Contributed by: Healthians Team
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated annually across the world from 1 to 7th August. The goal of this global campaign is to spread awareness about the importance and benefits of breastfeeding.
Eating a healthy diet and being physically active can greatly support a new mother’s physiological and psychological health.
This is particularly important during the first year after childbirth because nutritional needs are increased in response to breast milk production.
What you eat during the phase of lactation determines the energy, protein, nutrient and vitamin content of your breast milk.
Your body needs enough nutrients every day to build the baby’s immune system, provide critical nutrients and promote development.
Several studies have indicated that a healthy diet can assist in postpartum weight loss as well as prevent micronutrient deficiencies linked to postpartum depression.
If these nutritional demands are not met, it can have a negative impact on both you and your baby.
It is therefore important to consume balanced meals that have a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products.
What to eat?
- Include protein-rich foods 2 to 3 times per day such as poultry, fish, meat, cheese, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Eat leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, cabbage, and collard greens as these are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- Increase your intake of fruit like papaya, banana, avocado, chikoo, apricots, etc.
- Any form of whole grain—including whole wheat bread, pasta, cereal, oats, brown rice, barley, corn, quinoa, rye, buckwheat, and millet—will confer benefits for lactating mothers.
- Nursing mothers need to drink water frequently to compensate for the extra water that is used to make milk. Being hydrated keeps you and the baby hydrated, and also prevents constipation, which can come from food, beverages and drinking water. It is recommended that you should drink a glass of water or other beverage like fresh fruit juices, tender coconut, lassi, lime juice etc. every time you breastfeed.
- Increase your energy intake by an additional 500 kcal for the first six months, and 400 kcal during the next six months.
- Breastfeeding and vegetarian diets are suitable. Make careful to consume alternate sources of iron and zinc, such as dried beans, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and dairy, if you avoid eating meat. To ensure that your baby does not have a B12 deficit if you follow a vegan diet, you will need to take a B12 supplement.
- Focus on increasing your intake of nutrients such as vitamins C, A, thiamine, riboflavin, B6, B12, iodine, and selenium. New-borns rely on breast milk to get an adequate supply of these vital nutrients
- Ensure you’re getting enough calcium, as this is depleted when breastfeeding. Aim for 500 ml of milk or milk products like milk, cheese and yoghurt per day in addition to eating calcium-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables and tofu.
- Eat a variety of foods while breastfeeding to expose your baby to different tastes.
Things to avoid during breastfeeding
- Avoid soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks and energy drinks
- Be careful with spicy foods
- Minimize intake of caffeine
- Avoid consumption of alcohol
- Refrain from smoking
- Talk to your doctor before you start using prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and dietary or herbal supplements.
Lifestyle changes while breastfeeding
- Maintain an active lifestyle to stay healthy, feel better, and have more energy
- Try to get adequate sleep whenever possible
- Resist the temptation to lose weight through a restrictive diet or medication.
- Practice techniques for relaxation, and inner peace like meditation, yoga etc. as it can help to balance hormones which have a positive effect on lactation.
Motherhood is one of a woman’s most lovely experiences in life, yet it can also be very challenging. When a mother is trying to learn to breastfeed and care for her infant, she can experience self-doubt and confusion during the period.
Therefore, at this time, a balanced diet, combined with moderate physical activity and relaxation techniques can help the mother adjust to her new role.
Moreover, you should also frequently opt for health screening. It provides you with vital insights into your health, allowing you to take necessary measures to improve it.