Breastfeeding Diet Myths. Tips on Healthy Eating for Nursing Mothers

breastfeeding diet

When it comes to a breastfeeding diet, many people associate it with strict rules, limitations and big problems for the baby if the mother eats “something wrong”. Everyone knows that there are a lot of nutrients in breast milk – proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals among them. It’s clear that all these nutrients are produced by the mother’s body. To make up for these losses, a nursing woman needs to properly form her breastfeeding diet. General recommendations and opinions are usually contradictory, so let’s make this issue clear together.

How Does Breastfeeding Diet Affect the Production of Milk?

Technically, lactation doesn’t depend on the mother’s diet. The process of milk production is regulated only by hormones (prolactin and oxytocin). Breastmilk itself is produced from elements of blood plasma. So nutrition affects lactation as it affects the composition of blood – very indirectly. It slightly changes the contents of certain elements. A woman is able to breastfeed even when her nutrition is very poor. The baby will not suffer from a lack of nutrients. The organism of a nursing mother is set up in such a way that everything healthy and necessary for the baby gets into the milk anyway. If someone suffers from a deficiency of the necessary substances, it is the mother herself. It turns out that breastfeeding mothers need to monitor nutrition in order to have enough resources for themselves. The baby will get necessary elements in any case.

What and How Should a Breastfeeding Mom Eat?

  • Daily caloric content should be increased by 500-600 kcal compared to the usual diet. If you do not go beyond these numbers, it will not affect your body in any way. The production of milk requires increased energy consumption, so additional calories are easily spent.
  • It is recommended to eat often and in small portions to provide the body with a constant supply of nutrients. There is no need for making a special eating schedule. It is enough to eat according to your appetite. It’s good to have some snacks around. At first, the child spends a lot of time near the breast, so you can feel hunger during or immediately after breastfeeding.

breastfeeding diet. mom with the baby

  • There is the classic food pyramid at the heart of breastfeeding diet. It must necessarily include cereals, meat, sometimes fish, vegetables, and fruit. Frankly speaking, the more varied the food is the better. There should not be strict bans on food but there are some products you need to be more cautious with.
  • A nursing woman should drink enough fluids. About 4 pints a day is usually enough but if you do not really want to drink – do not force yourself. It is important to find a middle ground, since it’s a question of a sufficient amount of liquid, and each woman has her own needs determined by her weight and body constitution.

It is believed that if the mother has no allergies, then the baby is unlikely to have them as well. Sometimes, quite unexpectedly, a reaction to seemingly harmless and common products appears: for example, to some varieties of fish or meat. Attention to the child’s reactions and timely exclusion of the undesirable product will help to avoid long-term problems. As a rule, breastfeeding moms gradually expand the diet and after 6 months eat whatever they want. The baby’s organism adapts to new substances and becomes able to digest them.

Myths About Breastfeeding Diet

There are many misconceptions about breastfeeding that confuse mothers. Where is the truth? And what is a lie?

  • Eating for two.

During pregnancy, the female body accumulates useful substances for the unborn child. Fat reserves are deposited in the area of ​​the hips, abdomen, and forearms. After giving birth, nursing women usually return to their normal weight either at the end of the first or during the second year of the baby’s life. Don’t bring yourself up to hunger and thirst. Keep in mind that it is not the quantity of food that matters but its quality. At the same time, if the food is diverse there will be enough nutritions for both the mother and the child. You don’t need to eat a lot to be able to breastfeed. You need to eat healthily.

  • The more the mother drinks the more milk will be produced.

a woman drinking water. breastfeeding diet

Wrong. Drink as much as you want. There will always be enough milk for the baby. Still, if a mother drinks some warm liquid 10-15 minutes before breastfeeding, then the level of oxytocin will rise which will cause a rush of milk. It doesn’t mean that there will be more milk – it will just be easier for the baby to suck milk on the inflow. By the way, tea with milk does not affect lactation anyhow, it’s a myth.

  • Nuts increase lactation and make milk fatter.

nuts in breastfeeding diet

In general, the composition of breast milk is virtually constant, regardless of the consumed food. It is impossible to increase the fat content of milk with food. The consumption of nuts doesn’t increase the fat content of milk but changes the composition of fats, making the milk more viscous and, therefore, hard for the baby to suck.

  • Onion, garlic, and spices make the milk unappetizing.

Here everything is not so simple. The taste of milk can vary but it doesn’t mean that the baby will refuse to take the breast. So, you absolutely do not need to give up spicy food. The existing studies of this issue have proved that children don’t refuse to take their mother’s breast.

