How to eat well and the foods to include, for a nutrient-rich diet that supports both mum and bub.
Whether or not to breastfeed is among the many big decisions you’ll be facing when your new baby arrives.
The World Health Organization and Australian guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants to six months of age when solid foods are introduced.
It’s recommended that complementary foods and breastfeeding is continued until the age of 1 to years and beyond, if both mum and bub wish.
If breastfeeding is right for you and your child, eating a healthy diet is a vital step for both of you.
The foods you consume while nursing cross from the blood vessels that supply the mammary glands into the breast milk, so it stands to reason that your diet plays a primary role in getting your baby off to the right start.
“When you’re breastfeeding, you are responsible for both your own nourishment and that of your baby,” says dietitian Louise Perkins from Sydney’s Gilbert Collins Medical Practice.
“The macro-nutrients that give you energy – carbohydrates, proteins and fats – are crucial in terms of making sure you have enough calories and nutrients to make the volume of milk your baby needs and to protect your own health as well.”
It’s important not to try to lose weight while you’re breastfeeding, as dieting and restricting foods may result in insufficient energy and nutrients for your baby’s development.
In fact, it’s thought that exposing your baby to a spectrum of flavours (including spicy foods) can lead a higher tolerance to new foods and tastes later on.
One of the best way to maintain optimum health for both yourself and your baby is to eat regularly and include a wide variety of fresh, whole foods – it’s really that simple.
Here’s what you need.
Eat your protein
Your body uses protein to produce breast milk and promote your baby’s growth and development.
The best sources are animal protein from lean meats and poultry; eggs; cheese and yoghurt; nuts and seeds; and legumes, such as lentils, beans and peanuts.
Boost your calcium
You need calcium-rich foods to protect your own bone health – up to 210 mg of calcium per day is secreted in milk while breastfeeding – as well as help build up your baby’s.
Dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese and ice cream) are an ideal source of calcium. However, if you or your baby can’t tolerate dairy, or if you’re vegan, other good sources include fortified soy or nut milks; almonds and Brazil nuts; and dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli, bok choy and swiss chard.
Tuck into healthy fats
Monounsaturated fats from extra virgin olive oil, avocados, poultry, and nuts and seeds will help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K , and provide your baby with these essential developmental vitamins.
Omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), walnuts and flaxseeds have been linked with boosting baby’s brain development , eyesight and nervous system.
Get an adequate intake of iron
Your iron stores may be depleted after pregnancy, so build them up with iron-rich foods, such as lean red meat, chicken and fish; legumes; wholegrain foods (such as multigrain breads and cereals, brown rice, oats and quinoa); and green, leafy vegetables.
Get into fresh fruit and vegetables
Eating the rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables, from bright yellow all the way to purple, will cover your vitamin A and vitamin C needs (especially important for vegetarians, who need vitamin C to help unlock the iron from a plant-based diet) and folate.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend five servings of vegetables and legumes and two servings of fruit every day while you’re breastfeeding .
Drink plenty of H20
You need to be hydrated to make sufficient milk, but it’s best not to turn to sugary soft drinks or juices.
An easy way to ensure sufficient hydration is to drink a glass of water each time you breastfeed.