It is well known that breastfeeding is crucial for baby’s well being and growth. Breast milk is the best food for your baby – full of vitamins and nutrients, packed with all vital essential nutrients and also packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness. Breastfeeding protection against illness lasts beyond the breastfeeding period – breastfed children have stronger immune system and they also have reduced incidences of certain childhood cancers, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies and they are less likely to have high blood pressure by the time they’re teenagers. For keeping baby healthy and happy, every lactating woman should know breastfeeding diet.
Breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day which means you will get to eat an extra 500 calories a day for keeping your standard weight. Your body may have laid down fat stores during pregnancy, and breastfeeding can help to use up these fat stores.
Breastfeeding diet – Ideal diet for a breastfeeding woman
Actually there is no ideal diet for a breastfeeding woman – the best is the healthiest diet (varied, balanced and natural) for all human beings. The concept of the “ideal diet for a breastfeeding woman” can vary from different families, cultures, economic situations and religions. In each case food habits are very important – they should be adapted to sufficient quantity of the right kinds of food which is necessary for babies grow and health.
Healthy lifestyle and a balanced nutritional diet are very important for you and for your baby. Actually you don’t need to eat any special or different foods while you’re breastfeeding but you should try to follow healthy and balanced diet which includes important components for your baby.
Breastfeeding diet – breastfeeding best foods
Omega 3 rich foods
Baby’s brain growth needs omega 3 rich foods (oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, pilchards or fresh tuna). It is recommended to have at least 2 portions per week.
Leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, chicory, etc.) are full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and iron – important components for baby’s growth. These low calorie vegetables are also an excellent source of calcium and healthy antioxidants, important for both you and your baby.
For ages garlic was used by breastfeeding mothers – it is believed that garlic increases milk production. Garlic is well known source of anti-microbial and antioxidant properties – it helps to strengthen immune system, battle infections and improve milk supply in your body.
Carrots are enriched with carbohydrates, beta carotene and potassium which are supporting boost energy and stamina in lactating women. Carrot’s antioxidants also help to shed off the rigid baby weight.
It is recommended to eat raw vegetables for maximum benefits but cooked vegetables are also very useful.
Always try 1) to choose bright colored fruits; 2) raw fruits and 3) seasonal fruits as they offer plenty of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes) are full of vitamin C which strengthens the immune system and helps in wound healing.
Apple and banana help to increase the energy level in the body and help remain healthy.
Berries are very important source of antioxidants and vitamins – protecting from several diseases and infections.
Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, kidney beans, alfalfa and black beans) are also recommended during breastfeeding – especially dark colored beans such as kidney beans which are high in iron and protein. It is recommended to have legumes twice a week.
Whole grains (brown rice, wheat, corn, barley, millet, granary bread and oats) provide key nutrients including B vitamins, proteins, fiber, iron and some other minerals – they keep energy levels maintained throughout the day, promote healthy digestive system and support grow and development of baby.
Proteins are also important component during breastfeeding – animal proteins (dairy products, eggs, meat and fish) and plant proteins (lentils, beans, soybeans). Proteins are crucial for baby grow, development and strengthening of baby’s bones and muscles.
Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.) are rich source of calcium and vitamins B and D. Calcium is required for your baby’s bone structure development and equally essential for the mothers well being. In cases of lactose intolerance, mothers can use soy milk.
For normal lactation women need to be well hydrated by drinking juices, water, soups or milk. During breastfeeding body releases the hormone oxytocin which makes feeling thirsty. Lactating women only need to drink enough to satisfy their thirst. Female body is very good at regulating its reserves to keep your milk supply going.
Women easily can check if they are drinking enough by checking the color of urine. Pale-colored urine means getting plenty to drink; dark yellow or strongly smelling urine in healthy women could mean dehydration.
It is recommended to avoid lots of caffeinated drinks during breastfeeding – not more that 200mg of caffeine per day.
Breastfeeding women should avoid alcohol but sometimes the occasional limited drink is unlikely to harm you or your baby. It is safe to have not more than 1-2 units of alcohol once or twice a week.
1 unit is 10 ml of pure alcohol
1 small glass of wine (125ml) is 2 units
1 small bottle of alcopop/soda pop (250-300ml) is 2 units
In general, the amount of alcohol in your blood usually peaks after 30-90 minutes after you had the drink. So, if you are planning party with alcoholic drink, it would be recommended to feed your baby before having the drink and after 2-3 hours (time for next breastfeeding) the level of alcohol in your blood would be low enough not to affect your baby.
Breastfeeding diet – what to avoid
- High fat foods (fast food, rich desserts, chips);
- Sugary foods (not fresh juices, soft drinks, cakes, sweet biscuits);
- High doses of caffeine;
- Strong spices.
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