As the saying goes, breast is best. Without doubt, breast milk is the best option when it comes to fulfilling your baby’s nutritional needs. But how about your nutritional needs as a nursing mother?
Many mothers, especially first-timer mothers, find breastfeeding stressful. The main concerns are on insufficient milk supply and nutrition. What’s clear is that the mother’s nutrition is essential to ensure the mother and baby’s well-being.
What you eat plays an important role in the quality of the breast milk, as the nutrients you gain will be passed on to your baby through breastfeeding. Your energy and nutrient requirements will also increase in the first six months of lactation, hence it is essential that you get adequate nutrients during your nursing period.
“Non-lactating women require 2000 Kcal while lactating women require 2500 Kcal, which means lactating women need a 25% increase in energy levels,” says Dr Tee Ee Siong, President of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia. “Other nutrient needs also increase such as protein, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, calcium, zinc and iodine. To fulfill these increased needs, lactating mothers need to choose foods that are rich in essential nutrients.”
It helps to plan your meals according to the food pyramid to ensure you obtain a balanced diet. Dr Tee recommends these food groups for nursing mothers:
Calcium – Milk, beans, breakfast cereals, spinach, watercrest, tofu and tempeh.
Iron – Lean meat, chicken, egg, chick peas, bitter gourd, dried soya bean curd and kangkung.
Iodine – Seafood such as mussels, seaweed, marine fish, milk.
Zinc – Meat, fish, nuts, legumes and shellfish.
Folate – Green leafy vegetables, asparagus, okra and fortified grain products.
The additional energy and nutrients should be met from the three main meals in a day. For between-meal snacks, choose fruits and wholemeal products that are low in energy, fat and sugar, he adds.
It is also important to stay hydrated. Like everyone else, breastfeeding mothers should have 8 glasses of water a day. Plain water is best to ensure there is no excessive intake of fat and sugar. Will drinking more increase milk supply though?
“Drinking sufficient water is important for milk production. However, it does not mean that the more water a woman drinks, more milk is produced,” Dr Tee reveals.
WHAT TO AVOID
According to Dr Tee, there are no specific foods to be avoided during breastfeeding except those with a high content of fat, salt and sugar.Even if you’re the type that cannot survive without your daily cuppa or cuppa joe, here’s some good news: caffeinated products such as coffee, tea and cola can still be taken, but at a minimal amount.
A healthy being
Generally, whatever a mother eats will not upset her baby. However, it is important to maintain a healthy well-being during breastfeeding.
Leading a stress-free and healthy lifestyle is most important for both mother and baby. Exercise, having sufficient sleep and rest, being physically and emotionally comfortable will go a long way in ensuring that your milk supply is well and good for your baby.
IS BABY GETTING ENOUGH?
Every breastfeeding mother worries that her milk is insufficient for her baby’s needs. Here are signs that baby is getting enough:
- Baby wets his or her diapers 6 times or more in a day with pale yellow urine.
- Baby has 3 to 4 bowel movements a day, which becomes less frequent as he grows older.
- Baby looks alert, healthy and sleeps well.
- Baby’s monthly growth in terms of weight and height are regular.
- Baby is meeting all the important milestones such as crawling, walking, talking and playing.