The arrival of a newborn means completely relearning everyday life and routines. In order to grow, the little one needs love, intimacy, and nutrition, which is naturally provided by breastmilk. There are many concerns surrounding breastfeeding and feeding: Is my newborn getting enough milk? Is the milk nutritious enough? Am I able to breastfeed as I would like to?
As the body begins to gradually recover from birth, breastfeeding plays an important role. Breastfeeding and milk production can be supported with the right diet and regular meals to help the mum and the whole family to manage life with a newborn more easily.
A healthy diet, regular meals and sufficient hydration all support breastfeeding.
A breastfeeding mum may feel hungrier and thirstier than usual. A mother’s dietary requirements may increase by up to 500 kilocalories per day during breastfeeding, so make sure to consume enough high-quality food so that you have enough energy for day-to-day life. The need for additional energy is affected by the number of breastfeeding babies at home and the amount of fat stored before the birth – if the mother was overweight before the pregnancy, or if she gained a significant amount of weight during the pregnancy, there is not necessarily any need to eat more than usual while breastfeeding. Listen to your body and gauge how you are coping, and react as necessary.
Make sure to drink enough liquids during breastfeeding, as the need for hydration increases in direct relation to the amount of milk secreted. Remember to drink a glass of water while breastfeeding and enjoy plenty of liquids with meals. In addition to water, the best drinks are milk, sour milk, and low-sugar juices.
“A mother’s dietary requirements may increase by up to 500 kilocalories per day during breastfeeding, so make sure to consume enough high-quality food so that you have enough energy for day-to-day life.”
Good, soft fats are an important part of a mother’s diet, as they are absorbed into the breastmilk in just a few hours. These fatty acids support the development of the baby’s nervous system and vision, so mothers should make sure to eat enough good-quality fat each day. Good fats are found in plant-based margarine, oil-based salad dressing, nuts, and fish.
Supplements to support a healthy diet
Breastfeeding mums are recommended to continue using a vitamin D supplement in the same way as during pregnancy. Vitamin D is easily obtainable from fish and from dairy products and spreads fortified with vitamin D. If your daily diet does not include a sufficient amount of dairy products, such as three glasses of milk and a few slices of cheese, it’s worth taking calcium supplements in tablet form.
It is not necessary to continue taking folic acid after the first trimester, but you should make sure that you get enough folate while breastfeeding by eating plenty of vegetables, wholegrain foods, legumes and berries.
Multivitamins and mineral supplements are only recommended to supplement poor diets and for women who breastfeed several children or donate breastmilk. Professionals at your children’s health clinic will be happy to help you with any questions relating to nutritional supplements.
These foods are not recommended for breastfeeding mothers
Nutritional recommendations for pregnancy (link to article) are stricter than for breastfeeding, but there are some similarities. Alcohol should be avoided when breastfeeding, as no safe limit can be set for its use. The alcohol content in breastmilk corresponds to alcohol levels in the mother’s bloodstream and exits the breastmilk at the same rate as from the mother’s blood. Alcohol is not stored in the mammary glands, but it is important to keep a safe amount of time between breastfeeding and enjoying alcohol.
Coffee can be enjoyed in moderation; around two cups per day, but larger amounts of caffeinated drinks can cause the baby to become restless, as some of the caffeine passes into the breastmilk. Remember that some energy snack bars can also contain caffeine.
Other foods to avoid include false morels, predatory fish caught in inland waters and Baltic sea salmon, large quantities of sugary treats and soda, seaweed and herbal supplements, and some other organic products. Some medicines are harmful during breastfeeding, so always ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Although food allergens are passed into the breastmilk, studies indicate that avoiding allergenic foods does not prevent allergies in babies.
It is not possible to prevent allergies in your baby by choosing to include certain ingredients in your diet. Although food allergens are passed into the breastmilk, studies indicate that avoiding allergenic foods does not prevent allergies in babies. Breastfeeding mothers should pay attention to any skin changes or other symptoms in their baby and discuss the possibility of any allergies at the children’s health clinic. The best way to protect babies from allergies is to fully breastfeed them for 4-6 months.
Sources: National Institute for Health and Welfare, HUS, and TAYS.