Being a new mum can be exhausting and breastfeeding uses a lot of fat that the body stores during pregnancy. Not surprising then, that women will typically lose 0.5kg (1lb) a month while they are breastfeeding. This helps them return to their pre-pregnancy weight. Severe dieting at this time is not a good idea.
It is important for breastfeeding mothers to make healthy food choices in order to maintain energy levels and keep to a healthy weight. Many of the elements of a mother’s diet will pass to their baby through breast milk so eating healthy food is important. Variety of choice helps to do this and mothers should consider the following:
· Protein-rich foods like lean meat, chicken, fish, well-cooked eggs and pulses
· Five portions of fruit and vegetables each day – these can be fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced
· Pasta, bread, rice and potatoes – starchy food provides energy
· Wholegrain bread and cereal, pulses (like beans and lentils) – all containing plenty of fibre to help deal with constipation problems after childbirth.
· Fish (only two portions of oily fish per week)
· Calcium-rich dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt
· Other vitamins and minerals should be provided from a balanced diet but mothers should take 10 mg of vitamin D supplement daily
Breastfeeding mothers need to replace the fluids their baby is taking. Water, milk or unsweetened fruit juice are good choices but drinks containing caffeine should be avoided as small amounts can pass to baby in breast milk.
Alcohol should be avoided for the same reasons. Breastfeeding women who do drink should limit their intake to 1-2 units no more than once or twice a week. Women who regularly do drink more than this may find that baby dislikes the taste of the breast milk, is made sleepy by the alcohol or develops difficulties with digestion.
Babies can become irritable or in some cases constipated if their breastfeeding mothers drink large amounts of strong coffee, tea or cola. The amount of caffeine passed on through breast milk varies from mother to mother.
Food to be careful of
Eating lots of fish is usually regarded as healthy but breastfeeding women should avoid eating more than one portion per week of fish that have high levels of mercury in them. These include shark, swordfish and marlin
Breastfeeding mothers should also limit their consumption of oily fish (trout, salmon, sardines, mackerel and fresh, not canned, tuna) to only two portions a week.
New mothers are busy mothers and they sometimes just don’t find time for themselves – including what and when they eat. They should try to eat as regularly as possible so it becomes a routine they don’t need to think about. It also helps to eat smaller meals but more often and to keep meals simple so preparing them takes less time.
Lastly – mothers, particularly new ones, shouldn’t take chances. If they think the food they are eating is affecting their baby, they should consult a healthcare professional immediately.