We hear a lot about what baby should eat when they’re born- typically formula or breastmilk but we aren’t always aware of what we should be eating as breastfeeding mothers and why?
Why does what you eat matter when you’re breastfeeding?
I understand sometimes eating can be the last thing on your mind when you are looking after and nursing your baby. But a healthy diet will determine your energy levels which is imperative whilst looking after your baby.
Breastfeeding is a lot more energy consuming than it looks, especially for the mum. Typically, a day breastfeeding will burn 500 calories. Now 500 calories is the equivalent to tidying the house for two hours or a Zumba session for an hour, so pretty tiring activity! When you put it like that, it becomes easy to see how important it is to make sure you are keeping up with nutritional intake so that your body can both recover from delivery and also keep up with the demands of your active, growing baby.
Is there anything I shouldn’t be eating?
Some mums try to restrict their diet to respond to their babies reactions. Often mums with babies with colic, believe that it may be something that they are eating that is passing into baby’s system and causing a reaction. The evidence however is limited, so there isn’t a general rule on foods that should be restricted. It is done more on an individual and personal basis but its best to discuss with your health visitor or GP.
There's no clear evidence that eating peanuts while breastfeeding causes your baby to develop peanut allergy, so you can continue to eat peanuts as part of a balanced healthy diet.
Fish is important and healthy for both you and baby but you should have no more than 2 portions (140g) of oily fish a week and no more than no more than 1 portion a week of shark, swordfish or marlin.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can make your baby restless so it best to limit this whilst you are breastfeeding and drink more decaffeinated drinks.
What are you advised to eat when breastfeeding?
For the most part, you shouldn’t need to change or restrict your diet- GPs and nurses just recommend well-balanced nutritional meals, so not too much of any one thing but lots of different food groups, colours and tastes.
Your diet should include:
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Proteins in form of lean meat, chicken, pulses, fish and egg
- Carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and potatoes
- Dairy products like yoghurt, a glass of milk or cheese
- Increased fibre intake, with a variety of vegetables, oats and probiotics to reduce your chances of constipation (which is more likely after pregnancy).
- Remember to always have a glass or bottle of water next to you when you are nursing because breastfeeding can make you feel parched.
A note on dairy products: Be on the lookout if your baby is allergic to cow's milk, as traces of what you eat can be found in breastmilk.
Make sure you speak to other mums who have done it. Join groups like the Kara Bloom Breastfeeding group on Facebook and ask for advice for a private group of experienced mums!
Remember your journey is unique but you are not the first to have walked it.