These days most mothers are more motivated than ever to breastfeed as they are more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding to both the mother and the child.
Therefore, mothers are always looking for ways to eat better to support their breast milk supply. Generally, the volume of breast milk is not affected by what we eat. The way breast milk production works is based on supply and demand. This means that the more breast milk is emptied out from the breast, either by expressing or nursing, the more breast milk is produced by the body.
That being said, the best foods for lactation or the best food to increase lactation are often recommended all over the internet. Although results may vary from one mother to the other, there is no harm in incorporating some of these traditional lactogenic ingredients that are commonly found in our kitchen and are considered generally safe to consume, such as green papaya, fenugreek, ginger and garlic, into our meals regularly. These are herbs and spices that not only add more flavours to our food, they are also rich in different antioxidants and polyphenols that are beneficial to overall health.
Generally, the body is able to use nutrients from your nutritional stores to produce breast milk when your dietary intake does not suffice. However, without adequate replenishment, these nutritional stores will deplete. Thus, it is important to eat well to maintain good nutritional status as you breastfeed.
So here are 3 nutritional tips to support you as you breastfeed.
Well Balanced Diet
Although the amount of energy, protein, folate, minerals and trace elements are independent of your diet, there are certain nutrients in the breast milk that are dependent on the dietary intake of mothers, such as Vitamin A, all Vitamin Bs except Folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Iodine, Choline and Omega 3-DHA. Thus, it is important to practice a well-balanced diet as regularly as possible to optimize the levels of these nutrients in breast milk.
How are these nutrients, you may ask? Here are the roles how these nutrients play for your baby:
|Vitamin A||It plays a role in developing vision|
|All Vitamin Bs ( except folate)||Various Vitamin Bs play different roles but are not limited to:
Vitamin B1-supporting the immune system
Vitamin B6- healthy brain development
|Vitamin C||Important for the growth of collagen, skin, teeth, bones, joint tissues and blood vessels|
|Vitamin D||Supports the bones and teeth growth, as well as the immune system.|
|Iodine||Regulate thyroid hormones for proper bone and brain development. It also supports cognitive function.|
|Choline||Supports brain development|
|Omega 3-DHA||Supports brain development, cognitive functions and vision acuity|
The simplest way to practice a well-balanced diet is by applying the quarter quarter half healthy plate method. This means a quarter of your plate should be filled with your choice of staples, preferably wholegrains, another quarter should be filled with your choice of proteins, and the remaining half should be your choice of colourful vegetables. Practicing the healthy plate method regularly would help to minimize your risk of nutritional deficiencies.
Adequate Fluid Intake
Breast milk volume is not significantly affected by what we consume. So this means that drinking more water does not equate to more breast milk supply. However, breast milk in itself is mainly made from water. Thus, it is important for mothers to obtain adequate fluid intakes to maintain hydration as the body produces breast milk. Without adequate fluid intake, mothers are at higher risk of being dehydrated, which could potentially lead to other problems such as tiredness, headaches, loss of concentration and, in severe cases, constipation. Besides that, dehydration is also linked with a higher risk of urinary tract infections, especially in women.
In general, it is recommended for women who are breastfeeding to drink slightly more than 8 glasses of fluids per day. If you have twins, you probably need a few more glasses than that. Some tips commonly shared among mothers on how they can keep track of their fluid intake throughout the day is by consuming a glass of water after every nursing session.
If you’re not much of a water drinker, you can use slices of fruits like lemon, oranges or cucumbers to help you enjoy drinking more water. Besides that, mothers can also incorporate soups during meal times as soups are also great sources of fluids and electrolytes to keep mothers hydrated throughout the day too.
Adequate Calorie Intake
Your body would be able to use the fat stores and the food you eat in a day to maintain energy levels in the breast milk. Your body uses up to 500 to 600 calories a day to produce breast milk for a baby. Thus, it is important to eat adequately as you breastfeed. Eating small, dense and frequent meals can help you achieve the additional calories your body needs to support breastfeeding.
Eating more high-fat foods is a great way to boost your calorie intake, as fat is energy dense. So a little goes a long way. Do take note that not all types of fat are the same. If you choose more “bad” saturated fats or trans-fat-containing foods, often like fast foods, fried foods and processed meats, then the type of fat in the breast milk will follow similarly. Thus, it is important to choose foods that contain healthy fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oil and olive oils more regularly than their saturated fat counterparts.
In summary, optimizing your dietary intake as you breastfeed is important, especially when it comes to maintaining your nutritional status and optimizing the nutritional content of your breast milk. Research has found that children who obtain the right nutrition during pregnancy, infancy and toddlerhood grow up to be better learners and have lower health risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. With a little more awareness and tweaks to our dietary habits, eating a well-balanced diet with adequate fluid intake while breastfeeding is possible! So the next time you’re at the dining table, do keep these tips in mind.
If you have decision fatigue and are struggling to decide on exactly what to cook or have at every meal, these days, there are several lactation food Singapore options available for mothers with a busy schedule.