initiating of optimal breastfeeding diet
Nutrition during breastfeeding diet is as important as during pregnancy . The baby receives all of its nutrients from the mother’s milk, which is the most complete food. It is true that breastfeeding consumes a significant amount of energy, but it does not cause a significant weight loss.
Weight loss depends on the physical condition of each individual, but if you are in a hurry to achieve a healthy weight, be sure to consult a specialist physician. Prevention is better than cure, so to prevent weight gain after pregnancy, we can use preventive methods to be assured.
When is it possible to initiate a diet after breastfeeding?
If a mother start breastfeeding diet from the beginning of breastfeeding and reduces her calorie intake, she will definitely feel tired and unable to take care of her baby. In addition to providing the necessary calories for her own body, the mother must also provide the necessary nutrients for her baby’s body.
For this reason, the mother should have a good diet, and she can start losing weight when her baby starts consuming other foods in addition to breast milk, which is exactly the second six months of breastfeeding. A healthy diet and regular exercise during breastfeeding is much better than strict low-calorie diets(1).
how many calories does a breastfeeding mother needs?
The volume of breast milk is closely related to the amount and frequency of breastfeeding, and feeding the infant with breast milk increases the production of milk.
In addition, with the start of complementary feeding and a decrease in the frequency of breastfeeding, the volume of milk produced decreases, and the mother’s need for nutrients also decreases.
A balanced and varied diet is very important during breastfeeding diet. The energy requirement of breastfeeding mothers is only 500 calories more than before pregnancy. To meet this amount of calories, in addition to consuming nutritious foods such as fats and proteins, the fat stored in the mother’s body during pregnancy is also used.
When is the best time for breastfeeding diet?
The best time for a breastfeeding diet depends on what you mean by “diet”. If you are looking to lose weight after pregnancy, it’s important to know that breastfeeding mothers are not allowed to follow weight loss diets during the first 6 months after giving birth(2).
However, after 6 months, they can follow a weight loss diet under the supervision of a nutrition specialist. If you are feeding your baby with formula, you can start a weight loss diet right after giving birth.
But the important thing to remember about a breastfeeding diet is that during this period, not only your health but also your baby’s health is your responsibility. Therefore, weight loss is not the only important issue regarding a breastfeeding diet.
First and foremost, you need to think about getting the necessary nutrients and vitamins for both you and your baby. Therefore, only a nutrition specialist can define and plan a proper breastfeeding diet for you.
breastfeeding diet is the best diet for this period
Have you ever wondered why you feel extremely hungry when breastfeeding your newborn? Producing breast milk is hard work for the body and requires extra calories as well as higher levels of specific nutrients. In fact, it is estimated that your energy needs during breastfeeding increase by around 300 to 500 calories per day.
The need for specific nutrients such as protein, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, B12, selenium, and zinc also increases. That’s why eating a variety of nutrient-rich and complete foods is very important for your and your baby’s health.
Choosing foods that are rich in these nutrients can help you get all the necessary macro and micronutrients for yourself and your baby.
Some of the features of a good breastfeeding diet are
- It should meet the natural needs of breastfeeding mothers.
- It should not lead to malnutrition in breastfeeding mothers.
- It should fulfill the nutritional needs of the growing fetus.
- It should prevent the mother from gaining excess weight and help maintain a balanced and stable weight.
Who cannot use the breastfeeding diet?
- Mothers who are in the first six months of lactation.
- Mothers who tend to receive excessive diets.
- Mothers with very low milk supply.
Types of foods suitable for lactation in breastfeeding diet
The nutrients present in breast milk can be divided into two groups, depending on their secretion levels in your milk. If your body is deficient in group 1 nutrients, the secretion level of these nutrients in your breast milk will decrease.
Therefore, consuming supplements containing these nutrients can help increase their concentration in breast milk and improve your baby’s health. On the other hand, the concentration of group 2 nutrients in breast milk is not affected by their consumption in the mother’s diet during lactation.
Therefore, consuming supplements does not increase the concentration of these nutrients in breast milk. Nevertheless, mothers still need to improve their health by consuming group 2 nutrients.
This may be confusing, but don’t worry! In simpler terms, receiving group 1 nutrients is important for both you and your baby, while receiving group 2 nutrients ensures your own health, but has no particular effect on breast milk and therefore, the health of your baby.
Nutrients of group 1 in breastfeeding diet
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): Fish, red meat, grains, nuts, beans
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Cheese, almonds, nuts, oily fish, eggs
- Vitamin B6: Chickpeas, nuts, fish, chicken, potatoes, bananas, dried fruits
- Vitamin B12: Shellfish, liver, yogurt, oily fish, yeast, eggs, crab, shrimp
- Choline: Eggs, beef liver, chicken liver, fish, peanuts
- Vitamin A: Sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy vegetables, lean meat, eggs
- Vitamin D: Cod liver oil, oily fish, some mushrooms, vitamin D fortified foods
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, seafood, turkey, wheat bran, grains
- Iodine: Dried seaweed, kelp, milk, iodized salt.
