Diet and Breastfeeding

I am frequently asked about diet from breastfeeding Mothers. It makes sense that a woman considers how her diet can affect her breastmilk.

So how does diet impact breastmilk?
Not much is the answer. As long as the Mother is not malnourished her breasts will produce milk that provides all necessary nutrients for her baby to grow and thrive.
Strong flavours, such as spices, may alter the taste of the milk so babies can be put off occasionally. However, this prepares your baby for the foods you will be feeding them when they’re older.

The Mothers health is also important and she will need extra energy and calories in order to nourish her own body whilst she provides for her baby.
Breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories per day so it’s a great way of getting back into shape as long as your diet is healthy.

You should:

  • Eat regular healthy snacks and meals whenever you feel hungry. Try snacking on slow energy releasing foods to keep you fuller for longer and without spiking blood sugar levels. These are foods such as porridge oats, fish, lean meats, vegetables, grains and pulses, fruit, salad, beans, nuts and seeds.
  • Foods rich in omega fatty acids have been said to influence the types of fats present in breastmilk. These foods include; avocado, seeds and oily fish. Add these to your diet to boost your baby’s brain development.
  • Some areas in the UK recommend that breastfeeding women take vitamin D supplements. If you feel you may be deprived of sunlight then this could be a health benefit to you and baby.

Treats:

All Mothers need a treat especially when they’re working full time at being marvellous mama’s.
Breastfeeding doesn’t mean you can’t have treats.

  1. Chocolate and cakes are very appealing to breastfeeding mums. Allow yourself to have treats sometimes but try not to make it a daily habit. If you do get chocolate cravings, or have a sweet tooth then dark chocolate is a healthier option. Sweeten drinks and cereal with honey rather than sugar and cook with coconut oil for a healthier option. Use dates to sweeten cakes and treats.
  2. Caffeine is difficult to give up sometimes, especially when you’re constantly tired. It’s fine to have the odd coffee whilst breastfeeding but note that caffeine takes longer for a small baby to metabolise, leaving you with a jittery, hard to settle little one. Alternatives to energy boosting drinks are Guava tea, matcha green tea, healthy smoothies, fresh ginger and lemon tea.
  3. Alcohol can be drunk in small quantities whilst breastfeeding. Its fine to have one glass of wine. The key is to drink it right after a feed when you know your baby won’t feed again for the next few hours. As the alcohol leaves your blood stream it also leaves your breastmilk, so no need to ‘pump and dump’ as the saying goes. If you think you may be having more than one glass then express earlier in the day so you have something for the baby while the alcohol leaves your bloodstream. We don’t recommend drinking excessively.

When to avoid foods:

  1. Occasionally babies react to the proteins in cow’s milk. If this occurs and your baby has been diagnosed with a cow’s milk protein allergy, then you may be advised to omit dairy products from your diet until the condition resolves itself.
  2. Some babies have adverse skin reactions that can be resolved if certain foods are eliminated from the Mothers diet. Consult a professional before making this decision.
  3. If your baby is having allergic reactions then seek advice from a trained professional such as a lactation consultant, dietician or GP before eliminating major food groups.
  4. All medications should be discussed with your GP, Midwife or lactation consultant before taking, as some will go through to your breastmilk and are not safe for your baby. There are frequently alternatives which can be explored.