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Useful Guide to Healthy Breastfeeding Diet

Breastfeeding a baby is one of the best gifts a mother can give her newborn, especially as they are so little and defenseless.

When a baby is in the womb, she gets shielded and cared for as much as possible by her mom; she's provided food, air, and protected from every form of harmful pathogens by the mother's immune system.

When the baby gets born, she comes out with an immune system that is not quite fully formed and therefore, is unable to effectively fight off diseases.

It takes months before her immune system is developed enough to effectively and successfully carry out this function.

Before then, measures have to be taken to keep her as safe as possible and this is why mothers are advised to keep their babies away from strangers as much as possible and maintain the highest form of hygiene.

It is also recommended that a woman breastfeeds her newborn, especially within the first few days of her life as the breast produces the richest form of milk: colostrum.

This milk is slightly yellowish and your body begins producing it during the last days or weeks of your pregnancy. It is low in volume but comes packed with rich nutrients and vitamins and is exactly what your newborn's defenseless body needs.

This milk transfers some of the mother’s immunoglobin (cytokines, antimicrobials, oligosaccharides and lipidic) to the child, thereby balancing and fortifying her immune system.

Colostrum brings in around eight growth compounds needed for the normal functioning of a newborn's immune system.

It also rids the baby's digestive system of meconium (which is the first stool babies pass out upon birth) as well as promotes healthy nutrient absorption and breakdown. It flows for a few days and is then replaced by regular breastmilk which is just as rich in nutrients and vitamins.

Breastmilk is the best nutrition for your baby; it is easily digested by your baby's tender digestive system and is made up of both foremilk and hindmilk which perform slightly different functions. The foremilk is the milk released at the beginning of a feed.

It is thinner, low in fat, high in carbohydrate, protein and vitamins and is quenches the baby's thirst. It also contains a high lactose content that aids your baby's brain growth and development.

The hindmilk comes later as your baby continues to feed. It is creamier and has a much higher fat content.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding a baby exclusively for six months. You should also continue breastfeeding (mixed) for a year or two of your child's life as any kind of breastfeeding offers immense benefits to the child's growth and development.

More and more women are choosing to breastfeed their newborn as the awareness of the immense benefits of breastmilk and breastfeeding keeps growing. In addition, you can check out this guide to find out the top breastmilk storage bags incase you want to store them.

  • In Norway, 99% of mothers breastfeed their newborns, some well beyond six months.
  • In Rwanda, 90% of mothers breastfeed. This figure is placed at 76% for Sri Lanka mothers, and 74% for mothers for Cambodians.
  • 73% of UK and 70% of US mothers also breastfeed their little ones.

Some Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your baby will bring the following benefits to your little one:

  • It offers protection against infections and diseases.
  • It increases your baby’s chance of survival as well as promotes optimal growth.

Diet for a Healthy Breastfeeding Mom

Breastmilk production answers to the law of demand and supply; which means production is based on your baby’s demands (needs). Breastmilk gets produced from what’s already in your body; your body makes use of the fluid and nutrient in your body to produce this milk.

Not taking in adequate food and fluid will affect the quantity and quality of milk you produce and if this goes on for long, your breastmilk starts to dry up.

A breastfeeding mother is expected to eat right and well and although the amount of calories you take in is important, you are not required to exceed the recommended 2,500 calories of food.

A part of your daily caloric need should include foods famous for boosting breastmilk production, especially if you have a low milk supply. You can choose to eat three or four large meals or break your meals and take six smaller meals every 2-3 hours or as often as you feel hungry.

These foods needed for boosting your breast milk supply are referred to as lactogenic foods, and when taken in the right amount, will stimulate your system to produce more breastmilk.

15 Lactation Promoting Foods for Breastfeeding Moms

1. Water

Dehydration slows down breast milk production, which is why nursing mothers are advised to take in lots of fluid, especially water.

It is recommended that you take half your body weight in water to meet your hydration needs; so if you weigh 10lbs, you should take 70 oz of water daily.

One way to be sure you are taking in enough water is to watch out for dehydration cues, which could come in any of the following forms: headaches, dizziness, a dry mouth and tongue, less frequent urination, dark-coloured urine, or fatigue.

To be sure you are getting the right quantity of water, nursing mothers are advised to drink a glass of water just before they begin nursing or just after they are done. You can also drink water every time you feel thirsty and stop when your body signals you to.

2. Oatmeal

Oatmeal contains a rich dose of iron which is needed by a new mom as studies show that a low level of iron hinders breast milk production.

Lactation experts recommend a bowl of this lactogenic food each morning for mothers seeking to boost milk supply as it has been proven to aid supply.

3. Carrots

Carrot has also been proven to be effective in boosting breast milk supply. It also makes your baby more receptive of it as a solid in future. However, care should be exercised when eating this superfood as an overabundance of it affects your baby.

Carrot is high in beta-carotene which could cause your baby’s skin to become discoloured. This discolouration is harmless and usually clears away within a few weeks if the mother reduces her intake of this.

4. Salmon

Salmons are a rich source of protein and omega-3 which is good in promoting lactation. They also contain the compound DHA, which helps build a baby’s nervous system.

This superfood can be taken from the canned salmon tins or the fresh fish can be prepared to suit your taste.

5. Dark, Leafy Greens

Dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard green, Swish shard, alfalfa, broccoli, beet green, and dandelion green are healthy choices for boosting breastmilk supply as they are a good source of phytoestrogen and also come packed with healthy nutrients and vitamins needed by your body.

These vegetables are also effective in building blood, coming in handy if you lost a lot of blood during delivery. They will also help detoxify your system.

