As we all know breastfeeding gives huge benefits to a baby and it is also a great bonding experience between mother and baby. Below you can read a fantastic and informative piece from our fabulous nutritionist consultant Kathleen Alleaume on how your healthy eating diet to make can make the breastmilk supply as strong in nutrients as it possibly can be and what the advice is on alcohol and breastfeeding.
As a nutritionist, and a mother, I always get asked whether certain foods in a mother’s diet can help to boost the baby’s development when breastfeeding. The fact is, breast milk contains all the nutrients the baby needs for proper growth and development. Many vitamins and minerals present in breast milk are transferred from the mother’s diet, which is why it’s important for a breastfeeding mother to consume a wide variety of foods each day to meet the baby’s nutritional needs.
Interestingly, only 25 per cent of a baby’s brain is formed at birth. The rest of the thinking brain tissue is to be laid down in the next 18 months. Within this timeframe, it’s very important that babies gets continuous nutrition, otherwise the potential for optimal brain development can be lost forever!
For instance, human breast milk contains are a special kind of ‘omega-3 long-chain fatty acid’, not present in any other kinds of milk, which are taken up by the baby’s brain cells. Although a mother’s diet does not affect the amount of fat in her milk, it does however, affect the types of fat present.
Research shows that an increased maternal dietary intake of ‘good’ fatty acids during lactation, such as DHA (a type of fat found in fish oils) is associated with increased DHA levels in breast milk and improved infant health outcomes, including visual acuity and cognitive development.
DHA can be directly passed to your baby via breast milk by adding just two servings of fish to your weekly diet. However, you need to be careful about which fish you choose. That’s because some fish, such as shark, deep sea perch and swordfish, may contain mercury levels that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system.
Fish that contains the highest levels of DHA (omega-3 fats) are oily fish, including salmon, tuna, or mackerel. If you don’t eat fish, foods enriched with DHA or fish oil supplements are a suitable alternate to achieve recommended intakes and the great news is that the Healthy Mummy Plans have fish oils included and the smoothies are made to be breastfeeding safe – you can see the plans here
Adequate levels of iodine while breastfeeding are also essential for hormone production and your baby’s growth and brain development. Good sources of iodine include seafood, eggs, dairy foods and iodised salt.
Again, eating two seafood meals per week, along with three serves of dairy foods each day will give adequate meet your daily dietary requirement of iodine. If using salt, use iodised salt. Also, an iodine-containing supplement is usually recommended, but speak to your doctor first.
Breastfeeding mothers need slightly extra protein to ensure an adequate amount of protein in breast milk. Certain amino acids such as taurine, aids in brain and eye development. The average daily protein requirement for breastfeeding mothers is 75 g. This amount is needed to improve the protein content in your milk as well as meeting your body’s requirement for protein.
Protein rich foods include eggs, meat, fish and chicken, dairy products, as well as plant-based protein such as tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds. Including a serving of protein-rich foods at every meal also helps to satisfy a ravenous appetite when that most breastfeeding mum’s will testify.
Further, it is best to avoid consuming alcohol when breastfeeding as some of the alcohol consumed by a lactating mother is transferred to her milk and thus consumed by the infant.
Evidence indicates that alcohol consumption during breastfeeding may adversely affect lactation, infant behaviour (e.g. feeding) and gross motor development. It is advisable to avoid alcohol in the first month after delivery until breastfeeding is well established.
After breastfeeding is established alcohol intake should be limited to less than two standard drinks per day. On average, it takes over three hours for alcohol to be cleared from breastmilk after two standard drinks. Alcohol consumption should be avoided immediately before breastfeeding. Although not drinking alcohol is always the safest option.
And if you are trying to lose weight post pregnancy and need some guidance then try the 28 Day Breastfeeding Friendly Diet & Exercise Plan to give you the help and support to lose weight in a safe and healthy way and try out the new Healthy Mummy smoothie which helps to support weight loss and milk supply.