Your pregnancy is over and now you can stuff your face with whatever you want - or can you? Healthy eating may be the last thing on your mind, but its impact on breastfeeding shouldn't be.
The first few weeks after your baby is born is an exciting time, but can also leave you with little time to eat healthily or plan your meals – after all, you barely have time between nappy changes.
However, eating correctly is essential to keep the quantity and quality of your milk production up, as well as to ensure that you do not have dips in your blood sugar and energy levels. Plus, it can help you keep your eating in check and lose those post-baby kilos.
Do I need to eat a perfect diet while breastfeeding?
No! You definitely do not need to maintain a perfect diet while breastfeeding. But even though many of the strict rules you had to abide by during pregnancy have fallen away (hello sushi!), it is extremely important that you take in sufficient nutrients.
You can do this by eating from all of the food groups – starches, lean proteins, dairy, fats and oils, and fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, you don’t want your kilojoule intake to be too high as then it will be harder to lose your pregnancy weight and you may even find that you gain weight.
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How can I maintain an ample supply of milk?
Ideally you need an additional 2 100 kilojoules per day if you’re breastfeeding. This will cover the demand placed on the body to produce breastmilk as well as helping to maintain the quality of the breastmilk itself. During lactation, you also have an increased need for the following nutrients:
1. Calcium (found in dairy products, tofu and fish with edible bones such as pilchards and anchovies).
2. Vitamin C (found in guavas, tomatoes and citrus fruits).
3. Iron (found in red meat and egg yolks).
4. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish, walnuts and flax seed). These are vital as they contribute to your baby’s brain development.
5. Vitamin B12 (found in meat, chicken, fish and egg yolks).
6. Protein (found in meat, chicken, fish, eggs, pulses and dairy products).
Your body is, however, able to use your own stores to maintain the quality of your breastmilk. Yet this can also often be to the detriment of your own health.
For example, if you do not consume enough calcium, your body will end up leaching the calcium from your bones to obtain sufficient calcium for your breastmilk. And this can often affect your bone health. As a result you need to make sure you are eating the correct balance of nutrients to ensure your own body’s health, as well as that of your baby.
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Are there foods I should avoid?
Some pregnancy no-nos are now back on the menu. Sushi, raw eggs and cold meat are all fine to eat during breastfeeding. However, there are still some foods you should avoid or limit during breastfeeding.
Caffeine can pass through into your breastmilk and can cause problems such as irritability and sleeplessness in your baby. Therefore, try avoiding tea, coffee, soft drinks and limit chocolate. You can limit yourself to one cup of caffeine-containing drink per day or a few blocks of chocolate.
If you must have these, rather have them straight after a breastfeeding session.
Remember that often what you eat flavours your breastmilk and thus can affect your baby’s taste preferences later. For example, if you eat a lot of spinach and other green vegetables, this can give your baby more of a taste for these foods later on in life. Use this as a motivation to eat healthy, fresh foods.
Should I continue taking my pregnancy vitamins?
Although many of your nutrient needs are similar during pregnancy and breastfeeding, there are several differences (for instance, you need less iron but more calcium during breastfeeding) and you should ideally change over to a specific breastfeeding multivitamin.
You can continue taking the same Omega-3 and calcium supplements that you took during pregnancy