Breast milk is undeniably the best food for new-borns. But what about your diet when you are breastfeeding? It is important for nursing mothers to adapt to a healthy and balanced diet during breastfeeding to ensure optimal nutritional status in the mother. Nidhi Dhawan, Dietitian at Saroj Multispecialty Clinic, Delhi shares with us diet tips for breastfeeding mothers to promote better growth of your baby and for your overall wellbeing.
During the lactation period, women need approximately 500 kcal per day in addition to the regular intake. The need may vary as time passes and can increase after the initial period of 6 months. A low calorie (below 1500 kcal/day) intake can lead to significant maternal deficiencies and associated health problems.
How does diet benefit during breastfeeding?
A good diet has many health benefits during breastfeeding. Post childbirth, women need to up their nutrient intake for the better growth and development of their new-borns. Eating the right foods can help to meet the nutritional needs of the mother. It can also enhance the process of healing and rebuilding of the muscles and tissues post childbirth. Adding herbs and spices can help lactating mothers to boost the quality and quantity of breast milk too. It is also known to awaken the sense of taste in your baby, thanks to the varied diet.
Diet tips for breastfeeding mothers
There is no special diet during breastfeeding, but what you eat must be nutritionally balanced.
- Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as oats, brown rice as well as cereals and breads called “complete” or “whole”.
- Foods with a high starch content such as potatoes, pasta and semolina provide the required energy to the nursing mother.
- You also need the lean protein found in chicken, eggs, legumes, lentils, and fish, as well as healthy fats in olive oil, fruits and vegetables, avocados and oily fish such as salmon or mackerel.
- Oily fish is not just beneficial to your health but also helps in the baby’s development. However, do not consume more two servings of oily fish (or more than one serving of swordfish, shark or marlin) per week. A few of these fish are also known to contain pollutants and hence may be toxic if eaten in higher portions.
- Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, both for you and your baby, and exposure to the sun provides us with the most. If you live in a place with low exposure to the sun, especially in winter, it is possible that your vitamin D intake is not enough, so it is recommended to take supplements.
- Increase your calcium intake because breastfeeding reduces it. It is recommended to take four servings of calcium rich products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts, tofu, sesame seeds, and leafy greens daily.
- Porridge is perfect in the morning because oats and soluble fiber slowly release energy, and if you have been breastfeeding during the night, you need to recharge your batteries.
- Breastfeeding leads to dehydration. Normally, we have to drink six to eight glasses of liquid a day. You will need more when you are breastfeeding. Drink a glass of water, milk or fruit juice without added sugar each time you breastfeed.
- Vegetarian and vegan breastfeeding mothers should be sure to receive a significant amount of vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and omega 3 fatty acids. For this, you might have to add similar foods to your diet or take dietary supplements after consultation with your doctor.
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