Your baby’s here but you still have to eat with the both of you in mind. Take the expressway to successful breastfeeding by learning how to eat right for your milk.
WORDS RACHEL KWEK
By nature, breast milk provides all the nutritional needs of a baby. The World Health Organisation and health authorities worldwide recommend exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months post-partum. Adequate nourishment is necessary to sustain the production and quality of breast milk, especially in the first four weeks after delivery – the critical period for the establishment of lactogenesis. Whether or not you have been eating well during your pregnancy, making sure you do now certainly ensures an ample supply of quality breast milk for your baby. Take the expressway to successful breastfeeding by learning how to eat right for your milk.
How Much Should You Eat?
Additional energy is required to produce breast milk so you do need to eat more. The Singapore Health Promotion Board advises mothers who breastfeed to eat an additional 500kcal daily. The amount of milk a baby needs increases as he grows and declines when his diet is supplemented with other food. The amount of food a mother needs should correspond with the changes in milk demand. According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), fat stores accumulated during pregnancy can provide for part of this additional requirement in the first few months of nursing. This explains why post-partum weight loss is usually highest in the first three months, especially among women who breastfeed exclusively.
The few months after birth is not the time to cut calories in an attempt to regain your pre-pregnancy figure (extreme dieting is discouraged). Reducing the amount you eat drastically can delay your recovery process and make you feel tired. As a result, not only will you not have the energy to take on your new mummy duties, your milk production will suffer. Because breastfeeding requires you to expend more energy, you will lose weight naturally if you are eating healthily.
Factors that Affect Your Diet during Breastfeeding
These are things to take note of to determine how much and what to eat.
Duration of breastfeeding
The duration each mother decides to nurse her child varies. Some may breastfeed their children up to the time they are two or three years old. The longer you breastfeed, the longer you need to up your food intake.
Extent of exclusive breastfeeding
Data in the report shows that the average amount of energy (in the first six months) required to produce milk for total breastfeeding is 675 kilocalories a day. For mothers who partially breastfed (after the first six months), this number fell to 460 kilocalories a day.
According to the aforementioned FAO report, “the main factors that influence the energy needs of lactating women are the duration of breastfeeding practices and the extent of exclusive breastfeeding”. As these factors vary significantly from individual to individual, dietary recommendations should be customised.
Your eating habits dictate how much you eat and what you eat. Moderate the portions you eat and choose healthy food.
The higher your activity levels, the more you should eat. For instance, if you resume exercise after you have recovered from the pregnancy but still breastfeed exclusively, you should be eating more than before.
Studies show that well-nourished women are better able to utilise their fat stores for lactation, and thus lose more weight, than women who are undernourished. The FAO report recommends that women with adequate gestational weight gain should increase their food intake by 505 kcal a day for the first six months of lactation while those with poor gestational weight gain should consume 675 kcal more a day.
Wong Boh Boi, a senior lactation consultant at Thomson Medical Centre, says that even if a mother is sick, she will still continue to produce quality breast milk and should continue to eat for breastfeeding.