According to WHO, breastfeeding has many health benefits for both the mother and infant. Breast milk contains all the nutrients infants need in the first six months of life.
Breastfeeding protects infants against diarrhoea and common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, diabetes and childhood cancer.
Cross questioning while having regular meals when breastfeeding on whether you can eat a particular food and if it would in turn have an effect on your baby, ensures that you meet the daily dose of nutrients. There is no such food, which needs to be universally avoided by mothers.
However, there are certain myths around certain foods that influence new moms to stay on strict diets which may hamper their optimal dosage of nutrients and create an imbalance.
Milk supply is not dependent on diet, human lactation is remarkably resistant to acute calorie insufficiency. However, when the maternal diet is inadequate, the mother’s own nutritional status will suffer.
Milk supply in humans is only to be compromised by severe or long-term starvation.
Your breast milk is what you eat as breast milk has a flavour profile. The foods you eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding flavour the amniotic fluid and milk and may ‘program’ later the food preferences of your baby.
The ideal calorie intake for breastfeeding mothers should be 1,800 to 2,200 (or more) per day. Remember to keep drinking enough water to keep yourself hydrated.
As protein build cells, lactating women should also include more protein in their diet. Eating more of galactagogues food help increase milk supply.
Below are some common food myths that new mothers should be aware of:
It is perfectly safe to have caffeine when you're breastfeeding. Though the caffeine you drink does end up in your breast milk, research has suggested that the amount is less than one percent of what you ingest.
Mothers can have one glass of wine after a breastfeed and wait upto 4 hours before the next feed. Some mothers express breastmilk before drinking alcohol and use this milk to feed the baby when they have a glass of wine.
A four-hour gap is enough time for one glass of alcohol to pass through the system.
According to The American Academy of Paediatrics, mothers are advised not to breastfeed your baby as you're drinking or right after drinking.
Citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C and are perfectly fine to eat during breastfeeding. Mums should not restrict themselves from these important nutrients. If at all they cause problems they can replace citrus foods with other vitamin C rich foods like papaya, pineapple, strawberries, leafy greens and mango.
Even though such fish diets should be followed mostly during pregnancy, FDA recommends that “breastfeeding women should avoid eating swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish which contain high amounts of mercury.
It is okay to eat fish (including canned tuna) in moderation not exceeding two servings a week.
There are also other myths regarding food that increase milk production such as garlic, shatavri and methi. However, the quality of the studies on them are really low.
Though there are medications like domperidone which is used to increase milk supply and is also used to induce lactation.
Avoid processed foods containing preservatives and additives that aren’t good for the baby and foods that are high on fats like sugar and junk food. New mothers do not need a special diet, they simply need to be healthy while breastfeeding, all they need to focus on is making right nutrition choices for themselves and their babies.
(Dr Madhavi Latha Boggarpu is BPT (Bachelors in Physical Therapy), LCCE (Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator), IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), Member of Medela India LC Club.)
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