THREE PART PREGNANCY SERIES #3: A MOTHER'S DIET AND THE AFFECT ON LACTATION

There are many pressures and opinions that come with being a mother, one of those being breast or bottle?

This blog isn’t designed to tell you that you should either breast or bottle feed your child, but instead aim to provide an overview of what you should be fuelling your body with if you are breast-feeding to nourish your body during this important time. If you are interested in information on infant formula vs breast-feeding you can check out a previous blog of mine: Breast Milk, Infant Formula & What Works for You.

The ideal and preferred food in providing optimal nutrition for healthy term infants is through human milk due to its complex fat structure that is critical for infant growth. The energy from breast milk is mainly provided from the fats and carbs in your diet, however the amount of protein (mainly casein and whey) in breast milk is not heavily influenced by the mothers diet. Under normal circumstances substances don’t pass directly from Mum’s blood system to the milk, however if you experience mastitis milk tends to be higher in sodium and chloride and lower in lactose and potassium.

The major long chain poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s) in human milk are; docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA). These are recognised as a nutrient fundamental to the development of an infant’s central nervous system, brain and vision. The amount of fat in your diet will not affect the amount of fat in your breast milk, however you can vary the type of fat found in your breast milk and it is possible to increase or decrease the polyunsaturated fat content in your breast milk by altering your diet. If you are maintaining your energy intake and body weight, the fatty acid content of your diet will be reflected in your breast milk. However if you are losing weight or restricting kilojoules, your fatty-acid pattern of milk can decrease.

There is no evidence that your maternal energy stores (BMI) have a detectable relationship with the volume of milk produced so those carrying a little more body fat won’t necessarily produce a great volume of milk and vice versa, however stress, alcohol and smoking can reduce the volume of milk produced – so be sure to avoid/limit these where possible while you are breast feeding.

BREAST FEEDING – ONE BIG ENERGY BURNER

I’ve definitely heard it before (and sure most of you have also) when you see Mums ‘bouncing back’ from child birth and losing maternal weight gain relatively quickly after their body has just undergone 10 months of huge transformation. Many say ‘it’s the breast feeding, it just makes the weight fall off’, however this is not the case for everyone. Breastfeeding can make you a calorie-burning machine; your hormones are in overdrive making sure your body is producing as much as it needs to keep your little one satisfied. Some women will drop pregnancy weight gain relatively quickly whilst breast-feeding due to this increase in energy expenditure, however many Mums will retain this until the actually stop breastfeeding (isn’t it amazing how are bodies are all SO different!).

It is hard to define set energy requirements for women that are breast feeding as there are so many individual factors; how often are you feeding your baby, what are your activity levels, any pre-existing medical conditions, height, age, diet and so on, therefore the following are estimates only for those that are breastfeeding. Whilst breast feeding there is an increased need of approximately 2000-3000kj/ day (about 500 – 700 calories per day), with most women storing 2-5kg of body fat that can be utilized to provide energy for breastfeeding for the first three months, so this isn’t always needed from additional food initially. The increased energy requirements are also dependent on the volume of milk you are producing, which again can vary greatly from one Mum to the next, which is why it so it is important to recognize that everyone will have differing energy requirements and the need to fuel your body appropriately.

Because the fatty acid content of your breast milk can be influenced by your diet and the fact that breastfeeding is already causing a potential energy deficit, the post-partum time is not the time to be rushing about trying to get your ‘pre-baby body’ back - it is a time for you to put both you and your little one first. You need to be fuelling your body with a variety of whole, nutritious foods, resting and incorporating gentle movement if you have been given the all clear to do so all to assist in setting you up for breastfeeding success and a good recovery. Make sure to be kind to yourself, starting with kind thoughts within your mind.

ARE THERE ANY INCREASES IN RDI’s WHILST BREASTFEEDING?

Just as there are during pregnancy, breastfeeding is also a taxing time on the body and there are some increases to the daily intakes of some vitamins and minerals.

B vitamins: Thiamin, B6, Niacin and Riboflavin, B12 & folate (folic acid). You can continue to take a pregnancy multivitamin of breast feeding supplement to assist in meeting these slightly increased RDI’s, but also be sure to try your best to get these through your diet. Try incorporating asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, chick peas, dried beans, lentils, spinach & animal products (such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, or dairy). You can also try fortified breakfast cereals and enriched soy or rice milk.

Vitamin A and C RDI’s are also slightly elevated as this is secreted in breast milk and passed to your new bub. If you are eating a varied, healthy diet then there should be no reason that you have difficulty meeting these requirements.

When it comes to minerals (iron, calcium, zinc, iodine), RDI’s have factored in a safety margin for the allowance of these being secreted daily in milk. Iron and zinc levels are increased slightly in those that are breastfeeding, so again it is important to eat a varied diet rich in

STAPLE ITEMS FOR YOUR SHOPPING LIST:

If you are breastfeeding, add these items to your weekly shopping list and incorporating into your meal planning to assist with breastfeeding, milk production and post partum recovery:

  • Oats
  • Brewers yeast
  • Flaxseeds / Flaxmeal
  • Dried fruit & nuts – almonds, cashews
  • Fennel
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Salmon
  • Carrots
  • Basil
  • Chick peas/lentils
  • Brown rice
  • Water

IDEAS FOR INCORPORATING THE ABOVE FOODS

So you've just gone and purchased some of the above - here is some ways to add them to your daily diet:

  • Oats/porridge mixed with chia seeds, flaxmeal, brewers yeast, berries & almond milk - a great breakfast idea
  • Smoothie - Banana, berries, almond milk, spinach, brewers yeast
  • Veggie sticks with hommus - the perfect, easy snack
  • Fruit & nut mix - another easy snack idea
  • Salmon with brown rice & green leafy veggies, meats with salad & lentils - nutritious dinner or lunch time meals.
  • Water – don’t forget to drink plenty of this! More than you would when you were pregnant. It helps prevent you from dehydration and replaces fluid lost during lactation.

FINAL WORD

Overall breastfeeding can utilize approximately 500 calories per day in lactating women. It is important to note that this varies greatly from woman to woman; those with low activity levels can actually gain weight if energy levels are not maintained, whereas those that are physically active may require larger energy intakes.

Whilst breastfeeding it is important to make sure you are consuming adequate calories from beneficial food sources (as above) to help boost or maintain your milk supply. This should be your priority over weight loss or getting back to your pre-baby weight. Your body has undergone drastic changes over the past 10 months and the hard work is far from over. You now need to help grow a healthy infant so fuelling your body right will be your priority - remove any pressure and pre-conceived ideas of rushing back to exercise or starting a diet (now is definitely not the time to be dieting).

Look at food as fuel for you and bub and plan ahead as best you can to make sure you incorporate some of the foods that can help with post-partum recovery and milk supply - put those visitors to good use and get them prepping some healthy, nourishing meals!

Brooke x