at least one glass of your water while feeding your baby, as well as in-between when you feel thirsty, keeps that in check.
Be attentive to your body’s signals if you are worried about getting enough to drink. Signs of dehydration include concentrated urine (darker, smelling stronger than usual) and constipation (hard, dry stools).
What To Eat To Increase Breast Milk?
Even though there is no scientific research to back up the acclaim these following foods have garnered among mothers, they have been served since generations to increase breast milk. It is best to remember to consume these foods in moderation though and as part of a balanced diet.
- Fenugreek Seeds (Methi): Fenugreek seeds top the list when it comes to food items consumed for increased breast milk. While this ancient belief is backed by a small amount of research, it isn’t substantial enough to prove its effectiveness. These seeds are a great source of omega-3 fats, essential for your baby’s brain development. Other than that, they are also rich in beta carotene, vitamin B, iron, and calcium.
- Fennel Seeds (Saunf): Like fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds to boost lactation. Regular consumption of it aids digestion and helps to relieve constipation in breastfeeding mothers.
- Garlic (Lehsun): Garlic, which is known for its many therapeutic and herbal properties, also helps in the production of breast milk. Though there is no sufficient evidence to prove it, garlic milk is served as a popular traditional post-delivery drink.
- Cumin Seeds (Jeera): An integral part of many Indian dishes, cumin seeds helps to improve digestion. It also provides relief from constipation, acidity and bloating.
- Basil (Tulsi): While there is nothing to suggest that basil helps to increase breast milk, it does have a calming effect. It also helps in improved bowel movement and promotes a healthy appetite.
- Dill Seeds (Suwa): Rich in iron, magnesium, and calcium, dill has many benefits. It is believed to improve breast milk production, helps to relax and ease digestion. Being a mild diuretic, dill should be consumed in moderation.
- Sesame Seeds (Til): Included in the diet of many breastfeeding mothers, sesame seeds are a great non-dairy source of calcium. They are also an excellent source of copper and are packed with other micronutrients important for both mother and baby.
- Gourd Vegetables: It is generally believed that vegetables from the gourd family help to improve milk production. Apart from their high nutritional value, they are low in calories and easy to digest. Bottle gourd (lauki), apple gourd (tinda) and sponge gourd (tori) are some of the items you can include in your diet.
- Oats: Oats is a healthy and nutritious breakfast option for many nursing mothers. Packed with calcium, fiber, and iron, they help to improve lactation. They are also believed to ease anxiety and depression.
- Red Vegetables: Like green vegetables, red vegetables too should be included in your diet. Apart from improving lactation, these vegetables help to boost liver health. Being high in iron content, they prevent the mother from post-pregnancy anemia. Some of the red vegetables you can include in your diet are sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, and beetroots.
Which Foods Should Be Avoided During Breastfeeding?
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to eating during breastfeeding. A balanced diet with plenty of fluids, however, should be the aim during this period. Though certain food items do flavor breast milk, it may actually help your baby in accepting new tastes later when you introduce solid food.
Occasionally, however, babies may react to something that has found its way in your breast milk. The allergens present in the milk may cause symptoms such as gas or colic. Some of the foods that may affect breastfed babies are:
- Dairy Products: While dairy is an excellent source of calcium, babies could be intolerant to cow’s milk. If your baby shows symptoms like vomiting or colic after eating dairy products, you might need to stop eating them for a while. It is a good idea to remove it from your diet for two to four weeks, to see if it makes a difference. Consult a dietitian to seek help about which foods you should avoid and if you need any supplements to fill the deficiency.
- Citrus Fruits: Though a great source of vitamin C, citrus fruits are highly acidic in nature. The acidic components present in these fruits may result in diaper rash, fussiness, and spitting up among other things. If you plan on cutting down citrus fruits, replace them with other vitamin C-rich foods like papaya, pineapple, and strawberries.
- High Mercury Seafood: Fish, though an excellent source of omega-3 and protein, may contain high levels of mercury. With the rising levels in water bodies, most of the seafood we eat has a high level of mercury too. The mercury present is detrimental for your baby’s nervous system, as well as your health.
