Nutrition for breastfeeding
Firstly, I cannot stress enough how important it is to make some nutritious meals ahead of your due date to pop in the freezer. If this isn't an option for you - i.e no freezer space or you really hate cooking, then have a look at Pegoty Hedgemeals, made using lovely organic ingredients. Lets face it, you're not going to feel like cooking in those first few weeks, and having good, nourishing food is going to be so important for the way you feel - both physically and mentally.
Our bodies really are amazing things, and even in the most dire of nutritional circumstances, it will still try to make the best possible milk it can for our babies. But hey, we don't want to just scrape by do we? We want our babies, and ourselves, to thrive.
It is recommended that we have an approximate calorie increase of around 600Kcal per day to cover the extra nutritional requirements for breastfeeding. This number will be slightly higher if your BMI is very low, or if you are very active throughout your breastfeeding journey. This number does however assume that some energy for making breastmilk (lactogenesis) will come from maternal fat stores.This means that if we maintain a healthy diet, we will lose around 1KG of body fat per month of breastfeeding, without any calorie restriction.
It's really important not to restrict our healthy calories whilst we are feeding our babies, as studies have shown that a restriction in calories also leads to nutrient deficiencies. This certainly is not the time to start cutting out food groups; as a breastfeeding mama you need to be eating a varied diet rich in nutrients.
There are a few nutrients that breastfeeding mothers are often deficient in; magnesium, vitamins B6, vitamin A, folate, calcium and zinc. Interestingly, unless a large blood loss occurred at birth, maternal requirement for iron actually drops below that required for a menstruating woman. However, once periods return it's time to increase iron intake once more - especially if we are still breastfeeding.
A low maternal intake of vitamins A, D, K, C and B will affect the quantity seen in breastmilk. For other nutrients such as calcium, if maternal intake is not high enough our bodies will begin to take stores from our bones! This means baby still receives the amount they need from our milk - but at our expense. When we think of breastfeeding, we MUST look at it from both baby and mama's point of view. Yes, we want to give what we can to baby and our bodies will do that, but we also want to maintain our own health. It is very easy for us to become drained of energy and nutrient deficient from breastfeeding. We must nourish our bodies.
There is no substitute for real, whole, healthy food. Yes, we can take a good quality food state supplement to make sure we are not severely deficient in any certain area - but our bodies understand and need food in it's original form too. For example we require fat to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K - so it is of no use to simply take a supplement of these without an intake of healthy fats. Do remember this when taking your pregnancy/lactation supplement, it's great, but don't become reliant on it and assume you don't need to seek nourishment from your food.
Nourishment for breastfeeding:
- A good variety of fruit and vegetables. If you don't feel like eating them whole, make a few of our yummy post partum smoothies to get those extra vitamins and minerals in.
- Try your best to eat dark leafy green vegetables once a day for a dose of Folate and vitamin K
- Orange fruits and veggies will help you get your vitamin A in, sweet potatoes, apricots and carrots are great for this
- Zinc is present in pumpkin seeds, organic lamb, legumes & shellfish
- It's really important to keep up your intake of calcium; whole organic dairy products, sesame seeds, dark leafy greens and sardines are all god sources.
- Magnesium is present in nuts & seeds, salmon & dark leafy greens.
- Enough vitamin D is hard to come by in the Northern hemisphere (that's why supplementation is often recommended). You can get some from organic eggs, and organic mushrooms grown in sunlight.
- Try to stay away from quick sugars as much as you possibly can; white bread, white pasta, crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks. These will give you a quick fix and then a crash. They are also what we call 'empty calories', with some being classed as 'anti nutrients' - your body will have to use up vital nutrients just to process them, without adding any nutrition themselves.