Food for nursing mothers
In a way, you're sharing your food with your baby when you are breastfeeding.. So think about what you put on your plate and make sure it's nutritious and varied.
But this diet doesn't give you the energy you need. Try these tips to ensure you’re eating well enough for the two of you:
1. When you or your partner cook meals, make large quantities and freeze individual portions that you can defrost.
2. Buy a large stash of ready-cooked meals so you can have at least one pre-prepared meal a day.
3. Put more than just butter on your bread. Load it with proteins and salad.
4. Vegetable sticks – keep these in the fridge and serve with cottage cheese or peanut butter.
Your baby reacts to what you eat. Here's a classic example: if you eat a lot of prunes to stimulate your bowels after giving birth, your baby will also get loose bowels. Some babies get a reaction such as a rash or stomach pain if you eat a lot of beans, garlic or very spicy food. If you suspect your child has reacted to something you’ve eaten, try cutting it out of your diet for a few days and see if things improve. When you reintroduce the food, you’ll find out immediately if that was what caused the reaction.
Your baby may also react to things you eat if they’re allergic to a particular food, such as cow’s milk. If you suspect a food allergy, speak to your GP or Well Child Nurse to discuss a solution. Beware of tinkering too much with your diet without getting advice. For example, cutting milk from your diet deprives you and your baby of vital calcium. Exclusive breastfeeding for around six months is a good step towards preventing allergies in your baby.
Breastfeeding is thirsty work
It takes a lot of liquid to produce milk, so drink plenty of water. Use your thirst as a guide. Aim for 10 cups of fluid each day and try to have a drink with each breastfeed. Extra fluid may be needed during hot weather, after activity or if you are vomiting or constipated.
Cut down on coffee and tea and cut out alcohol completely. Be cautious about drinking herbal teas. Discuss this with your doctor, midwife or Well Child nurse.
Tea should not be drunk with meals because the tannins in tea mean you will not absorb the iron in the meal as well as you could.
Limit soft drinks, flavoured waters, fruit drinks, cordials and diet drinks as these are low in nutrients and may be high in sugar. Avoid energy drinks.
Eat a variety of healthy foods every day from each of the four main food groups:
1. vegetables and fruit
2. breads and cereals (wholegrain is best)
3. milk and milk products (reduced or low-fat milk is best)
4. lean meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Also limit your intake of fatty (especially saturated fat), salty and sugary foods and drinks by:
– preparing foods with little added fat, salt and sugar
– when shopping, reading labels and looking for foods that are lower in fats (especially saturated fat), salt and sugar. New Zealand women get most of their saturated fats from butter, milk, baked products, cheese, hot chips and meat.
• If using salt, choose iodised salt.
• Take care when buying, preparing, cooking and storing food so that the food is as safe as possible to eat.
Iodine is important for growth and for the mental and
physical development of the baby. Eat foods containing iodine regularly, such as reduced- or low-fat milk, wholegrain bread, eggs, fish and seafood. Foods containing seaweed, such as sushi are good sources of iodine but make sure it is freshly prepared.
Supplements containing seaweed, kelp and iodine are not recommended for breastfeeding women because the iodine content and quality of the supplements is variable.
Vitamin D is important for healthy, strong bones.
Vitamin D is made in the body through the action of sunlight on the skin. It is therefore important to spend some time in the sun each day.
During daylight saving months (October to March), avoid being in the sun between 11.00 am and 4.00 pm, when the sun is strong. Stay in gentle, shaded sunlight for 5–20 minutes – and be ‘sunsmart’. Wear a sunhat, protective clothing, sunglasses and SPF 30+ sunscreen. During non-daylight saving months (April to September), make sure you spend some time in the sun so that your body keeps making enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D is found in foods such as fresh and canned oily fish (tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel, warehou, eel), eggs, fish oils and vitamin D-fortified margarine. These foods should be eaten by women who do not make enough vitamin D from the sun. This includes women who:
• have dark skin (their skin takes a longer time to make vitamin D in the sun)
• stay inside most of the time
• keep their skin covered for religious or cultural reasons.
Choosing a variety of foods from the four food groups will meet your requirements, and supplements should not be necessary.
If you are taking any vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements, always make sure your LMC knows. It is
best to only take supplements when recommended by your LMC or dietitian.
Some women may need special advice from a dietitian about eating. Ask your doctor or midwife to arrange for you to see a dietitian if you:
• find that certain foods you eat are affecting your baby
• have a medical condition affecting your eating, such as diabetes
• eat very little or have a history of eating problems
• are vegetarian or vegan
• are 18 years old or younger.
For more dietary information, download a free copy of Eating Healthily for Breastfeeding Women from: www.healthed.govt.nz
Have you got any tips for fast nutritious food for breastfeeding mums? Share them with us here.