A breastfeeding mother’s food woes answered

Contrary to popular belief, not everything that a breastfeeding mother consumes is actually transferred to the baby through her breast milk. There are no foods that you should avoid simply because you are breastfeeding.

By Dr Vanshika Gupta Adukia

It is known without a doubt that breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby. However, a breastfeeding mother’s food and nutrition receives abundant advice and constant scrutiny.

But what’s accurate and what’s just an old wives’ tale? Does one need to maintain a ‘perfect diet’ while breastfeeding? The simple answer is ‘No’. Research suggests that the quality of diet or rather what a mother eats while breastfeeding has little effect on the production of milk. A poor diet is more likely to leave the mother malnourished and thus affect her body, but in no way would it leave the breastfed baby affected. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

Does a breastfeeding mother need to drink milk in order to make milk?

A breastfeeding mother does not need to drink milk in order to make milk. Milk intake will help the mother with her own nutrition requirements and hence can be taken, but in no way will several glasses of milk through the day ensure an increased production of breast milk.

Remember breast milk production works on the principle of demand and supply; the more one initiates breastfeeding, the more will the stimuli of the baby suckling on the breast help the body with producing more milk.

Are there any foods that should be avoided during breastfeeding?

Contrary to popular belief, not everything that a breastfeeding mother consumes is actually transferred to the baby through her breast milk. There are no foods that you should avoid simply because you are breastfeeding.

Generally, a nursing mother can eat according to her choice, quantities that she deems fit for her body, at times when she is hungry.

It is a myth that lentils, pulses, spices, citrus etc. when eaten will irritate the baby’s gut or even produce gas in the baby’s body. However, keep in mind that cow milk protein does pass down to the baby in breast milk. Cow milk protein allergy is something you may want to consider eliminating and checking for, rather than eliminating other food types from your diet.

Additionally, if there is a history of food allergies within the family, you may wish to limit or eliminate those allergens from your diet till they are ruled out for your baby.

The only time you could look at completely avoiding a certain food is if you see a particular reaction in the baby every time you consume that specific food. In such a case you could look at completely eliminating the same from your diet, but such issues are extremely rare and it is most likely that the baby is affected with something other than food.

What dietary requirements must be followed to maintain an ample milk supply?

The main thing to maintain an ample milk supply is to nurse often.

Consuming fats will not make breast milk fat richer, drinking milk will not produce more quantities. Keep in mind the following:

Hydrating well: Our bodies utilise water from all liquids. Keeping well hydrated is essential. Some mothers feel they are thirsty all the time, but many others do not drink more than usual. Drink according to thirst. Some believe that drinking water may dilute breast milk leaving the baby hungry, for this reason they believe water intake too should be limited; this is a complete myth and can prove to be problematic for the mother as it would leave her dehydrated.

Calorie intake: Breastfeeding mothers are known to generally feel more hungry. One roughly burns about 250-500 calories while breastfeeding through the day and this is dependent on how often you feed and even the age of the baby. Eating for two while breastfeeding is absolutely out of the question. Maintain a balanced nutritious diet.

Football hold and other breastfeeding positions to help your baby latch on properly

Vitamins & supplements: Look at consuming all vitamins and supplements prescribed by your healthcare provider and strictly adhere to the timeframe recommended. Get in touch with your healthcare provider for your own body’s nutritional stores, if you are currently breastfeeding and not on any of the following supplements:

Calcium: Vegan breastfeeding mothers must consider taking a calcium supplement for their own body’s optimum functioning if on a dairy free diet.

Vitamin D3: Ensure you keep a check on your Vitamin D3 levels and if deficient, start supplements for the same.

(The writer is a pregnancy, childbirth, lactation specialist & pelvic floor physiotherapist.)

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