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One of the most popular topics surrounding breastfeeding is the mother’s diet during this time. Indeed, what you put into your body when you are breastfeeding will directly affect your breast milk—and the well-being of your little one. So, in what ways does your diet affect your breast milk? To what extent should you adjust your diet? This guide can help you to be more well-informed about your food choices.
It Affects Your Postpartum Recovery
Even if a few months have passed since you gave birth, your body is still recovering in ways that you may or may not have noticed. Hence, having the right diet is important to support your postpartum recovery, so that your body is in a good condition to breastfeed. Hence, keeping yourself properly nourished with healthy and nutritious meals is imperative. We suggest you plan your meals around a variety of food that contains essential vitamins and minerals, such as protein, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin E and iron.
In particular, you can incorporate more iron-rich foods into your daily confinement meal plans. Iron is essential for post-baby mommies because it helps in supplying oxygen throughout your body by the formation of red blood cells. Plus, iron is great for your postpartum recovery since it helps in improving your collagen formation to promote wound healing around the genital and caesarean area after labour. Some of the best iron-rich foods include red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, and peas. Get more of this nutrient to benefit your health in the long term!
It Affects the Nutritional Density of Your Breast Milk
Your diet is not only good for hastening your postpartum recovery but is also a fundamental factor that affects the quality of your breast milk. To put it simply, when you have a more nutritious diet, the nutritional content of your breast milk will increase too, which helps your little ones to get more nutrients from your milk to support their crucial development.
That said, not all of your nutritional intake will be translated into nutritional content of your breast milk. Some of the nutrients that can be passed to your baby include Vitamin C, different types of Vitamin B, Vitamin A, as well as polyunsaturated fat such as Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9. Each of these vitamins offers different benefits to support your baby’s growth. For example, Omega 3 helps in brain development, while Vitamin A supports your baby’s eye development.
Now, to boost the content of a certain vitamin in your milk, you can simply start by having more foods that are rich in that vitamin—in a healthy and moderate amount of course. Let’s say you are looking to increase the Vitamin C in your breast milk. In this case, some of the best foods to eat while breastfeeding are tomatoes, snow peas, pumpkin, and spinach.
It Affects the Supply of Breast Milk
Now that we have mentioned how your diet can affect the quality of your breast milk, it is also worth noting that it can influence the quantity of your breast milk as well. In the event that you experience a shortage or low supply of breast milk, consuming more foods that help produce breast milk would be the most ideal solution for your issue.
Evidence is limited but these ingredients could potentially be helpful if you’re still struggling with your milk supply. Lactogenic ingredients such as ginger, green papaya, fenugreek and moringa oleifera could be key in increasing your breast milk supply. For instance, ginger is beneficial for you as it promotes the production of breast milk through improved blood flow.
On the other hand, green papaya is great for breastfeeding mommies as it stimulates the smooth muscles that are involved in expressing your breast milk. Hence, consuming green papaya would promote the production of your breast milk. One suggestion for you to enjoy green papaya is by having a warm and comforting bowl of green papaya fish soup!
It May Affect Your Baby’s Suckling Behaviour
Foods do not only carry nutrients, they carry different hints of odours and flavours from maternal dietary intake. This is mother nature’s gift where your breast milk can provide to your little one compared to powdered milk which has a constant set of flavours, where your little one may be missing significant sensory experience.
Researchers hypothesise that this could potentially influence your child’s food preferences and familiarity as they grow up. Researchers have also found that certain foods like garlic helps in improving both the odour and taste of your breast milk by giving your milk a pleasant taste.
Since garlic affects the taste of your breast milk during the initial exposure, it serves as a good ingredient for easing the introduction of your breast milk to your baby. Hence, it encourages your baby to stay latched on for a longer time.
However, this isn’t tested on other types of food but researchers predict that sulphur containing foods like broccoli and such may have similar effects to breast milk and baby’s response. Some babies might go on a breastfeeding strike due to them being fussy or deterred by the odour of your breast milk. So how would you be able to resolve this issue then?
To prevent your breast milk from having unpleasant taste and smell, you might want to avoid exercising too strenuously. Some researches found that when mothers exercise too strenuously, lactic acid starts to build up in your breast milk subsequently having an effect on the flavour and odor of the breast milk. Babies may find it unpleasant and have lower acceptance to your breast milk.
Interestingly, babies did not have an issue with their mother’s breast milk when they performed mild to moderate intensity of exercises. Mothers could breastfeed their little one an hour post-exercise with no issue of fussiness. Nevertheless, lactic acid does not harm the baby in any way and exercise is very beneficial for mothers’s health too. All in all, do remember to exercise according to your fitness and state of recovery. Check with your doctor before you start!
While specific foods in maternal dietary intake may cause babies to have lower acceptance to breast milk, cases like this are relatively rare. Sometimes, fussiness in babies could be due to milk let down that is too slow or too fast and improper latching. In particular, improper latching could cause babies to suck in excessive air during feeds which could lead to discomfort after a while as their stomach would be full of air.
Should there be a negative reaction of your baby towards your breast milk—like an allergic reaction hours after you have eaten a certain allergenic food such as rashes, coughing, wheezing, slow breathing and swelling of the eyes and mouth area—seek medical attention right away!
Some common allergenic food include seafood, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy and wheat. It’s vital for you to work together with your pediatrician to correctly identify specific trigger foods which your baby may be allergic to as well. Exclusion of the right trigger foods in the maternal diet may provide temporary relief for your baby when you exclusively breastfeed.
Any treatment or exclusion of food should be discussed with your pediatrician or dietitian in order to avoid unnecessary restrictions which may lead to malnourishment for you and your baby’s growth.
If there are no signs of allergy, mothers are encouraged to have all foods in moderation. After all, having balanced and healthy meals throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding is of the utmost importance.
On a side note, if you need more support in easing your breastfeeding journey, MumChecked offers an array of options for breast pumps, lactation massagers, nipple shields, and more highly rated breastfeeding essentials! You might want to get one of these items for your daily use.
In a nutshell, your diet does have a significant impact during your breastfeeding period. Therefore, you should pay more attention to what you eat and never skip your meals!
If you are interested in more lactation food packages that can help you improve your lactation, view the full menu on our website! We are also ready to assist you at 6360 1000.