NUTRITION DURING BREASTFEEDING
There is no doubt that breastfeeding can be exhausting and this is mainly because it uses up a lot of your energy and nutrients. To meet these extra needs, it is important to eat a variety of nutritious foods from all of the five food groups in line with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. From pregnancy to breastfeeding, the main increase is your intake of vegetables & legumes/beans from 5 to 7.5 serves per day, and grains from 8.5 to 9 serves per day. This extra intake per day from the vegetables and grain food group will provide you and your baby with adequate vitamins, minerals, fibre and energy.
OUR NUTRITION TIPS DURING BREASTFEEDING
1. Include protein at each meal and snack
Protein is required for cell growth, therefore eating an adequate amount while breastfeeding is important. Protein is also key in building and maintaining muscle mass, and can be used as a source of energy – which you need lots of during this time! The recommended dietary intake during breastfeeding increases from 60g/day while pregnant to 67g/day. To meet these increased requirements, aim to include a protein source at each meal and most snacks. Protein can be found in both animal and plant-based foods such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils, dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese) and soy products (tofu, tempeh, soy milk).
2. Keep up with fluids
It is important that you are keeping up with your fluids while breastfeeding because the majority of your breast milk is water. So every time you are breastfeeding, you are losing fluids, which can make you feel dehydrated very quickly if you are not drinking enough. Each time you feed your baby, keep a glass of water with you to drink afterwards to replenish your fluid losses. If you often forget to drink water, keep a glass or bottle with you as a reminder. If you do not enjoy the taste of plain water, try adding lemon, limes or citrus fruits for some flavour.
3. Don’t forget about iron
Iron is important for your baby’s growth, brain development and is also needed to form red blood cells, which help carry oxygen in the blood. An inadequate iron intake can make you feel tired, weak and may result in slow development for your baby. Iron comes from both meat (haem-iron) and plant-based products (non-haem iron), however haem-iron is better absorbed than non-haem iron. Haem-iron comes from red meat, chicken, turkey, fish and non-haem iron is found in iron-fortified breads and breakfast cereals, legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas), dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and eggs. You can increase iron absorption by eating iron foods with vitamin C rich foods (citrus fruits, tomato, capsicum). If you are vegetarian, vegan or don’t like eating meat then you may need an iron supplement.
4. Calcium for strong bones
Calcium is responsible for building and maintaining strong, healthy bones and teeth for both you and your baby. If you do not get enough calcium through your diet, your body will remove calcium from your bones. This is not ideal because if your body removes more calcium than it deposits, this will lead to reduced bone strength, therefore gradually weakening your bones. This will increase your risk of falls and osteoporosis later in life. To meet your recommended dietary intake of 1000mg/day of calcium, aim to have 2.5 serves of dairy and/or alternatives each day. Calcium can be found in dairy foods (milk, yoghurt, cheese) and alternatives such as calcium fortified soy products (at least 100mg calcium per 100ml), firm tofu, almonds, dark green leafy vegetables and fish with bones (sardines, salmon)
Vitamin D is also important because it helps your body absorb calcium, so they work together as a team to keep your bones strong and healthy. There is very little vitamin D in foods; our main source is from the sun, so don’t forget to enjoy some time in the sun. If you think you may be deficient in vitamin D, then speak to your GP.
5. Lastly, lets talk Iodine
Adequate iodine assists with normal growth and brain development for your baby. It is also essential for normal thyroid function. Iodine requirements increase substantially upon pregnancy and breastfeeding. Foods that are high in iodine include wholegrain breads and cereals, freshly cooked and consumed fish/seafood, eggs, dairy products and some vegetables. You may need an iodine supplement so speak to a Dietitian or GP if you’re unsure whether you are meeting your requirements.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
There are several other vitamins and minerals that play an important role for healthy growth and development for your baby. That is why it is important to eat a well-balanced diet that incorporates a wide variety of foods from the five food groups.
This will put you in the best position to meet your extra nutrient and energy requirements in order to positively influence your health and your baby’s health.
CHAT WITH US
If you are wondering whether you are meeting your nutritional requirements during breastfeeding, then get in contact with one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians for individualised advice. Feel free to book into one of our nearest clinics or contact us for online consults.