“Eat more oats," “avoid spicy wings," “try this breastfeeding tea." Even though your pregnancy is over, trust us when we say the unsolicited advice will likely keep on coming. (YAY). And while it’s important to make sure you’re taking care of yourself while you’re breastfeeding, that’s as much for you as it is for the little one. After all, eat crap, feel like crap. But also, avoid cake, crave even more cake. Diet obviously plays a part in keeping up your energy levels and staying healthy, but it also has some effects on your breast milk. So here we offer some advice and also bust some myths. Spoiler alert: no one is stopping you from eating spicy wings.
It’s a well-known (and often repeated) fact that breastfeeding moms can burn between 300-500 extra calories a day. Unfortunately, this means the simple (simple — HAHAHA) act of feeding your child can leave you feeling drained and low on energy. And while it’s always a good idea to eat a balanced diet to keep up your energy and stay healthy normally, it’s even more important when you’re breastfeeding. Nutrition can also hugely affect your mood and energy during the postnatal stages of your pregnancy, so it’s doubly important to keep on top of it.
Your diet and breast milk
Surprisingly, diet doesn’t have as large of a part to play on your breast milk as most expect. You can pretty much eat whatever you like when you’re breastfeeding. Although some foods and drinks are better to consume than others, one of the main contributing factors your diet has directly on your breast milk is actually the taste. This can expose your baby to new tastes and help them become more accepting of them as they grow up. So you’re effectively encouraging a little foodie.
Things to avoid in your diet
There are many things back on the menu after your pregnancy days, but here are a few that should be avoided if possible.
Excessive caffeine: One or two cups of coffee or tea a day, amounting to 300 milligrams or less, are safe while you're breastfeeding. However, more than that can lead to you and your baby feeling jittery, irritable, and sleepless. Other sources of caffeine include tea, soda, and chocolate.
Excessive alcohol: Drinking is okay, but a small amount of the alcohol consumed can make its way to your breast milk (although very small). As long as you don’t drink excessive amounts, then it’ll be fine. Also, you can get around this by feeding or pumping before you have a drink.
High-mercury fish: You’ll be no stranger to this as it’s something that you would have avoided during your pregnancy. For the same reasons, this is one to avoid, but 2 portions a week will still be fine.
Things to include in your diet
Honestly, just having a balanced diet is the key here. Ensure to include vitamin D 12, calcium, protein, fats, and carbs in your diet. There are no magic foods that will increase your milk supply or make you feel amazing instantly but try and eat healthy, whole, and varied foods. We’re talking at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, colorful plates, and plenty of protein. Oh, and make sure you’re getting enough liquid— 6-8 glasses of water are ideal, so try and sip some water every time you’re feeding.
Breast milk myth-busting
You’ll remember from your pregnancy that people LOVE to offer new moms advice they didn’t ask for, and lots of it is often untrue. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop after you give birth, so let’s discuss the common myths that you might have heard or have to face.
If you’re vegan, you won’t be able to breastfeed: An ideal diet can vary between different families, cultures, and religions; a vegan diet can be one of them. The only thing to note here is vegan diets can sometimes be low in vitamin B12, so it’s worth keeping a check on your B12 intake.
There isn’t enough iron in breast milk: There’s less iron in breast milk, but it's absorbed much more efficiently, making it the optimal amount of iron for your baby. In addition, the high lactose and vitamin C levels in human milk aid the absorption of iron, and breastfed babies do not lose iron through their bowels.
Food that makes a mother gassy will make her baby gassy: Food that the mother finds gassy will not necessarily make her baby gassy. However, when food is digested, some of the proteins enter the blood and may then pass into a mother’s milk. Some babies may be sensitive to a particular protein and react with gas and fussiness. Therefore food the mother finds gassy could be completely fine with the baby, but other foods could have the opposite effect. It’s always worth keeping notes and finding out which foods may be affecting your baby.
Don’t eat spicy foods: There's no evidence to suggest that spicy foods should be avoided for your baby's sake, either during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
The most important thing to remember when you’re breastfeeding is to eat what makes YOU feel good. Try and get your vitamins and eat a varied and balanced diet, but honestly, if you want to indulge in some fast food here and there, or enjoy the odd chocolate bar, then go for it.