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Nurse In Good Health

Whether you are under confinement or nursing, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to run away from dietary advice about how your diet should be like. Expert opinions are suddenly abundant!

Having said that, the next few pages are no exception….

Now that we’ve got your attention, the truth is, there is no special kind of food that you have to prepare or consume when you are breast feeding your baby.

The stress point here is to build up your strength and energy as a new mum who has to nurse and care for her baby and also cook and perform household chores. While normally one can perhaps afford to slack a little when it comes to eating healthy, a nursing mum however, needs the best nutrition she can afford to be in top shape for her own well-being and that of her baby. Read on to see exactly why we feel that nursing and nutrition should go hand in hand.

Stay healthy with good food

While you do not require any special sort of food while you’re breastfeeding, you should, however, try to follow a healthy, balanced diet, which includes:

  • Foods that provide carbohydrate, such as bread and rice. Choose wholegrain varieties, for added fibre
  • Lots of fruit and vegetables
  • A moderate amount of protein, such as lean meat, eggs and pulses. Have at least two portions of fish a week, including oily fish such as salmon
  • Include some low-fat dairy food, such as a yoghurt or low-fat milk

Is drinking more water necessary?

Needless to say, water is of utmost importance to a human body. It is needed in practically every bodily function. It is a fact that a human body will stop functioning from severe dehydration long before it can die of hunger.

Not drinking enough water leads to thirst and consequently, dehydration, which is not something any human body needs regardless of whether you’re nursing or not. Hence, you do need to drink enough to satisfy your thirst. On another note, drinking lots of water won’t exactly affect your milk supply and neither will going a little thirsty now and then. Your body is very good at regulating its reserves to keep your milk supply going.

However, bear in mind that during breastfeeding your body releases the hormone oxytocin, which makes you feel uncomfortably thirsty. So do keep a drink nearby when you’re breastfeeding to keep thirst at bay.

The color of your urine is a good indicator if you’re getting enough to drink or not. If your urine is clear or pale, you’re doing alright. If it’s dark yellow, or smells strongly you may be heading for a state of dehydration. This is especially so if you’re also feeling lethargic or faint, for it could mean that you’re already dehydrated, in which case you should drink more water.

Do I need extra calories when I am breastfeeding?

Studies have shown that most healthy breastfeeding women maintain an abundant milk supply while taking in 1800-2200 (or more) calories per day. Consuming less than 1500-1800 calories per day (most women should stay at the high end of this range) may put your milk supply at risk, as may a sudden drop in caloric intake.

The number of additional calories needed for nursing depends on:

The extent of your breastfeeding:

Is your child exclusively breastfed, mostly breastfed, or breastfed 1-2 times per day? If your nursling is only partial (for example, an older child who is getting less milk, or a younger child who is getting formula supplements), calorie requirements will be proportionally less.

Your fat reserves:

Is your body mass index (BMI) low, high or in-between? A mum who does not have any spare fat reserves (and most of us do!) will need to increase her intake of calories. Maternal fat stores typically provide about 200 calories per day towards lactation, so if your BMI is low (particularly if you’re considered very underweight, or BMI<19.8) you will need to get extra calories from your diet.

Be guided by your appetite and eat when you’re hungry.

Your body may have laid down fat stores during pregnancy, and breastfeeding can help to use up these fat stores. The amount you need to eat depends on your pre-pregnancy weight, and how much weight you gained during pregnancy, as well as how active you are.

Having said that, breastfeeding usually gives you a big appetite. So if you don’t feel like eating, it could be a sign that you need extra emotional support. Women who have postnatal depression sometimes lose their appetite. If you’re finding it a struggle to eat, talk to your doctor or health visitor.

Can I lose weight while I’m breastfeeding?

Yes. You may have put on a bit of weight while you were pregnant, so losing some of this weight while you’re breastfeeding is fine. Losing about 500g (1lb) to 1kg (2lb) a week shouldn’t affect the amount or the quality of milk you make.

