Nutrition During Breast Feeding



1.  Why is it important to maintain good and balanced nutrition while breast feeding?

This is to ensure that you are able to provide adequate nutrition for your baby. Breast feeding increases your body requirements for most nutrients. These requirements depend on the volume and the composition of the milk produced. It also depends on the mother’s initial nutrient needs and status.
Your breast milk quality and quantity could be affected by prolonged unhealthy diet. However, your baby’s breast milk supply would not be harmed by the occasional lapse of unbalanced diet as your body will naturally draw from its reserves to provide for your baby. Therefore, you need to maintain a good and balanced nutrition while breast feeding as in the long run your own body reserves will be depleted affecting your overall health.
In addition, breast feeding improves the overall immune system of your baby naturally. The colostrum or also known as foremilk is a special substance excreted by the breasts in the last few days of pregnancy and the first few days after delivery. It is rich with antibodies which helps your baby fights of diseases. Hence your baby will have less diarrhoea, respiratory illnesses and allergic reactions. Furthermore, the colostrums contains ‘transfer factors’ which are tiny messenger molecules which transfers the mother’s immunity information to her baby which helps the baby develop the right antibodies to fight off specific diseases. Hence, you need to maintain a good nutrition to be able have a strong immune system and transfer all those good antibodies and transfer factors to your baby.
2.      What are the foods that I should avoid during breast feeding?
a)    Caffeine
b)    Alcohol
c)     Certain medications. Ask your doctor which medications are not suitable during breast feeding. However, if you have certain medical conditions such as epilepsy or diabetes, talk to your doctor about it first. Do not stop your medications by yourself as your own health far outweighs the risk of taking the medication.
d)    Some women notice that their baby becomes colicky after they have taken certain foods such as cauliflower, broccoli, garlic and dairy products. Obviously, this does not apply to every baby. Keep a food diary of the things that you eat and see whether your baby does indeed have more colicky symptoms with certain foods.
e)     Some traditional and herbal supplements may cross the breast milk that can potentially harm your baby.
3.      What food should I eat while breast feeding?
The nutritional demands imposed by the breastfeeding depend on the total amount of nutrients transferred from the mother to the baby
There are 2 major factors determining the adequacy of breast milk
(a)   Quantity (The Volume)
(b)   Quality ( The Composition)
a)      The quantity (volume) of breast milk produced can be influenced by the i) mother’s factors such as age, stress and nutritional status ii)baby’s factors such as birth weight, sucking strength and frequency of sucking or gestational age of delivery. Therefore it is important that you have enough rest and nutrition while breast breast feeding to ensure good quantity of milk production.
b)      The quality/ the composition of the milk produced vary from one person to another. The diet of the mother has direct impact on the composition of breast milk. Therefore, it is important that you maintain a balanced and nutritious diet such as listed below:
Protein is an important building block for the infant. A balanced diet provides adequate amount of protein which is essential for you to produce adequate amount of protein (amino acid) in your breast milk. Therefore it is important to take meat, eggs, milk, soy to ensure good supply of protein your diet.
Fat is a major source of energy for the body and is important for your baby. 50-60% of energy is generated from fat. Essential fatty acids such as LA, ALA and their derivatives AA and DHA are important for brain and nerve development. Your diet is most important in providing your baby’s adequate energy. Fatty acids are the only major components of human milk that can be changed significantly by maternal diet. Eat more fish as it is a source of EPA and DHA that plays an important role in your baby’s brain and retina development.
Carbohydrate is another important source of energy particularly for the brain as it depends solely on carbohydrate to provide energy. Eat complex carbohydrate such as vegetables, fruits and whole grain food. This could provide longer lasting energy.
iv)Prebiotics & Probiotics
Prebiotics are food for good bacteria which also increases calcium solubility to help your body to easily absorb it. Probiotics are good and friendly bacterias that prevents the bad bacterias from growing in your gut. Some studies have shown that prebiotics and probiotics help relieves constipation and prevent allergic reactions in the newborn.
v)Vitamin, minerals and trace elements:
The concentration of several vitamins, minerals and trace-elements (micro-nutrients) in human milk is influenced by maternal diet and micronutrient status. Vitamins A, B6, D, folic acid, calcium, magnesium and zinc are some of the important elements which are important for the development and immunity of your growing baby.
4.      What are the tips to promote good quantity of milk?
  • Ensure you drink enough fluid of at least 6 – 8 glasses / day. This will replenish loss fluid, prevents dehydration and promote further production of milk.
  • Eat adequate balanced healthy diet and have a lot of rest will also promote milk production.
  • Feed your baby regularly and on demand. When your baby suckles on your breast will stimulate production of hormones to further promote production of milk.
  • Increase frequency of breast feeding. Another useful tip is by using the breast pump in between breast feeding to stimulate further production of breast milk.
  • Massage the breast. This stimulation on the breasts will make the body think that your baby is feeding and hence produce more milk. You could massage your breasts in the shower which will be quite relaxing. 
5.      How much fluid should I drink while breast feeding?
Women who are breast feeding tend to get thirsty easily. One easy tip is to drink a glass of water everytime you breast feed. In addition, you could monitor your urine colour. If it is light-coloured, that means your fluid intake is adequate.
6.      Could I diet while breast feeding?
Dieting and losing a large amount of weight during breast feeding is not advisable as this could affect your own health and breast milk. Gradual lost of weight is a much healthier option. You could aim to lose about half to one pound per week. Some women notice that they shed their weight easier with breast feeding.
7.      Should I take nutritional supplements while breast feeding?
It is important to maintain a healthy balanced diet while breast feeding. However, it may be a good idea to top it up with nutritional supplements. You could continue taking your prenatal nutritional supplements or even buy nutritional supplement specific for lactating mothers. Even though you may have occasional lapses in your diet, your breast milk will be sufficient to meet your baby’s nutritional needs. However, prolonged maternal nutritional deficiency will deprived your body of its own energy leading to lack of energy and overall deterioration of health. Consider looking for supplements containing the following:
b)Vitamin D
c)Folic acid
d)DHA, AA & SA
f)Vitamin B12
g)Prebiotics and probiotics
8.      Five tips to maintaining good nutrition while breast feeding:
a)      Keep up your fluid intake. Drink at least 6-8 glasses per day. This will help with your breast milk     production and prevent you from dehydration.
b)      Avoid smoking cigarette
c)      Keep an eye on the medications that you are taking. Talk to your doctor regarding your medication and whether it is suitable during breast feeding. Do not stop your medication yourself without consulting your doctor.
d)      Limit your caffeine intake to 2 cups per day.
e)     Consider taking some multivitamins or supplements containing pre and prebiotics to strengthen both yours and your baby’s immune system.

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