Breastmilk is acknowledged to be the most complete form of nutrition for your baby for at least the first six months of his or her life.
Although there are shelves of infant formulas in supermarkets these days, these products cannot compare to the benefits provided by good quality breast milk, and are inferior (and expensive!) alternatives. The best thing you can do for your baby is to breastfeed and the below are some tips to help you produce the best breastmilk possible for your little one.
Stay well hydrated
Drink twice the amount of water you would normally consume as you lose a lot of fluids producing breastmilk - 4 litres a day will help produce plenty of milk. You should also reduce or avoid diuretics that can dry up breastmilk such as tea, coffee, chocolate, sugars and alcohol.
Increase total kilojoule/calorie intake a day
Building breastmilk uses up about 500 calories a day so you need to make sure you eat enough energy food to produce enough breastmilk (this is not the time to go on a diet!). Eat nutritious foods such as raw nuts and seeds, hummus and tahini, wholemeal vegetable muffins, fritata. Make sure you avoid foods that are high in calories but nutritionally void such as junk food, potato chips and chocolate. Insufficient calorie intake will result in reduction of breastmilk production or poor growth patterns in your baby.
Eat plenty of good quality protein
Eating plenty of good quality protein is necessary for healthy milk production and will ensure your baby gets all the essential amino acids for mental and physical growth. Mothers also need adequate protein for themselves as their bodies need it to heal and revitalise after giving birth. Keep in mind that protein intake requirement during breastfeeding is more than during pregnancy as you lose quite a bit of protein in breastmilk. During breastfeeding, the amount of protein you would need on average is 1.4g/kg of body weight. Good quality protein includes: fish, organic meat and chicken, nuts and seeds, legumes, eggs, dairy products.
Eat good fats
Breastmilk is rich in the omega 3 essential fatty acid, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). A baby’s brain continues to grow until it reaches three years of age and a healthy brain development is dependent on a good supply of DHA. To ensure your hindmilk (the high-fat creamier milk that follows the foremilk, which is the thinner milk that the baby gets first) is rich in DHA, supplement with essential fatty acids high in DHA and eat cold water fish that are low in mercury, cold pressed oils, raw nuts and seeds, avocado and coconut milk/cream.
Eat foods high in calcium
A mother’s diet is reflected in the vitamin contents of her breastmilk. Calcium is highly concentrated in breastmilk as it is important for baby’s growth, especially in helping them to develop their muscle, bones and neurological system. Eat plenty of foods that are high in calcium such as seaweed, full fat organic dairy products from cow, goat and sheep, tahini, nuts and seeds, tinned red salmon and tinned sardines. If you don’t get enough calcium from dietary sources, it is recommended that you take calcium supplements - aim to consume 1500mg of calcium a day during breastfeeding.