However, if you have a newborn, you’ll need plenty of energy. Trying to lose weight too soon after giving birth may delay your recovery and make you feel even more tired.

Eating healthily and doing some gentle exercise will help you to get in shape. This is better than very strict low-calorie diets when you are breastfeeding. You can increase how much you exercise six weeks to eight weeks after giving birth, if you feel up to it.

What shouldn’t I eat when breastfeeding?

You can eat virtually anything you like while breastfeeding, as long as you do it in moderation.

However, traces of food and drink can sometimes get into breast milk and this may affect your baby. Some babies are affected by a protein in cow’s milk, which causes symptoms such as:

  • bloating
  • itchy skin and a rash
  • swollen eyes, face or lips
  • wheeziness or coughing
  • diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • vomiting or reflux
  • a poor appetite
  • eczema
  • changes to the poo

If you think that dairy is affecting your baby, talk to your doctor about removing it from your diet for a week or so, to see if it makes a difference. If your baby has been diagnosed with a cow’s milk allergy, a dietitian can advise you on how to remove it from your diet completely. You may need to compensate with calcium and vitamin D supplements.

There isn’t much evidence to suggest that certain foods you eat while you are breast feeding causes colic in your baby. Colic could be due a number of things, such as your baby not being latched on well, or gulping milk too enthusiastically and taking in too much air. Some mums worry about eating peanuts while breastfeeding, but there’s no real evidence that this makes your baby more likely to develop a peanut allergy. So as long as you yourself are not allergic to a certain food, you can eat them as part of a balanced diet.

Can I drink tea and coffee if I’m breastfeeding?

Avoid having lots of caffeinated drinks when you’re breastfeeding. Some experts recommend no more than 300mg of caffeine a day, if you must have your coffee or tea. 300mg equals to about two cups of filtered coffee, or four mugs of tea, a day.

If your baby seems very unsettled or restless, or finds it difficult to sleep, try cutting back on caffeine, or not having any at all. This may make a difference to your baby.

Can I drink alcohol if I’m breastfeeding?

The occasional drink is unlikely to harm you or your baby. However, it’s safest not to have more than one or two units of alcohol, once or twice a week, if you are breastfeeding.

Alcohol passes through your breast milk to your baby. Drinking more than two units a day while you are breastfeeding may reduce your milk supply, and even affect your baby’s development.

As a rough guide:

  • a small (125ml) glass of wine is two units
  • a pint of strong lager is three units

This will also depend on the strength of the drink, which will be detailed as a percentage on the label. The higher the percentage, the stronger the drink.

How fast alcohol enters your bloodstream, and then into your breast milk, depends on how much you weigh, and whether you have a full or empty stomach. The amount of alcohol in your blood usually peaks between 30 minutes and 90 minutes after you have the drink. You’ll need to allow an hour or two for your body to be clear of one unit of alcohol.

So if you want to have an alcoholic drink when you are breastfeeding, feed your baby before having the drink. Two or three hours later, when it’s time to feed your baby again, the level of alcohol in your blood should be low enough not to affect your baby.

However, if your baby is a newborn, he or she may need feeding more often than every two hours or three hours. So you may want to give the alcoholic drinks a miss for now .

Do I need to take any supplements if I’m breastfeeding?

It’s recommended that you take a daily supplement that contains 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D. Breast fed babies get vitamin D from breastmilk, so you need to have enough vitamin D in your diet. If you took a supplement containing vitamin D when you were pregnant, you can carry on taking it while you’re breastfeeding.

Vitamin D is also made by our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight. It’s important because it helps bones and teeth to grow healthily. We are fortunate to have lots of sunshine in our homeland, so do go out for a bit during the day!

Can I have herbal teas if I’m breastfeeding?

You can drink most herbal teas when you are breastfeeding. Herbal teas bought from supermarkets, rooibos, camomile and peppermint, are safe to drink in moderation.

Herbal medicines, however, are a different matter. You shouldn’t take them while you are breastfeeding, because we don’t know enough about how they affect breast milk.

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