We all know that breast milk provides your baby with most of their nutritional needs, so if you’re planning on feeding your baby yourself it’s perfectly normal to be asking whether you also need to change your own diet.
However for various reasons, not all mums do end up breastfeeding after they deliver, but either way, during pregnancy and when you’re just getting used to being a new mummy, it’s ever so important to maintain a healthy diet for the benefit of both of you.
It’s recommended that you follow a normal, healthy and balanced diet of course (just as anyone else would), and this should include proteins, fruit and vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains. But did you know that the rates of vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly high in the UAE? It is recommended that you take a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms / day throughout pregnancy and then if you choose to breast feed also.
If you are feeding baby yourself, your calcium requirements also increase to 1,250 mg a day. In many cases this can be quite difficult to achieve this amount through just your diet alone. Remember, failure to get enough calcium regularly can result in your own bone health being put at risk and this is because your breast milk contains a lot of calcium which it takes from your own bones to give your baby.
Typically 200 mls of cows milk or a fortified plant-based milk alternative contains 240 mg of calcium, whereas 120 g of yoghurt contains 200 mg of calcium and an 85 g portion of broccoli is 24 mg.
Don’t forget that one of the benefits of breast feeding is that it burns a whopping 300 – 500 calories extra per day too! This means that it can actually help you lose any weight that you gained during your pregnancy but (sadly) also means that you shouldn’t be planning on eating additional food to meet this extra calorie need! Instead, trust in the experts that your body is clever enough to know that it should use the fat stores gained during pregnancy to match your increased energy need, but if you have a low body weight post birth, it’s really important to consult a dietitian to help you get on track.
In all cases, the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology recommends that breast feeding mothers should avoid alcohol intake completely and to limit caffeine to no more than 200 mg a day (which is equal to a mug of instant coffee, or for example, two thirds of a shop-bought filter coffee or three caffeine based fizzy drinks if you’re still drinking those).
You may have also heard through the rumour mill that you should avoid eating peanuts whilst breast feeding too – but Kirsten assures us that this is purely a myth.
Research shows that eating peanuts has no effect on whether your baby develops an allergy or not but if after baby’s born, you are concerned about him having a food allergy for anything at all, it’s again best to speak to a specialist paediatrician.
Aside from eating a healthy diet and supplementing specific micronutrients such as vitamin D and calcium, you should also be aware of the many more myths out there which could lead you to avoid foods unnecessarily! If in doubt – always seek professional advice, which can be specifically tailored to your circumstances from a highly trained registered dietitian.
Kirsten Jackson has a post-graduate qualification in pre and post-natal nutritional advice. You can book to see her for a 1-2-1 session or to find out more about their Healthy Mums Package at their Marina Clinic on Saturdays, or Sunday through to Thursday at their Dubai Hills Hospital.