Breastfeeding is a natural act of nourishing your baby with nutrients that help promote his/her growth and development. While all mothers wish to give the best of everything to their babies, many are confused about the dos and don’ts of the postpartum journey. So, if you are a breastfeeding mother and are concerned about providing your baby with some wholesome nutrition then keep in mind to eat smart and in the right proportions. Doing so remains key to successful breastfeeding as milk production puts your body under additional stress. Nutritional requirements for a breastfeeding mother are somehow similar to the needs of a pregnant woman, and hence, women are recommended to continue to follow a similar diet.
However, a breastfeeding mother requires two hundred extra calories per day than the recommended calorie intake for pregnant mothers. It’s necessary to take calories that come from nutritious foods rather than just consuming empty calories from sugary foods. In case consuming extra calories is your biggest concern then keep your worries aside. Breastfeeding mothers usually shed around one to four kilos every month even on a high-calorie diet. Firstly, you have to understand the basics of breastfeeding nutrition. So, let’s focus on some of the most important nutrients for breastfeeding
Protein: Protein is amongst the essential nutrients for growth, maintenance and repair of cells. Newborn babies require a lot of protein which is present in ample amounts in breastmilk. Therefore, you need to add extra protein to your diet to meet the daily protein requirement, both for yourself and your baby. The average protein required for breastfeeding is 75 grams of protein a day for the first six months and 68 grams of protein per day in the next six to twelve months. Some excellent sources of proteins include eggs, dairy, meat, beans, soy products, pulses, and nuts.
Energy: Breastfeeding mothers have to include additional calories for increased milk production. The minimum intake of calories recommended per day for a non-pregnant or non-breastfeeding mother is 2,000 while an extra 500 calories are suggested to a pregnant or breastfeeding mother. A few nutritious sources of energy giving foods are whole grains, oatmeal, potato, rice barley, ragi, and fruits.
Fat: Fats are the primary source of calorie intake while breastfeeding. Sources of healthy fats include fatty fish like salmon, olive oil, canola oil, avocados as well as nuts and seeds. But, do restrict the intake of saturated and trans fats as both are considered unhealthy. Saturated fats are found in whole milk, tropical oils such as palm and kernel, butter, lard and high-fat meats. Whereas, trans fats show up in partially hydrogenated oils like vegetable oil.
Vitamins and minerals: You need more vitamins and minerals especially calcium and iron including Vitamin A, B6, B12 and folic acid. Though you don’t have to add more than the recommended amount by your nutritionist yet, at the same time you have to pay extra attention to the diet. It should incorporate all these vital vitamins and minerals for a healthy breastfeeding journey for you both. The list of vitamins and mineral-rich food includes but is not limited to – spinach, carrots, chickpea, salmon, tuna, kiwi, brussels sprouts, broccoli, plain yogurt, almonds, lentils, beans, dark and green leafy.
Include galactagogues: Don’t forget to add foods enriched with galactagogues that help to increase the breast milk production to feed a baby naturally. Traditionally, new mothers are suggested to include foods that are naturally laden with nutrients that aid in optimal milk secretion. Generally, your regular diet may not boost the milk production, and your baby may not be getting enough of breast-milk, essential in the initial years of growth. Sesame seeds, almonds, fennel, fenugreek, ghee, chickpeas, garlic, and ginger are the foods popularly given to new mothers. These can be easily integrated into your diet for naturally enhanced milk secretion.
Mothers who are breastfeeding should necessarily eat a well-balanced diet and ample amount of fluids, especially water. So, make some smart choices regarding your nutrition and cherish this delightful motherhood experience while watching your tiny tot grow up.
The writer is the founder and chief dietician, Nmami Life