It’s so important for mums to make sure they’re getting the right fuel when breastfeeding. Mamamade have teamed up with our friend Jodie Brandman, Nutritional Therapist and founder of The Female Health Hub, to help our community of parents understand how breastfeeding affects our bodies, and the foods we should eat more (and less!) of while breastfeeding.
How does breastfeeding affect the body?
According to the NHS, you don’t have to eat anything special whilst breastfeeding.
But there's no doubt about it - breastfeeding puts a mum's body and mind under immense strain. The body burns up to 500 calories a day producing breastmilk alone, which can really knock a mum's energy levels!
New mums are also usually breastfeeding at a time where their body has been through some pretty intense trauma. Labour and delivery, whether that’s vaginal or via c-section, is HARD on the body, and breastfeeding often happens during recovery. So it’s really important that mum is getting food which offers nutrients for herself and her baby, helps keep her energy levels up, and helps her body to heal.
Also, when we eat better, we often feel better. So having a good diet whilst breastfeeding makes sense!
Which foods do you recommend for breastfeeding mums?
“Mums need a lot more nutrient-dense foods for fuel when breastfeeding. I don’t really like talking about calories - sadly, breastfeeding is not an excuse to be eating loads of cookies or cake! But it’s also important that breastfeeding mums eat regularly and don’t skip meals, and also stay well hydrated, ideally with water. You’ve got to make sure you’re getting as many of your essential vitamins and minerals through your diet as possible.”
“Firstly, make sure you’re getting in loads of different coloured fruits and veg for nutrients to help heal you and your baby grow!”
“Oats, almonds, nutritional yeast and flax are all thought to help with milk supply. Oats are also high in fibre and release energy slowly - this is great for breastfeeding, as it can be exhausting for a new mum.”
“Protein is also really important for repair of the body and to build hormone levels needed after birth - even years after! Meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils are all fantastic sources of protein.”
“Healthy fats - such as avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, are fantastic sources of energy and nutrients, and make great snacks for breastfeeding mums.”
“Oily fish such as salmon contains both proteins and healthy fats. It’s a great source of omega 3 which studies have shown to elevate the symptoms of postnatal depression and help with baby’s brain development.”
There are other vitamins our bodies need which can be harder to source through diet alone, particularly while breastfeeding. The NHS recommends that all adults, including breastfeeding women, should consider taking vitamin D supplements.
What foods should breastfeeding mums avoid?
“As a nutritionist, I would recommend breastfeeding mums avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar - all of these can put pressure on a new mums body, and can also affect your baby.”
Most health professionals say that small amounts of alcohol will not harm your baby whilst breastfeeding. But, some parents will choose to avoid alcohol altogether while breastfeeding. Mamamade support parents choosing what's best for them.
The NHS say that caffeine can reach your baby through your breastmilk and keep them awake. The suggest that you limit your intake to only 2 cups of tea or coffee a day whilst breastfeeding to avoid restlessness.
What do Mamamade say?
At Mamamade, our goal is to arm parents with the tools and information they need to make informed decisions for themselves and their babies in a safe, non-judgemental space.
We fully support parents who choose to breastfeed and bottle feed, parents who stick to feeding schedules and parents who find a more relaxed approach is what works best for them and their baby.
We’re here to listen, to share the load, and to offer our support. For more parenting tips and advice, join our Facebook group Mamamates, where our growing community of parents share laughs, tears and words of encouragement.
If you have concerns or further questions about breastfeeding or your baby, talk to your GP or health visitor, or contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212. You can start chat to the Start4Life Breastfeeding Chatbot which offers friendly breastfeeding advice 24/7.