Breastfeeding: Health and Diet Tips
For the first six months of your child’s life, he or she will rely solely on breast milk for their nutritional requirements. Experts nowadays are recommending to continue breastfeeding up until two years as well as introducing and providing your child with solids, for breast milk is produced by the mother’s body, it is important to consider what you are consuming and how it may affect your child’s health.
If a baby is large and growing fast, the fat stores gained by the mother during pregnancy can be depleted quickly. This means that she may need to maintain a high calorie, high nutritional diet to maintain and develop sufficient amounts of milk. Even though mothers in famine conditions can produce milk with nutritional content, a mother that is malnourished may produce milk with lacking levels of vitamins A, D, B6 and B12.
There are a few foods highly recommended for nursing mothers. Oatmeal is a great food to encourage a feeling of “fullness” and may actually increase milk supply. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are a great source of vitamins, iron, calcium and folic acid. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is a healthier saturated fat which is beneficial to breast milk, and can be included in many recipes. Almonds, eggs and fish are excellent sources of DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that helps develop the brain.
While some nursing mothers can eat whatever they like with no effect on the baby, other moms are cautious about their dietary intake. Some foods may cause irritability or digestive issues with infants, as whatever is consumed by the mother is passed through the breast milk. Some common foods that mothers tend to avoid are chocolate, spices, citrus fruits and “gassy” vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, onions and garlic.
Not only do the nutrients you place in your body have to be considered in order to maintain healthy breast milk, but your habits can affect it as well. For instance, mothers who smoke while breastfeeding have to be extremely cautious. More than 20 cigarettes a day has been shown to reduce milk supply and cause vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate and restlessness in infants. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is more common in babies that are exposed to smoke.
Heavy drinking is also known to harm an infant. Excessive alcohol consumption can result in irritability, sleeplessness and increased feeding in the infant. It is also recommended that caffeine be avoided or restricted to 1-2 cups per day.
By following a healthy diet and being mindful of limiting your intake of unnecessary substances, you will be providing your baby with the right nutrients during the most crucial period of their overall development. This stage of life is very important and you want to do all you can to ensure your child has the healthiest start.
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