All new moms and breastfeeding moms know that providing the proper nutrition to your growing baby is extremely important. Receiving adequate nutrition in the first few years of life is essential for building strong bones, healthy immune systems and robust minds in babies and toddlers.
Luckily, breastmilk is the gold standard of infant nutrition. This simple fluid produced by post-natal and lactating women provides all the essential vitamins, nutrients and calories that baby needs for each stage of his or her life up until the introduction of solid food. However, breastfeeding women have their own nutritional needs—and sometimes what they eat can directly affect the well-being of their babies—as well as increase or decrease their milk supply.
What does breastmilk contain?
With the exception of Vitamin D, breastmilk contains everything a baby requires for proper nutrition during early life. The makeup of breastmilk is generally composed of protein, fat, and carbs—the essential nutrients for any human. The amount of fat, calories, protein and carbs in breastmilk actually changes during a feeding session, ensuring that baby gets exactly the nutrients and hydration it needs at the exact right time.
The body knows how to make breastmilk and does so with regularity until breastfeeding is stopped. However, breastfeeding women have specific nutritional needs, and not getting enough or getting too much of a particular food may have a trickle-down effect to the production and quality of baby’s breastmilk, likely its only food supply for the first six months of life.
What nutrients do breastfeeding moms need?
Breastfeeding moms need more calories per day than non-breastfeeding moms—but not too much. Usually an extra 300 to 400 calories of nutrient-dense, healthy food is enough to keep up milk supply and energy levels. Making healthy choices while breastfeeding, just as many moms do while pregnant, is still a smart way to ensure that you’re receiving proper nutrition and ensuring that your baby is receiving nutritious breastmilk. Breastfeeding moms need to make sure that they are:
• Drinking enough water
• Eating a diet high in variety, including lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, whole grains, fruits and vegetables
• Continuing to take a prenatal vitamin. A varied diet may not provide 100% of the vitamins that breastfeeding moms need. Make sure to continue taking a prenatal vitamin until you are done breastfeeding. Prenatal vitamins include essential nutrients like folate, calcium, iron, copper, zinc and Vitamin D.
• Avoiding sugary or highly processed beverages
• Avoiding too much caffeine. Breastfeeding moms should aim to consume less than 200mg of caffeine daily. Too much caffeine in the bloodstream can lead to sleeping or eating problems with your baby.
• Avoid overindulging on alcohol. Alcohol makes its way into breastmilk, and it takes a mother’s body about one to two hours to clear each serving of alcohol.
What are the best foods to increase milk supply?
While a well-rounded diet should maintain a milk supply adequately, there are some foods that may be more beneficial than others for nursing moms:
• Avocados have a high fat content and can meet additional caloric demands while still providing a hearty dose of vitamin B, K, C, E, folate and potassium.
• Nuts can also meet higher caloric needs while providing an essential array of vitamins K and B. they also are high in protein and can help you feel full longer.
• Beans are excellent sources of protein and fiber and are highly accessible and affordable.
• Mushrooms are a good source of beta-glucan, which can increase milk supply
• Leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse and can only serve to increase your health and increase your milk supply
• Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips and yams have been shown to have as much nutrition as leafy green vegetables like spinach and broccoli. They are highly nutrient-dense, which can contribute to a higher supply.
• Seeds are tiny, concentrated sources of nutrients that are rich sources of fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. Every seed has different nutritional properties, so make sure to consume a variety.
• Whole grains, especially complex carbohydrates like brown rice, whole grain bread, and oats, keep you fuller longer and keep your blood sugar levels stable, aiding in digestion and milk production.
• Limited quantities of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids can provide nutrients rich in B12 and vitamin D. Salmon also contains large amounts of DHA, a nutrient essential for a growing baby.
• Beef contains zinc, an essential energy producing
• Eggs are a complete food, containing a good amount of both protein (the egg white) and fat (the egg yolk). Eating moderate amounts of eggs contributes to an overall healthy lifestyle, which is essential for proper milk production.
• Yogurt contains essential levels of calcium, and is often considered a superfood due to the high levels of probiotic properties it contains.
Foods that decrease milk supply/things to avoid while breastfeeding
While eating one specific food a few times won’t do much to drastically reduce milk supply, overeating or eating these foods too often may contribute to a decrease in supply:
• Certain herbs. Eating very large amounts of parsley, peppermint, spearmint, sage and oregano can inhibit milk supply—but you would have to eat them in excess to see any reduction.
• Alcoholic beverages should be drunk in moderation and effectively processed through the mother’s blood before beginning a feeding session. Enzymes in beer may interfere with the body’s ability to “let down” the milk supply once feeding begins.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article, including text and images, are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a medical service. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.