Nutrients of group 2 in breastfeeding diet
Below are some of the common nutrients of group 2 and their food sources:
- Folate: beans, lentils, leafy vegetables, asparagus, avocado
- Calcium: milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy vegetables, legumes
- Iron: red meat, chicken, seafood, beans, leafy green vegetables, dried fruits
- Copper: shellfish, whole grains, nuts, beans, beef, potatoes
- Zinc: shellfish, red meat, chicken, beans, nuts, dairy products
As previously mentioned, the concentration of Group 2 nutrients in breast milk is not affected by the mother’s diet or her body’s stores. Therefore, if your intake of Group 2 nutrients is low, your body takes these nutrients from the stores in your bones and various tissues to secrete them in breast milk.
So your child always receives an adequate amount of these nutrients, but if you do not get enough of them from your diet, your body’s stores will gradually be depleted. To prevent deficiency, these nutrients must be obtained from an appropriate breastfeeding diet or by taking supplements.
A sample diet plan for the lactation period
Since a lactation diet should include various types of minerals and vitamins, it cannot be simplified with a simple diet plan. In fact, the best and most effective way to achieve the best results from a lactation diet is to consult a knowledgeable nutritionist.
They can consider your physical and health status, the age of your beloved child, and the amount of breast milk and other foods your child is receiving to prescribe an excellent lactation diet plan for you.
Tips for creating a healthy meal plan for breastfeeding diet
Now that you know what foods to include in your diet, let’s focus on tips for creating your own meal plan. It’s best to learn how to find a plan that works for you and your current situation. To find this, focus on the following tips:
- Try to have 3 to 5 main meals in your daily diet. Make sure to use as much fat-free protein as possible, and always ask yourself how to increase the protein content of your meals.
- As much as possible, cook large portions of whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and leafy vegetables that can last up to 3 to 4 days in your fridge.
- Drink a glass of water with every meal, as your body easily loses water during breastfeeding(3). Pay attention to hunger cues in your body. Your body tells you that it needs more energy. Don’t be afraid to eat more calories.
A simple daily meal plan for breastfeeding diet can be as follows
Breakfast: Bulger wheat with various berries and nut butter
Lunch: Quinoa with fat-free chicken breast and mixed vegetables
Snack: Carrots with hummus
Dinner: Mixed green salad with walnuts and tofu
Foods allowed during lactation in breastfeeding diet
There is no one-size-fits-all diet for everyone who is breastfeeding, and your goal should be to have a healthy and diverse lactation diet. During lactation, try to include the following foods in your daily meals:
Fruits are a rich source of many nutrients and can also help relieve constipation, which some people experience after giving birth. Aim for about 2 cups of fruit per day, which should include a wide range of different fruits, such as:
Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their infants should consume 3 cups of vegetables per day. Those who combine breastfeeding with formula should consume 2.5 cups of vegetables daily.
Vegetables are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, and consuming an adequate amount of them helps the body compensate for the necessary nutrients required for milk production.
Include the following vegetables in your breastfeeding diet:
- cooked vegetables like cabbage,
- red bell peppers.
Grains and seeds
All grains, especially whole grains such as brown rice and bran bread, contain essential nutrients. Some grains, such as quinoa, are also rich in protein, which is an essential nutrient in a breastfeeding diet. It is always better to use bran-rich grains that do not contain added sugar.
During lactation, the body needs a minimum of 65 grams of protein per day, which is an extra 25 grams compared to the normal daily requirement. Experts recommend consuming some protein from the following sources in each meal:
- Beans and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
- Lean beef and lamb
- Shellfish, crab, and shrimp
- Rainbow trout, salmon, and sardines
Seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can support healthy brain development in infants. Rainbow trout and sardines are great choices because they are rich in omega-3 but have low mercury levels.
Other types of tuna, such as albacore tuna, bigeye tuna, and king mackerel, should be avoided during lactation as they contain high levels of mercury. Other forms of tuna are safe to eat.
during both pregnancy and breastfeeding can extract calcium from the mother’s bones. Therefore, if you do not receive enough calcium and vitamin D, you are at risk of osteoporosis.
Dairy products such as cheese and milk are excellent sources of calcium, and many of them are also enriched with vitamin D. It is best to include at least 3 cups of dairy products in your breastfeeding diet. The following foods are good sources of vitamin and calcium:
- Natural cheese
People who do not consume dairy products can also obtain calcium from dark leafy vegetables, legumes, and fortified orange juice. Researchers recommend that breastfeeding mothers consume 1000 milligrams of calcium per day.
While sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D, oily fish can also help you. Supplements may also be useful.
