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Breastfeeding mothers should add enough protein to their diet

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. You should also add optimum amount of mega-3 fatty acids to your diet
  2. New mothers should drink plenty of liquids throughout the day
  3. Do not forget to have enough green leafy vegetables

You have just delivered a baby. You have a few questions regarding breastfeeding and what you need to do to ensure proper feeds for your baby. “Will what I eat affect my baby?”, “What should I eat to ensure adequate breastmilk?”, “What should I avoid while breastfeeding?” The answer to the first question, fortunately, is no. Most of what you eat does not affect your baby. While breastfeeding your newborn, your hunger levels are likely to be at an all-time high, as producing breastmilk can be demanding on the body, requiring extra calories, proteins, and other nutrients. It is recommended that you consume an additional 500 calories per day.

What to eat:

Ensure a good amount of protein in every meal- eggs, nuts, pulses, beans, tofuare all good sources of protein.

Eating fish like salmon and sardines or for vegetarians, walnuts and flax seeds, would ensure a good amount of omega 3 fatty acids (DHA) which are key nutrients in your baby’s neurodevelopment and vision.

Hydrate throughout the day. Breastmilk contains 87 percent of water which is sufficient to take care of the baby’s thirst. Breastfeeding can cause you to feel dehydrated, keep sipping on generous amounts of water, fresh fruit juices, tender coconut water, buttermilk, milk, etc. Getting too little fluids can cause milk production to lag.

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From buttermilk to coconut water, add plenty of fluids to your diet

Photo Credit: iStock

There is no scientific evidence that drinking milk will ensure more lactation. While yes, milk serves as a good source or protein and calcium, if you are averse to drinking milk, you can ensure adequate lactation though other lactogenic foods. It is important to have calcium-rich foods, as the body will draw the calcium from the bones to ensure adequate amounts in breastmilk, thus depleting your body stores. Apart from milk and dairy, green leafy vegetables and legumes are a good source of calcium.

There is a common teaching that breastfeeding helps you to shed weight. Though this is applicable to a large percentage of women, it is not universally true. Healthy weight loss in a breastfeeding mother would also require a moderate amount of exercise and spacing out those extra required calories into small frequent meals, rather than large, heavy portions.

What are the “lactogenic foods” or in simple words, what does one eat to “increase milk production”:

Green leafy vegetables, like spinach (paalak) and fenugreek (methi) are great boosters of milk production.

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Green leafy vegetables especially spinach should be a part of your diet

Photo Credit: iStock

A small amount of fenugreek seeds soaked overnight in water and consumed on empty stomach, though not particularly palatable, can work wonders to boost lactation in a matter of a few days.

Nuts, oats, and garlic are also great boosters of milk production and could be included in the everyday diet.

What to avoid while breastfeeding:

Alcohol, apart from causing a decrease in breastmilk supply, can cause altered sleep patterns and hamper the baby’s development, so it is best avoided.

Caffeine, to some extent can cause a slight decrease in lactation and is best avoided or minimized, especially if your baby is having trouble sleeping.

(Dr Shalini Chico is a Neonatologist and Pediatrician at Fortis la Femme Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore)

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