The wait is over and you finally have your tiny baby in your arms. If you’re lucky enough to be able to breastfeed and have made the decision to do so, the process would have started just after birth when your baby had her first taste of colostrum, the specialised breast fluid that is nutritionally designed for those first few days of life.
Your diet and breastfeeding
- Contrary to popular belief, your diet will have little effect on the immunological and nutritional content of your milk.
A poor diet is more likely to affect you than your baby, so it’s important that you eat well to assist in your recovery from the birth and general wellbeing.
- While your diet won’t affect the overall composition of your breast milk, it can however affect the concentration of vitamins and minerals your baby gets. For example, vegan or vegetarian mothers can be deficient in vitamin B12.
- Vegetarians should be sure to include sources of this vitamin in their diet, including dairy products and eggs, while vegans may need to add a B12 supplement to their regime and have their levels monitored throughout pregnancy.
- Another area of concern for breastfeeding moms is vitamin D − especially as most infants are kept out of the sun. This vitamin is found in eggs, certain margarines and fatty fish as well as supplements. Babies born in winter are especially susceptible to poor vitamin D status.
- Although breast milk is naturally rich in the omega 3 fatty acid DHA, women are often advised to keep up their omega 3 intake as it plays an important role in brain development. Sources of omega 3 include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines as well as walnuts, flax and chia seeds.
- Both pregnancy and breastfeeding take their toll on your bone calcium levels. Eat some dairy products, nuts, seeds, tinned fish with bones and green vegetables daily as sources of calcium.
- Your baby’s growth and at least three bowel movements a day, will help you to know whether she is getting enough breast milk. This growth will be monitored during your clinic visits.
While milk quality may not be a huge concern, your own health certainly is. Breastfeeding is a metabolic process that burns calories, so you will need to replace these through your diet in order to maintain your energy. This is also a good opportunity to hold back if you want to lose some weight.
Most women will consume around three litres of fluid per day during feeding. Water is the best source, but some teas and juices can also be included. It’s best to avoid coffee and soft drinks as caffeine can be passed through to your breastmilk and cause possible agitation in your baby. Alcohol is also strongly discouraged during breastfeeding, but if you do drink, it’s best to pump and discard your milk before feeding your baby.
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