When embarking on your breastfeeding journey it is important to ensure you are getting enough nutrition in to support a healthy milk supply and your recovering body. This should be your number one priority over weight loss or other aesthetic related health goals so you can enjoy this special bonding time with your baby.
During pregnancy your body gains weight for a reason and this can be used as energy during breastfeeding. The rate at which you lose weight will be different for everyone and it’s important that you allow this to happen naturally and gradually as reducing your energy intake or increasing your energy output to lose weight is not ideal for healthy milk supply and for your own recovery and energy levels. Post breastfeeding if you feel further weight loss is needed to reach a healthy weight then that is when you can work with a health professional to adjust your energy intake and output accordingly.
Having a new baby, breastfeeding or not, can be a big change in routine for a lot of mothers they can find their eating habits also change to try and fit in with the new routine. When you make any significant changes to your diet in general it can be common to experience reductions in milk supply. If you experience this there are some things you can do to help:
- Make sure you don’t skip any meals. It can be tough to find the time to make yourself meals and snacks when you’re a new mum but it is so important that you don’t skip meals as you will be significantly reducing your energy and nutrient intake for the day and this can affect your milk supply.
- Water. Breastfeeding is thirsty work and dehydration can supress milk supply so ensure you always have a glass of water by your side. Aiming for at least 2L per day is a good goal but the exact amount needed will depend on each individuals circumstances.
- Stress. If the mother is stressed then milk supply will be greatly reduced. Enjoy this bonding time with your baby and find avenues to help manage stress levels if required (ie. meditation, reading a book, a hot bath, seeking professional help).
- Although research is limited there are foods, herbs and spices that you can include in your diet that may be helpful in supporting healthy milk supply: Alfalfa, dandelion, fennel, raspberry, fenugreek, cumin, garlic, healthy fats (salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel and other oily fish as well as walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds), brewers yeast, oats, eggs, almonds, sesame seeds, tahini, poppy seeds, brown rice, barley, carrot and other raw veggies, spinach and beet leaves. Opting for these wholefoods as part of a balanced diet is the best way to include these as opposed to focussing on any particular foods in isolation.
Here is some ideas for how to include these foods in your diet:
- Dandelion, fennel and fenugreek tea
- Cumin and garlic baked salmon with raw veggie salad
- Raw carrots with almond butter for a snack
- Eggs rolled in sesame seeds for a snack
- Add brewers yeast, oats and flaxseeds to your smoothies
- Barley, spinach, carrot and poppy seed salad with almond butter dressing
- Sardines with brown rice, sesame seeds and grated raw veggies
- Overnight oats with chia seeds, walnuts and almond milk
Extra things to note:
- Vegetarian and vegan diets. Well balanced plant based diets can meet the requirements of breastfeeding but it is best to check with a health practitioner to see if supplementation is required.
- Food allergies and intolerances: Some babies can experience food sensitivity, whether it be allergies, intolerances or both. The most common are cows milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts however it can be very difficult to identify the exact allergen or food because there may be other issues that cause a baby to be unsettled or have similar symptoms to food sensitivities. If you suspect a food sensitivity, it’s best to speak to a health practitioner first before cutting out foods or food groups from your diet altogether.
- Alcohol: Abstaining from alcohol is recommended as the safest option however if you do choose to drink it is best to wait until your baby is in a regular feeding pattern so you have more control over being able to minimise the alcohol content in your breastmilk before the next feed. On average it takes approximately 2 hours for your body to clear the alcohol in your system per standard drink.
Head nutritionist at 28 by Sam Wood