What should you eat when breastfeeding?

What should you eat when breastfeeding?

Many women are worried about their nutrition after birth: how does the mother’s diet affect breastfeeding?

Many women have been given different advice: ” You need to drink a lot of milk to get more milk,” “You need to eat calcium-rich food, so you don’t run out of milk,” “Be careful with beans, because the baby will get gas,” “Don’t drink lemon, because your milk will dry up,” and so we could continue the endless list.

So what’s the truth in all of this?

In reality, the nutrition of a breastfeeding mother influences very little on the milk supply and composition of breastmilk. Only in cases of severe malnutrition could it affect breastmilk production in some way. This means that it is not necessary to “eat well” to have good milk or a lot of milk. Your milk is perfect, and your supply is sufficient no matter what you eat. You need to eat well for other reasons but not for breastfeeding.

Your diet is important for your health and also because your baby will learn what to eat by watching adults. So if you have good eating habits at home, you are helping your baby to learn them too.

You should eat healthy because you decide to do so for your own health and to keep and teach good eating habits. But not because someone else told you that you would get more or better breastmilk, because there is no evidence for that.

What about the quality of breastmilk?

Mothers and professionals alike have always been worried about the quality of breastmilk. This fear probably stems from a lack of knowledge about why some babies did not gain weight appropriately or why some babies became sick. Today we know much more about how women’s bodies work and the causes when breastfeeding may not be effective.

Yet, despite having evolved a lot from there, the fear still persists today, so it is even more so important to emphasize that the quality of human milk is always good.

Your breastmilk is perfect for your baby; the composition of your milk is specially adapted to the needs of your little one at all times, regardless of what you eat.

Is there any food I should avoid?

As we were saying before, you do not need to follow a special diet when you are breastfeeding, nor does what you eat make breastmilk becoming of better quality. But there are a few exceptions of food that you should avoid: eating large fish such as bluefin tuna, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and marlin because of their high content of heavy metal pollutants such as mercury. Keep also in mind that depending on the geographical area in which you live, you may need to add an extra intake of iodine to your diet or another type of supplement if you have an iodine deficiency. You can discuss this with your doctor. There is more information in this article about the quality of breastmilk.

What about the quantity of breastmilk supply?

Although it is clear that the quality of a mother’s breastmilk is always good, there can be difficulties with the quantity of milk supply. The amount of milk you produce depends mainly on your baby’s demand and your mammary gland. The greater your baby’s demand, the more milk your breasts will produce.

However, it has also been seen that very calory restrictive diets of less than 1800 KCal/day and especially if the caloric limitation occurs all of a sudden, could be related to a lower breastmilk supply. This milk would still be of the best quality, but it would probably be lower in the amount you produce. So you should keep this in mind in case you start a restrictive diet without the guidance of a dietician or nutritionist.

Therefore remember, if you suspect that you might have a low milk supply, the solution is not going to be in your diet (such as cookies), nor are you going to solve anything by drinking more water, milk, or juices, but you rather have to look for the causes of this situation.

Can I have alcohol when I am breastfeeding?

Starting from the premise that alcohol is not nutritional, we should also not consider it part of a healthy diet. But in many cultures, it is common for alcohol to be part of social culture, which means that sometimes, you are invited to a glass of wine or a beer, or maybe, after not drinking at all during pregnancy, you now feel like having an adult drink.

This is a controversial topic about which you will read a lot of contradictory information, and we have summarized the topic in this article as well. If you can, avoid drinking alcoholic beverages altogether, but if you do want to have a drink:

  • Keep the age of your baby in mind: the younger your baby, the more risk is involved, as they cannot easily metabolize alcohol that might be passed on into the milk.
  • A glass of wine or beer is usually acceptable when your baby is not a newborn.
  • If, for whatever reason, you plan to drink without limits or you have had too much to drink, try to avoid breastfeeding for a few hours. You can also check on this document.
  • Remember that alcohol breaks down in breastmilk in the same way as it disappears from the bloodstream after a few hours. Therefore, you don’t need to express milk or throw it away; no need for pumping and dumping; just wait.

So, to answer the initial question in short: no, you don’t need to follow a special diet or eat in a special way while you are breastfeeding. And we know that it is not always easy to look after ourselves, even less so when we have a new baby who depends so much on our care. But perhaps this can the opportunity to put ourselves in the center and take care of ourselves as we deserve, not so much for the sake of breastfeeding, but for ourselves.


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