By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
A healthy diet is as important for a breastfeeding mother as it is for a pregnant mother. However, no special diet is needed for lactating or breastfeeding mothers.
Most women do not need to “eat for two” as they did during their pregnancy believing extra calorie intake would be good for their unborn baby.
Most recommendations state that women who are breastfeeding can continue on the same diet as they did before they were pregnant. Scientific evidence suggests that there are no particular foods that should be avoided and no foods that can make more milk than normal.
Some foods however may cause a stomach upset in the baby. This is specific for individual mothers and their babies and possible allergies that they may have to certain foods.
Nutrition tips whilst breastfeeding
Some of the diet tips that need to be followed and kept in mind for breast feeding mothers include:-
Breast milk contains a large amount of water. It is important to drink plenty of fluids and water especially before each feed. This does not produce more milk but can prevent the mother from being dehydrated.
If the urine is dark in color or scanty in the mother, it may be a sign of dehydration. Plenty of water especially when thirst and in summer months helps breast feeding mothers to stay hydrated.
Apart from water fruit juices may also be taken. It is however best to avoid carbonated and sugared drinks. These contain empty calories.
Tea and coffee are also not suitable as beverages to quench thirst. These contain caffeine that may be passed on to the baby via breast milk and lead to irritability, fussiness, lack of sleep and other problems. Caffeinated beverages should be limited to less than a couple of cups a day.
Alcohol should be limited among breast feeding women as it can pass onto the baby via breast milk. It is advisable not to feed the baby for at least two hours after a drink.
A balanced diet comprising of whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes is usually advised. The number of calories consumed can be similar to non-pregnant women. However, it should be ensured that a breastfeeding woman gets adequate nutrients in her diet.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are usually not recommended for a healthy breast feeding women. These supplements do not form a replacement for a healthy and balanced diet. In addition to a healthy diet some women may need a multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Some flavours may pass onto the baby via breast milk. Some of these may be acceptable to the baby while the baby may not like some flavours. For example, some babies may be allergic to some foods that his or her mother takes. Allergy in the baby may be detected by unexplained diarrhea, vomiting, green stools, stools with mucus, rash, eczema, hives, rash around the anus, fussiness, bloating of the abdomen, waking, crying, irritability, wheezing, coughing etc.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)