Old wives’ tales, myths and superstitions have always surrounded breastfeeding and the food a new mom should consume or avoid. Many women are concerned that breastfeeding moms have too many dietary rules and restrictions to follow. It might be scary to think you won’t be able to eat well enough for your baby, or it might sound like you have to give up too many foods that you like. It’s enough to make some women think twice about breastfeeding. So what are some food recommendations from experts and which foods help a lactating mother?

TC46 connected with Certified Lactation Consultant Arushi Agrawal and here she shares the 10 dos and don’ts of food consumption for new mothers who are breastfeeding.

Pregnancy, Breastfeeding & Food

Pregnancy is a phase where every woman indulges and eats all that she wishes to. That’s one phase where every new mom eats guilt-free with all the pampering coming her way. But as soon as she delivers, the question of what to eat and what not to eat starts to daunt her. Especially for mothers who choose to breastfeed, they are warier of what they are eating as it might have an impact on their baby! Let’s dig deep and explore some quick tips to ease all the new moms of all their diet-related queries!

1. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! 

That’s one advice every mother receives from the very day she delivers and the most common notion is, ”drink plenty of water to make plenty of milk”. But the truth is that drinking too much water can on the contrary deplete your milk supply. Milk is 87% water so a breastfeeding mom naturally feels thirsty so all she has to do is listen to her body i.e. drink water when she is thirsty. Excess of water intake leads to diuresis i.e. frequent urination that depletes the supply.

2. Go for a variety of foods

Eat a wide variety of foods as close to their natural state as possible-raw vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grains. Raw and simply prepared whole foods, especially brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and lots of dark leafy greens, give you energy and provide a good foundation for excellent health.

3. Include fibre-rich foods in your daily diet

After delivery, a new mom is very prone to constipation and gut-related ailments. And if the breastfeeding mother is gassy or constipated it will have a direct impact on the baby. Hence mothers are advised to include fibre rich food like whole grains like oats, barley, wheat; pulses; nuts and seeds in their diet and eat light food that is easily digested and absorbed by the body.

4. Know the value of diversity and variety

Eating smaller amounts of lots of different foods will help with the following:

  • Ensure that all your nutritional bases are covered
  • Reduce your breastfeeding baby’s risk of developing allergies and food sensitivities 
  • Lessen the likelihood of any unpredictable or undesirable effects from eating excessive amounts of any one thing

5. It’s best to limit your caffeine intake

Drink beverages such as coffee, caffeinated tea, and herbal tea in moderation. These beverages contain plant constituents that, in large amounts, have medicinal properties that may affect your milk supply or, if they contain caffeine, may upset your baby. 

6. Keep a tab on foods with saturated fat

Fat is the most variable component in breast milk. The type and amount of fat you consume have an effect on the fat profile of your breast milk. Breast milk normally contains some especially nutritious fats, such as essential omega-3 fatty acids. Breast milk also contains cholesterol, which is important for your baby’s development. But if you eat too much saturated fat then trans-fat will enter your milk which causes various diseases. Hence the intake of saturated fat should be limited and mothers should include food like coconut, flaxseed, nuts, canola oil, green leafy vegetables which are good sources of essential fatty acids.

7. Spices and herbs can affect your milk supply

Get to know about spices and herbs more! Nursing moms who are worried about their supply of breast milk may want to stay away from certain foods – especially specific herbs and spices as they may have a negative effect on milk supply. For instance, mint, especially peppermint, may reduce the supply of milk. Oregano and sage are also believed to minimize the supply of milk.

8. Seeds are a great way to boost milk production

Seeds are the most powerful ‘galactagogues,’ or foods for increasing breast milk production. Indian lore passed down from generation to generation relies heavily on these foods to maximize milk production. Fenugreek, sesame, fennel, cumin, and poppy seeds are several seeds to include in your diet.

9. Beware of dieting! 

Much as striving for the ideal “breastfeeding diet” is not appropriate, a weight loss diet is not recommended either. Don’t obsess right after delivery about losing weight, because breastfeeding can naturally increase your metabolism. Restricting your food and calorie intake will reduce the amount of milk you produce and deprive you and your baby of essential nutrients. To keep you feeling full longer, eat foods that are rich in nutrients and low in calories.

10. Alcohol is a big no

Alcohol consumption should be avoided specifically during the first initial months as it readily enters your bloodstream and thereafter in breast milk. The baby’s gut, in the beginning, is too immature to digest alcohol and thus it can harm the baby. Also, a baby with parents who have had alcohol is at a higher risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Just remember new moms that one doesn’t have to eat right for their baby but for oneself. As soon as you deliver your body will make milk for your child but if you don’t eat right it will be made at the cost of your reserves and you too are equally important!