If you choose to breastfeed there are a few additional nutritional requirements which are beneficial to include in your diet; some are specific in their dosage and others are individual dependent. Trying to listen to your body before it becomes depleted or run down is helpful.
Calories, do I need more?More than likely, yes. Breastfeeding mothers generally need more calories to meet their nutritional needs while breastfeeding. An additional 300 to 400 calories per day is recommended for healthy breastfeeding mothers. This may vary depending on a women’s BMI, age, activity level and extent of milk production needed (feeding multiples, supplementing with formula).
Should I carry on taking my prenatal vitamin?The general consensus is yes. Pregnancy and birth takes a lot from the mother and can easily leave her depleted, before the breastfeeding journey has even begun. It is especially important for those following a vegetarian and vegan diet, as you may not get adequate nutrients through diet alone and may be at greater risk for nutritional deficiencies. If you’re unsure, ask your health care provider to determine appropriate dietary supplementation during lactation.
What else do I need to be aware of?
Hydration: Whist your body is working hard to produce milk on a continuous loop, you will easily become dehydrated. Drinking fluids often, before thirst strikes, is an ideal way to combat this. The general recommendations is between 8-12 glasses per day but you might very well find you need more than this.
Calcium: It is advised that breastfeeding mothers take an extra 550mg of calcium per day to avoid depletion of their own calcium stores. Including calcium rich foods which as dairy products, green leafy vegetables, calcium set tofu and fortified breads and cereals.
Zinc – Required for optimal immune and metabolic function, an extra 6mg per day is required if breastfeeding a baby < 4 months and an extra 2.5mg per day if baby is > 4 months. Food sources include shellfish, beef, lentils, chickpeas, cashews and almonds.
Omega 3: One of the most important nutrients for brain health and development is omega3. This can either be taken in a supplement form or can be found in oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon. Ideally consume 1-2 portions per week, both fresh and tinned.
Choline: An essential water-soluble nutrient that’s required for a variety of physical processes such as structural, metabolic, and regulatory functions. It’s main areas of importance include liver and muscle function, brain development, memory, mood, and cellular membrane composition and repair. The recommended intake levels for pregnant and lactating women is 425 mg per day. Alongside a supplement, great food based sources of Choline include eggs, salmon, chicken liver, milk and almonds.
A note on caffeine:
It is well researched that caffeine can pass from the mother to infant in small amounts through breast milk, but usually does not adversely affect the infant when the mother consumes low to moderate amounts. Aim to stick to 200-300mg of caffeine per day, which equates to about 2-3 cups of coffee. It is important to take note that caffeine isn’t just found in coffee; chocolate, fizzy drinks and some teas all contain caffeine too.
If a baby appears to be irritable or fussy after you consume caffeine, consider decreasing your intake.
Grace Alexandra Jupp