A new baby means an exciting, but exhausting time in a mother’s life and maintaining a healthy diet is extremely important. It will help her to lose those extra pounds after her pregnancy and keep her mood and energy levels up. Any food can be eaten in moderation after you have given birth, though it is advisable not to go on a crash diet while you are breastfeeding. It is important not to skip any meals, especially breakfast. Breakfast helps to kick-start the metabolism, providing good levels of energy, so you should eat highly nutritious foods that contain good protein. Typical examples include oatmeal with some fruit; wholegrain cereals; wholegrain breads, yoghurt and eggs.
The food you eat has an impact on the taste, quality and amount of milk that you produce and it is quite possible that certain of the foods you eat might unsettle baby’s tummy, through your milk. Your baby may develop colic symptoms, making them miserable and fussy and it is thought certain vegetables, such as onions, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, could be the source of the problem. Other culprits could be chocolate, cow’s milk, spicy foods, garlic and beans. If colic is a problem it is always best to talk to your baby’s paediatrician.
Breastfeeding requires an extra 500 calories per day and they should ideally come from nutrient-dense and healthy foods. Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy products and lean proteins are good sources. A breastfeeding woman requires an extra 25gms of protein every day, but she should avoid fish that has high mercury content, such as tuna steaks and swordfish.
Always choose liquids such as water, juice or milk when you are thirsty. Drinking lots of water helps prevent constipation, dehydration and blocked milk ducts. Try to limit your intake of tea, coffee and soda, because the caffeine passing through your milk can make your baby irritable and jittery.
Certain nutrients are critical for a breastfeeding mother. Zinc supports a healthy immune system and is important for adequate development and growth. You will need about 25mg per day and the best sources are fish, meat, poultry, eggs and legumes.
Calcium strengthens bones and builds density; it is also vital for the development of teeth. Calcium is leeched from the bones of a nursing mother if she does not consume enough. It is also essential for the growth of the baby’s skeleton and the mother’s milk production. The best sources of calcium are milk, cheese, yoghurt and other milk products. You can also find it in canned salmon or sardines and green leafy vegetables. Calcium intake should be around 1,200mg per day.
Iron is essential in preventing anaemia, which can lead to weakness, fatigue and increased risk of infection. Amazingly, during pregnancy a foetus will store enough iron to last for up to six months after birth. The best sources of iron are liver and oysters, but it can also be found in spinach, peas and beans. You will need about 27mg every day, but a multivitamin supplement specifically made for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, can be taken.
Always discuss any concerns with your doctor if you feel you are not getting enough zinc, calcium or iron. He or she will advise you about supplementation.