- Spicy Foods: Most hot or spicy food has no effect on breastfeeding mothers. While a tiny fraction of it does get into your breast milk, it won’t affect your baby. However, it is best to refrain from it if you notice your baby becoming irritable or upset after eating hot food.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is the elixir of life for many tired souls seeking some peace. However, the effect it has on your baby is the opposite of that. Unlike adults, babies bodies are not equipped to handle caffeine. Large amounts of caffeine will make your baby irritable or cause trouble in sleeping. In such a situation, try cutting back on your caffeine intake and see if it makes a difference. Apart from coffee, some of the other things which include caffeine are tea and chocolate. Some energy drinks and soft drinks to have it.
- Alcohol: Like during pregnancy, alcohol consumption should best be avoided during breastfeeding. Any alcohol you drink during this period passes straight through your breast milk to your baby. While an occasional drink won’t hurt you, moderate and heavy drinking is definitely not recommended. Alcohol affects both your baby’s development and your milk supply. If you want to have a drink, do so after breastfeeding your baby and preferably with a meal.
- Food Allergens: Babies often have allergic reactions to certain foods, especially if you have a family history. Foods such as soy, peanuts, eggs, dairy products and wheat may cause an allergic reaction in your baby. If you observe any allergic symptoms after feeding, your baby might be reacting to a certain food in your breast milk. Consult your doctor for advice and to know the cause of the allergy.
What Are The Things You Should Not Do During Breastfeeding?
Mothers always want the best for their little ones. Breastfeeding mothers are no different, with many looking at ways to make the experience smoother for themselves and their baby. However, in their zealousness, women often do things that could affect their lactation. Mentioned below are some of the things you should not do during breastfeeding.
- Consuming Over-The-Counter Medications: Most women suffer from low immunity during pregnancy and right after childbirth. Due to this many new mothers suffer from seasonal cold and flu. However, it is not advisable to take over-the-counter medications during breastfeeding. These medications are known to suppress the milk ducts, which could lead to less milk production. Seek a doctor’s advice before taking any medications for your ailments.
- Sticking To Feeding Schedules: Lactation experts believe that demand feeding is a great way of improving breastfeeding. It helps your breast to produce milk as soon as it empties. Most mothers, however, believe in feeding their babies every two to three hours throughout the day. This scheduling leads to a decline in your breast milk supply. Until and unless your breasts are emptied, your milk glands are not able to produce fresh milk. In the long run, it will make your milk glands secrete less milk, as the stored milk has not been used yet.
- Using A Pacifier: Having a feeding schedule makes many parents unable to understand the feeding cues of their baby. In order to stop their baby from crying, parents use a pacifier. Doing so could lead to nipple confusion, for baby suckles differently at the breast and the pacifier. Using the pacifier frequently could make the baby suckle less at the breast. This would lead to decreased milk production over time.
- Not Feeding At Night: Making your baby go to sleep, rather than feeding at night, could lead to decreased breast milk. Your breasts have a limit on how much milk it can store in-between tow feeds. Not feeding your baby for too long at night would affect your milk production. While it is important for your baby to get sufficient sleep, two to three feeds at night are essential. This will help your breasts to produce milk, as well as meet the nutritional requirements of your baby.
- Taking Too Much Stress: Postpartum depression can often make breastfeeding a challenging feat. The incessant stress and depression make your cortisol level go high. An increase in cortisol has a detrimental effect on your supply of your breast milk. To provide proper nutrition to your baby, it is best to keep calm and avoid stress.
- Ignoring Your Health: Post pregnancy, many women develop health conditions like diabetes and hypertension for instance. It is difficult to tackle these problems until and unless you seek medical help. Not paying attention to your health will have an adverse effect on your breast milk supply.
Motherhood is a beautiful moment in a mother’s life and breastfeeding is the epitome of it. It is the most intimate moment that a mother shares with her child. Breastfeeding is the best gift that a mother could give to her baby for better health and development. Your own health, thus, becomes of paramount importance.
What was your breastfeeding experience like? Do let us know along with your feedback in the comments section.