6. Fennel

This food also contains phytoestrogen and is therefore, also effective as a lactogenic food. It can also be taken in a number of ways.

It can be brewed to make a delicious tea and taken as often as you want, it can be added to a meal as a seasoning, or used simply as salad dressing.

Whatever form you choose to take this food in, getting enough will see a boost in your breast milk supply.

7. Brown Rice

Brown rice has some compounds that will stimulate breast milk producing hormones. It’s also effective as a mood stabilizer, which comes in handy for mothers experiencing post partum depression and sleep disorder.

8. Fenugreek Seeds

This herb is quite famous as a lactation-promoting agent. A lot of mothers who take it swear by it as they experience an abundance of breast milk production after just a handful.

It can be brewed as tea or made into powdery form and added as a spice to food or pastries. However you decide to take it, it is recommended that you take 500-1000mg to get the desired result.

9. Holy Basil

Holy basil has a rich dose of niacin, iron, and carotene and has been proven to be effective in stimulating breastmilk production.

Like most herbs, it can be brewed as a tea or taken as a spice in food.

10. Cashew and Almond

Cashew and almonds are two fruits rich in minerals and vitamins. They are high in calories and can be blended and eaten along with milk or eaten solely as a snack.

11. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is yet another superfood famous for improving breast milk production. Besides increasing milk production, it also improves the taste and quality of the milk produced.

This food is also flexible and can be taken in a myriad of ways: it can be added to milk and taken twice daily, or you can add a pinch of it to a teaspoon of honey and take just before your bedtime. However you choose to take it, it should be taken for a few weeks to achieve the desired result.

12. Garlic

Garlic food is excellent and is considered one of the most efficient foods for stimulating breast milk production. It goes to work after just a few bulbs are consumed.

However, a lot of mothers seem to shy away from it due to its potent and unpleasant smell. It also changes the flavour of the breastmilk, which could make some babies choose not to nurse at all.

13. Parsley

This herb is boiled in water and then water taken all day. Besides stimulating breastmilk production, it also serves to keep you feeling full and hydrated all day.

14. Brewer’s Yeast

Just like fennel seeds and leafy greens, brewer’s yeast is also high in phytoestrogen, B-complex, iron, thiamin, niacin, and protein which makes it a superfood for breast milk stimulation.

It can be sprinkled on salad or popcorn, or mixed in water and taken just before bedtime.

15. Lactation Cookies

Lactation cookies are a new rave, but are just as effective in stimulating breast milk production. Mothers who have tried it, swear they wake up to a full breast after a few hours of use.

They are made from whole meal flour, flaxseed meal, butter, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, oats, brewer’s yeast, salt, and egg. There are quite a few recipes available, but in all, they are fairly easy to make with most being ready in 15 minutes or less.

If you would like to purchase these cookies already made, then they can be gotten in most health food stores or supermarkets.

Foods to be Avoided While Breastfeeding

Just as certain foods stimulate breast milk production and are recommended for nursing mothers, certain others are to be avoided as they slow down breast milk production, or make a baby fussy or gassy after feeding.

They include:

1. Coffee

Taking one or two cups of coffee while breastfeeding is okay. But going beyond this is bound to affect your baby and make him fussy as the caffeine you take gets to your baby’s.

And since a baby’s system is unable to process and eliminate caffeine as fast as an adult’s, it ends up making them cranky.

2. Citrus Fruits

Mothers remain undecided on the effects of citrus fruits. Most mothers who took these fruits recorded no changes in their systems or that of their baby.

However, due to the immature GI tract of babies, a few babies react to them and become irritable, fuzzy or experience diarrhea afterwards. Mothers are therefore advised to be watchful after taking any of these fruits to determine if their babies are reactive to them or not.

3. Alcohol

Experts say taking one or two glasses of alcohol a few hours to when you are to breastfeed is perfectly fine and does no harm to your baby. What is harmful is when you take several glasses of alcohol daily or drink a glass few minutes before you breastfeed.

The alcohol you take in gets passed on to your breastmilk and consequently, to your baby. Babies are quite tiny and therefore, their system and liver can’t process alcohol as fast and adequately as ours can. The smaller they are, the slower this processing ability and babies younger than 13-14 weeks have a 50% slower processing rate than do adults.

The way alcohol works in your baby’s system is that affects their feeding and sleep pattern for the short term and their overall development for the long term.

4. Wheat, Corn, Soy, Egg & Peanuts

Some babies are extremely sensitive to certain foods and will present symptoms like fuzziness, excessive crying, wheezing, and bloody stool while others will show just mild or no symptoms at all.

A few of such allergic foods are wheat, egg, peanut, and corn. When you consume wheat or corn, if your baby is allergic to it, he becomes symptomatic within minutes or after a few hours.

Mothers who notice such are usually advised to eliminate these food from their diets for a week or two to observe their baby.

5. Dairy Products

An estimated 3% of babies are allergic to any product containing cow milk, although, most of these cases usually disappear as your baby ages.

When young, babies who consume any product made from cow milk will present colicky symptoms or have loose stool tinged with blood. Other symptoms to look out for are diaper rashes, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Upon noticing any of these symptoms, mothers are advised to eliminate these foods from their diet and to observe their baby for improvement.

6. Chocolate and Soda

Any product with caffeine is bad for your baby’s health when taken in excess. About 1% of the caffeine you consume ends up in your breastmilk, therefore, it is recommended that you do not exceed three cups of coffee or one can of soda daily.

In all, your baby will indicate if the amount of caffeine you consume is a little too much by their reactions to it, making it easy for you to make the needed adjustment.