Worried about your weight? Breastfeeding and diet is another popular topic. Once your baby has arrived, you may be desperate to lose the kilograms that linger. But be careful, you need to eat properly to stay healthy during the (frankly tiring) first few months of motherhood. If you’re breastfeeding, the quality of your breast milk is little affected by your diet, but if you don’t eat healthily, your body will provide baby’s needed nutrients from your own stores. You need to restock regularly. So don’t stint on the good stuff. There’s lots of information online, but we share with you both the benefits of breastfeeding and the best foods to maximise your energy.
Breastfeeding basics for baby
- Its first immunisation.
- The first milk that appears – colostrum – is extremely rich in antibodies and protein.
- A reduced chance of developing diarrhoea or chest, ear and other infections.
- A reduced likelihood of developing allergies or chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.
- Good brain development.
- A permanent, portable and budget-friendly source of food for the first six months.
- A chance to strengthen the mom–baby bond.
Breastfeeding basics for mom
Don’t forget to look after yourself. You can’t expect your body to function properly on a hastily grabbed slice of toast and marmalade or a chocolate bar. Stock your kitchen cupboard with easy and tempting goodies, like the 12 foods that we have listed for easy reference below. All have been identified as being excellent for new moms, providing all the nutrients you need to feel energetic enough to enjoy your baby’s first months.
Salmon contains lots of DHA, a type of fat that is essential for the development of your baby’s nervous system. All breast milk contains DHA, but more occurs in the milk of women who get added DHA from their diets. Studies also suggest that DHA may help prevent ward off post-natal blues. Eat one or two 300-g portions of salmon a week. Canned salmon is good too (go light on the mayo!).
- Dairy products
Dairy products are one of the best sources of calcium, which is vital for the development of healthy bones. Yoghurt, milk and cheese also provide protein and B vitamins. If you’re breastfeeding, your milk is loaded with calcium to help your baby’s bones grow, so you need to eat enough calcium to meet your own needs – aim for at least three cups of dairy each day.
- Lean Beef
Iron-rich foods such as beef (lean, if course) boost your energy, so don’t stint on it. Lean beef is also an excellent source of protein and vitamin B12.
Iron-rich beans, particularly the dark-coloured ones like red kidney beans, are great for breastfeeding moms, especially for vegetarians. They’re a cost-effective source of good non-animal protein.
Breastfeeding moms should have two or more servings of fruit or juice each day. Berries, especially blueberries, are an excellent choice – filled with vitamins and minerals, they also give you a healthy dose of carbohydrates to keep your energy levels high. They’re available frozen, so keep some in your freezer to add to yoghurt smoothies for a pick-me-up.
- Brown rice
Mix healthy, wholegrain carbs like brown rice into your diet to keep your energy levels up and help you produce the best-quality milk for your baby.
- Citrus fruit
Nursing moms need more vitamin C than pregnant women. Citrus fruits are the answer. Sip on orange juice or snack on minneolas, if they are in season.
Eggs are an ideal way to cover your daily protein requirements. Scramble a couple of eggs for breakfast, keep a hard-boiled egg or two in the fridge to slice on your lunchtime salad, or have an omelette and salad for dinner. Not all on the same day, obviously!
Folic acid is crucial to your baby’s development and your own wellbeing too. Folic acid-enriched wholegrain breads and pastas contain a healthy dose of fibre and iron.
Leafy greens – spinach, Swiss chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts – are filled with vitamins A and C, iron, and are also a good non-dairy source of calcium. Green veggies are also filled with heart-healthy anti-oxidants and are low in kilojoules.
Had yet another sleepless night? One of the best foods to boost energy for new moms in the morning is a healthy breakfast of wholegrain cereal. Whip up a bowl of oatmeal and stir in a handful of blueberries, a squeeze of honey and a glug of skimmed milk.
Breastfeeding moms are especially at risk for energy-draining dehydration. To keep your energy levels and milk production up, make sure you stay well hydrated. Drink water, juice, rooibos tea or milk, but go carefully with caffeinated drinks such a s coffee and regular tea. Caffeine enters your breast milk and can cause your baby to become irritable and sleep poorly.
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
Adapted from WebMD article about breastfeeding.
1. Breastfeeding photo by Petr Kratochvil [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2. Baby photo courtesy of / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
3. Oranges photo courtesy of / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
4. Wholewheat bread photo courtesy of / FreeDigitalPhotos.net[divider_top]