Nutrition for breastfeeding mothers

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The first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week – a time dedicated to considering the way breastfeeding is associated with wellbeing from the start of life. It’s also a time to reflect on how we need to respect one another (mums and beyond) and also care for the world in which we live.

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The principles of World Breastfeeding Week aim to promote the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mum and baby, highlight the support mums need to begin and sustain breastfeeding, and champion the support networks and organisations available for mums and families.

While my friends at Bellamy’s offer alternatives for mothers who may not be able to exclusively breastfeed, breast is still the best option for mum and babies, particularly those aged up to six months. Here’s my list of nutritional tips for breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding: nutrients required

Anyone who has exclusively breastfed will be well aware of the enormous energy demands breastfeeding puts on your body. In terms of calories you will need up to an extra 500 calories per day – which is roughly one extra meal. As most new mums struggle to eat the minimum amount of calories as a busy, sleep deprived new mum, it is no surprise that many women struggle to produce enough milk. For this reason, eating enough is one of the key things for new mums to focus on to help establish and maintain their milk supplies. Always take food when visiting a new mum!

Breastfeeding: snack ideas

A breastfeeding mum will need at least three meals, as well as two or three snacks to get enough calories. Ideally, meals and snacks will be nutrient rich – offering protein, good quality carbs and good fats. And unfortunately, the extra cake just won’t cut it. Food that you can eat on-the-go tend to work best. These might include nut bars, Greek yogurt, toasted sandwiches, brown rice and tuna, pasta or cheese and crackers – all foods that do not require a lot of preparation but which offer plenty of nutrition. Late night feeds can quickly lead to late night snacking on sweet treats to help give you an energy boost when you are tired.

Remember, while biscuits, chocolate and cake may satisfy you from a sugar perspective, overindulging will often keep baby weight on – so try and limit portion sizes and not let yourself get too hungry by making sure you are eating regularly.

Breastfeeding: milk supply issues 

For mums struggling with supply issues, there are a few key things you can do to help increase milk supply. Maintaining optimal hydration is the most important thing and you will need at least two or three litres of fluid each day when exclusively breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding cookies are also popular but they can cause gut discomfort for your baby as they are high in fibres – so be aware of these issues for your newborn. While breastfeeding you will also need to be careful with caffeine consumption as babies can be quite sensitive to caffeine. Choosing decaffeinated versions of your favourite hot drinks may be the best choice for your baby. Also keep in mind that chocolate too contains caffeine – especially dark chocolate, which can in turn be transferred to your baby.

Breastfeeding: my experience

Breastfeeding, while a wonderful thing if you can do it, can also present some challenges. It is for this reason that it may be right for some mums and not for others. Importantly, there should never be any judgement associated with this. It is a personal choice whether breastfeeding is right for you and your baby.

As a new mum of six-month-old-twins, I look at mothers with bountiful milk supplies with much envy as I am lucky to be able to express enough milk to offer each of my twins two breastfeeds each day. While I breastfed one of my twins until three to four months, one never latched very well so I always expressed for him. Now, I find expressing the most time efficient given I am juggling two babies and do the best I can with it.

It is a sensitive issue for me as I would have loved to exclusively breastfeed both my babies. For this reason, I rarely ask mums how and what they are feeding their baby unless prompted. This is simply as I know myself what a personal area this is and is often associated with much guilt – which should never be the case. All mums feed their child the best way they know and can, whether that means exclusively breastfeeding, comp feeding or using various formulas.

Read more about my experience as a new mum here.

Susie is currently an ambassador for Bellamy’s Organic. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are her own. To read more about Susie’s partnership with Bellamy’s, click here.