Getting the right nutritional balance when you are breastfeeding is really important for you and your baby. Whilst your milk supply may not be effected by what you eat, there is a catch – your body will always put your baby first. It will take the nutrients it needs for your baby’s milk from its own stores – this can affect your energy levels and general health and wellbeing, if you aren’t getting the nutrients you need from your diet.
This doesn’t mean you should stop eating certain foods (we all love cake!), it simply means that you should try to incorporate healthy choices where possible. It will help your energy levels and help stop you from having blood sugar lows which can make parenting that much harder. Plus, and when it’s hard to find time to cook meals, these breastfeeding superfoods are nutritional powerhouses that offer quick alternatives.
They are packed with protein, and are a good source of calcium. You need 1,250 mg of calcium daily, when breastfeeding.
Avocados provide essential healthy fats that will give you energy and help balance your cholesterol levels. They are also rich in protein, vitamin E and folate, which helps in the healthy development of your baby’s central nervous system. You need 4-5 mg of vitamin E and 260 mcg of Folate daily when breastfeeding.
It’s an excellent source of collagen, co-enzyme Q10, cholesterol, all minerals and essential amino acids. See Homemade stock recipe for more information. This can be made up during pregnancy and frozen for use in a range of recipes, including soups – perfect in a cup, when you only have one hand free!
Brazil nuts are a great snacking food for nursing mothers. They are full of selenium, vitamin E and magnesium.
Brown rice is a complex carbohydrate which will not only keep you fuller for longer, but will also help regulate your blood sugar levels. It is an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, protein and fibre. White rice doesn’t offer the same health benefits – so try and stick to brown.
These might not be everyone’s’ cup of tea, but Chia seeds are an excellent source of essential fats, protein, calcium and iron, all of which are essential for breastfeeding mums. An easy way to incorporate them into your diet is on your cereal, or with fruit and yoghurt as a snack.
Low in calories, naturally fat and cholesterol free and more potassium than four bananas – what’s not to love about coconut water! It also contains calcium, phosphorous, and lauric acid.
Not only this, it’s packed full of electrolytes and is thought to be better at replacing lost fluids than sports drinks or water. Staying hydrated is really important when breastfeeding.
Not only are eggs a quick and easy snack for sleep deprived parents, but they are also packed full of nutrients, including choline, vitamin A, B12, D, K, selenium, iodine and protein. Plus, boiled eggs are great hot or cold – something new parents will learn to cherish!
Green leafy vegetables
Including spinach and broccoli, green leafy vegetables are nutrient-dense, they are packed full of iron and folate which help you build healthy red blood cells. Also calcium and magnesium, essential for breastfeeding mums! Finally they are an excellent source of vitamin C.
The following herbs have been traditionally used to regulate milk supply, and can be used in cooking:
- Blessed Thistle
- Caraway seeds
Lentils or beans (known as legumes)
With a high levels of folate, iron and fibre legumes are a versatile food option for breastfeeding mums. Put extra beans in a chilli or have humus as a snack.
Natural live yogurt
Yoghurt offers high levels of calcium, protein magnesium and B vitamins. Plus, live yoghurt includes beneficial flora which help you and your baby maintain a healthy gut.
Organic dried apricots
Apricots can increase prolactin, the hormone that makes your body produce milk. They are a great snack and contain many essential nutrients including, beta-carotene, iron, vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fibre.
Salmon, or other oily fish
Oily fish is packed full of protein, and DHA (part of the Omega 3 fatty acid) which is important for the healthy development of your baby’s nervous system. It is also good for vitamin D which is important for healthy bones and learning, memory and mood. It is advisable to try and have two portions of oily fish per week.
Pumpernickel bread offers you a low GI carbohydrate (slow release energy), fibre, B vitamins and selenium. It is available in most supermarkets. Enjoy it toasted with peanut butter and banana, or avocado and marmite for a healthy snack.
Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, which helps your body absorb calcium – essential during breastfeeding. It’s also an excellent source of fibre and protein – great if you are a vegetarian or vegan.
Are you vegan?
The Department of Health recommends that all vegan mothers should supplement with vitamin D and vitamin B12 when breastfeeding.
For more information about nutrition in pregnancy and when breastfeeding, see Foundations of a healthy diet: part one, Foundations of a healthy diet: part two. If you would like to learn more about nutrition check out the Reinvent Course in our shop.
Information provided by Bump and Beyond Nutrition.