We know plenty about breastfeeding and how it benefits our babies. However, we constantly hear different opinions on how a breastfeeding mother should eat, and we probably don't know which advice to follow. Read on and find out.
Breast milk is the ideal food for your baby, because it provides countless health benefits. Its nutrient composition is "designed" to meet the needs of the baby in a way that a milk formula can't. It is rich in carbohydrates, fats (essential for neurological development), easy-to-digest proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Exclusive breastfeeding may also help prevent diseases, since it contains immune cells (body's natural defenses).
How does breastfeeding benefit the mother?
Recovery after childbirth: Breastfeeding stimulates the production of a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone helps reduce bleeding after childbirth, and this contributes to the preservation of iron in the body. In addition, the uterus quickly returns to its normal size.
Healthier bones: It has been shown that women who breastfeed present a lower risk of hip fractures after menopause,since their bones capture more calcium.
Lower risk of chronic conditions: It has been found that breastfeeding reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. In addition, women who breastfeed lose more weight and fat than women who don't.
Mother-child bonding: Studies have found that breastfeeding creates strong bonds between mother and child. Moreover, it improves the mother's self-esteem.
So, what should a nursing mother eat?
You don't need a special diet during lactation. The body of a mother produces milk, according to the needs of the baby. Your body is constantly verifying that the amount of nutrients in breast milk remains the same. To achieve this, it uses a combination of the foods you eat and the nutrients stored in your body. The baby's sucking is the primary stimulus to produce breast milk.
For this reason, it’s essential for the mother to have a varied diet, in order to get the most nutrients. Sometimes, the doctor may prescribe a multivamin supplement during lactation.
There are certain foods that pregnant women and nursing mothers should be careful with, because they may contain hazardous elements. These products may be contaminated with methylmercury:
Limit fish intake to 12 ounces, and 6 ounces of tuna, per week.
Some women have a family history of allergy or may have suffered from a food allergy at some point in their lives. They should be careful with certain foods, such as cow milk (if there is an allergy to milk protein), eggs, wheat, pork, peanuts, walnuts, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and chocolates.
Position Paper of the American Dietetic Association: Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding (2005). Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Retrieved on December, 2008 from www.eatright.org
Maternal Nutrition During Breastfeeding (2004). La Leche League International. Retrieved on December, 2008 from www.llli.org
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