A Short List of Approved Products for a Breastfeeding Diet

  • Vegetables. They should be cooked. At first, refrain from eating raw vegetables. You can bake or boil them. You can drink freshly squeezed vegetable juices when your baby is one month old. After three months you can add raw vegetables to your diet.
  • Fruit. Refrain from grapes, citrus, mango, papaya, avocado, strawberries, and raspberries. You can eat bananas safely. Freshly squeezed fruit juices can be drunk only one month after childbirth. After three months you can add one new fruit every two days. But be careful and don’t forget to watch the baby’s reaction.
  • You can eat almost all the porridges. They contribute to digestion. Besides, they are nourishing and contain many nutritious elements. Instant cereals are an exception.
  • Varied soups on vegetable broth.
  • It is better to eat meat separately from other products.
  • Cheese.
  • Poultry meat.
  • Sour milk products (cottage cheese, yogurt, etc.).
  • Fish. It is better to boil or bake fish, for example, with vegetables.
  • You can eat eggs but remember that this is an allergen.
  • Bread in small quantities.
  • Dried fruit, biscuits, buns in small quantities.
  • Butter and vegetable oil.
  • Dry crackers, biscuits, marmalade, pastille, marshmallow (without chocolate).
  • Green and black tea, weak coffee, fruit drinks, herbal teas with mint, still mineral water.
  • In a month, you can gradually add nuts, jams, and soups on meat broth to your breastfeeding diet. Everything should be in small amounts.
  • Six months after childbirth you can eat honey, various herbal spices, legumes, and seafood. You can also eat macaroni, cheese, and seasonal fruit and vegetables during this period.

Top 7 Tips on Breastfeeding Diet from Breastfeeding Consultants

  • Do not deny yourself everything. The nutrition of a woman in the first months of breastfeeding doesn’t differ that much from that of people who live a healthy lifestyle. Trust your intuition, listen to your child and your body. By doing this you will learn to determine what products are good for you and what products are better to be excluded.

breastfeeding diet

  • Try to eat only freshly prepared food. Completely eliminate all canned or semi-finished products.
  • Add to your diet more dairy products containing calcium.
  • Give up on fatty and fried foods.
  • When buying meat, give preference to low-fat varieties, such as veal, chicken breast, turkey, and rabbit.
  • When choosing fish, pay attention to its freshness.
  • It is allowed to include vegetables and fruit into your breastfeeding diet. But at first, try a bit, and if everything is alright, then you can safely eat any fruit or vegetable you want.

Diets and Breastfeeding

Many women manage to successfully lose weight in the course of breastfeeding. However, if you’ve decided to go on a diet it’s important to consider the following information.

a woman eating an apple. breastfeeding diet

  • Do not go on a diet earlier than 2 months after giving birth;
  • Lack of adequate nutrition can lead to an acute shortage of vitamins in your body. Such vitamins as A, D, B6, and B12 are very important as they are responsible for the mental and physical development of the baby;
  • The frequent side effect of a diet is a decline in strength. As a result, you cannot give the child as much attention and care as they need;
  • Weight loss should be gradual. 1 pound per week is a maximum. Otherwise, a lot of the toxins accumulated in your fat cells will get into your blood and, consequently, into the breast milk.

Healthy Eating Is Important for Everyone

As you can see, it turns out that the nutrition of a nursing mother is not associated with specific difficulties and is not something beyond the bounds. You can eat almost everything if you are careful.

a woman eating a salad. breastfeeding diet

There is an opinion that the more diverse the nutrition of the mother is the fewer problems with digestion and allergies the baby will have. The child sucking the mother’s milk gets acquainted with different products and their body gradually adapts to them. When we say “you can eat almost everything” we mean everything within the framework of a healthy diet. Fast food, alcohol, and a lot of sweets must be excluded from the breastfeeding diet. Generally speaking, the principles of healthy eating are good for anyone but they’re especially important for young mothers. After the birth of a child, the whole family often turns to the proper diet which is a huge benefit for everyone.

To track the reaction of your child on a certain product, you can start a food diary. Write down the food you eat during the day and your baby’s reactions to this food. By doing this, you will be able to know for sure what’s good for your baby and what should be excluded from your diet.

References
1. https://www.babycenter.com/diet-for-a-healthy-breastfeeding-mom

2. https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-diet.aspx

3. https://www.bellybelly.com.au/breastfeeding/10-facts-mothers-diet-and-breastfeeding/

4. http://eatrightmama.com/healthy-breastfeeding-diet/

5. http://healthyhappysmart.com/postpartum-diet-breastfeeding-diet/

6. http://www.totalhealthcaremd.com/the-perfect-breastfeeding-diet/

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