There’s plenty of advice floating around when it comes to breastfeeding, especially with mums so keen to produce enough, nutritious milk to keep their child healthy. But not every piece of advice you hear is necessarily accurate. Maria Baghdoyan, nutritionist at Nestlé Middle East, provides us with simple, scientific tips and tricks to help your body produce high quality breastmilk, both to benefit your baby and your own health during this important period of motherhood.
1. Eat More
For your body to produce breastmilk it has to burn about 500 extra calories, so if you’re used to sticking within your daily calorie allowance (about 2,000 kcal) make sure you’re factoring that extra nutrition in to your day. You’ll also need to make sure they come from healthy sources distributed between all food groups: Grains, fruits, vegetables, meats, pulses, milk and dairy.
A good example of a 500 kcal meal is:
- 2 slices of wholewheat bread with 1 boiled egg
- A cup of raw or cooked vegetables
- A glass of skimmed milk
- A portion of fresh fruit
2. Spread out your meals
It is absolutely normal to feel hungry all the time during breastfeeding because your body consumes a lot of energy to produce breastmilk, so to help curb the hunger pangs eat three main meals during the day with a snack in between each, including a snack after dinner to support you with night-time feeds.
3. Drink more water
You need plenty of water to produce breastmilk, so try to drink twice the amount you normally would to replenish the H2O your body is using up making milk for baby.
4. Limit your caffeine intake
Caffeine can irritate your baby and cause disruptions in their sleep, so limit your intake to no more than two or three cups a day.
5. Be moderately active
Based on recent research, it’s perfectly fine to perform physical activity while breastfeeding and you won’t affect your baby’s growth*. Try to do moderate intensity activities three or four times a week to help reduce stress levels, improve energy levels** and build bone strength***.
6. Vary your fruits and vegetables
Different fruits and vegetables have different vitamins and minerals, so having a variety will not only provide your baby with the needed vitamins and minerals for healthy growth, but will also help him accept them in the future when complimentary feeding starts. However, watch out for gassy and spicy foods as they might cause wind and irritate your baby. These include cabbage, beans, broccoli and legumes.
Read more: Is breastfeeding always best?
7. Go for the 'Good Fats'
Foods like avocados, olives, salmon, raw nuts and seeds are good sources of omega 3 and 6 which are the healthy types of fat essential for the baby’s proper brain development at this stage.
8. Look for quality in proteins
Opt for foods like lean red meat, legumes, eggs, fish, milk yogurt and cheese to provide your baby with the essential amino acids needed for healthy growth and development.
9. Calcium is crucial
One of the most important vitamins for growing infants to build strong bones and teeth is calcium. It also plays a role in the healthy functioning of the nervous system. So it is important for a breastfeeding mother to consume calcium-rich products such as low-fat milk and yogurt, white cheese varieties, dark green leafy vegetables and fortified products like wholegrain fortified breakfast cereals.
10. Iron is a must
Because breastmilk is naturally low in iron, which is needed to produce red blood cells and to support immunity, it is very important to eat foods rich in high quality iron such as lean meat, fish, chicken and eggs as they are the ones best absorbed in the body.
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*Daley AJ, Thomas A, Cooper H, Fitzpatrick H, McDonald C, Moore H, Rooney R, Deeks JJ 2012, Maternal Exercise and Growth in Breastfed Infants: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Pediatrics 130(1): 108–114.
**Rich M, Currie J, McMahon C 2004, Physical exercise and the lactating woman: a qualitative pilot study of mothers’ perceptions and experiences. Breastfeed Rev 12(2):11–7.
***Lovelady CA, Bopp MJ, Colleran HL, Mackie HK, Wideman L 2009, Effect of exercise training on loss of bone mineral density during lactation. Med Sci Sports Exerc 41(10):1902–7.