In most cases, a healthy diet can provide all the necessary nutrients for a breastfeeding mother. However, nutritional needs increase during lactation, so some individuals may need vitamin and mineral supplements.
It is essential to note that supplements cannot replace a healthy diet. Individuals who are breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare provider before taking any herbal or dietary supplements.
Individuals with dietary restrictions or those following a plant-based lifestyle should also pay attention to specific vitamins and minerals that may not be present in their diet. Anyone who is concerned about meeting all their nutritional needs should consult a nutrition specialist.
Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding diet
The list of foods that a person should limit during pregnancy is long. Perhaps for this reason, some people believe that they should have a limited and specific diet during breastfeeding. However, there is no list of foods that breastfeeding mothers should avoid.
Instead, they should eat healthy foods and pay attention to their body’s signals. Breast milk is supplied with nutrients that enter the bloodstream.
Fortunately, many of the dangerous substances that may be present in the mother’s body do not reach the breastfeeding infant. Nevertheless, some tips for limiting certain foods in the breastfeeding diet are as follows:
- Restricting the consumption of seafood that may contain mercury is important during breastfeeding.
- Paying attention to the impact of caffeine on the infant is also crucial. Although the amount of caffeine that a baby receives from breast milk is very small, it can still have an effect on their sleep.
- It is important to monitor the infant’s response to the diet and make changes based on the needs of the baby and mother.
Some experts warn against consuming spicy foods during breastfeeding, but most babies are not affected by these foods. Therefore, there is no reason to avoid spicy or strongly flavored foods unless the baby shows a negative reaction to them.
Additionally, doctors often provide different or unclear recommendations regarding alcohol consumption during breastfeeding. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is definitely dangerous as it crosses the placenta, but a breastfed baby only receives the amount of alcohol that enters the mother’s bloodstream.
In other words, the level of alcohol in a breastfeeding mother’s blood is the level of alcohol that reaches the breastfed baby.
The Importance of Fluid Intake during Breastfeeding diet
Experienced mothers may come to realize the importance of increasing fluid intake if their milk supply begins to decrease. However, research does not show that consuming excessive fluids beyond the usual amount contributes to increased milk production.
Nonetheless, insufficient fluid intake can lead to dehydration, which can have a negative impact on your health. It is important to ensure that you are receiving an adequate amount of fluids for your body to function properly.
In fact, regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, staying hydrated by consuming ample water and other fluids throughout the day is vital for your well-being.
If your body doesn’t receive enough water and fluids, you are at risk of dehydration, which can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as :
- dry mouth and cracked lips,
- fatigue and lack of energy,
- muscle cramps,
Therefore, during breastfeeding, follow this rule for yourself: Never feel thirsty! It is also not necessary for all the fluids in your body to come from water alone, but water is always a good choice.
Fluids and beverages without sugar and caffeine are easily accessible, and you can enjoy them in any season and incorporate them into your breastfeeding diet. It is said that every liquid you consume, along with any water-containing food you eat, contributes to your overall fluid intake.
Some examples of beverages that play a role in fluid consumption include cow’s milk or nut milk, decaffeinated coffee or tea, and fruit juice or vegetable juice. Foods such as oranges, watermelons, various berries, soup, cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce can also help keep you hydrated.
If you don’t like cow’s milk, don’t worry! Just make sure to obtain calcium from other sources such as cheese, yogurt, leafy green vegetables, or calcium-fortified foods. However, be aware that excessive fluid intake (or having colorless urine) can actually harm your milk supply.
When you become overly hydrated, your body eliminates the excess water through urine to restore its electrolyte balance, which leads to a decrease in the water content in your breasts and, consequently, a decrease in milk production.
Plant-Based Diet and Breastfeeding
A breastfeeding mother following a plant-based diet does not need to observe any specific dietary precautions as long as she maintains sufficient levels of vitamin B12, calcium, and iron in her diet.
This is something the mother should do for her own health, even if she is not breastfeeding her child. If you avoid meat but consume other types of animal protein (eggs, milk, cheese, or other dairy products, fish, poultry), you will typically receive an adequate amount of vitamin B12.
On the other hand, if you do not consume any animal protein whatsoever (fish, meat, poultry, eggs, or dairy products), you must ensure that you obtain sufficient vitamin B12 from other food sources.
Vitamin B12 supplements and foods fortified with vitamin B12 are available. If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, vitamin B12 supplementation is an option for your child, but you still need vitamin B12 for yourself (and if you get enough, your child will not require supplementation).
If you do not consume dairy, make sure that your breastfeeding diet includes sufficient calcium and iron (this is for your own health; your child will receive an adequate amount of these minerals through your breast milk).
Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers do not require excessive calcium intake beyond the recommended dietary reference intake (DRI) for their age group. The DRI for calcium for women aged 19 to 50 is 1000 milligrams per day. The DRI for iron for breastfeeding mothers is 12 milligrams per day.