If you are a mother looking after your new baby it’s great if you can eat a variety of nutritious foods, not just to keep up your energy levels but also for your general health – but I do want to assure you that as a breastfeeding mother your body is highly efficient at providing a good quality milk for your baby.
A common myth is that breastfeeding mothers need to eat special foods or a perfect diet in order to provide good quality milk for their baby. Some mothers have even given up breastfeeding because they thought they couldn’t sustain that type of perfection!
Foods to avoid while breastfeeding
However, there are NO special foods that need to be eaten – and even the dietary restrictions that are given in pregnancy don’t apply when you’re breastfeeding.
Let me say it again – there are no foods that are off-limits.
The good news is that your body is really good at using nutrients and energy, from not only the foods that you eat in your diet but also from stores that are laid down in your body during pregnancy.
Across cultures, there are so many myths around this topic and even specific myths from country to country.
In some countries, it may be suggested that a certain food should not be eaten while breastfeeding and yet in another country, nothing is mentioned about that same food – and breastfeeding mothers there will eat that particular food unreservedly.
For example, in Italy, there is a myth perpetuated that garlic and cauliflower shouldn’t be eaten. Yet in India, those foods will be eaten without reserve.
Best foods for breastfeeding
Generally, anything that you’re happy eating is fine to eat when you’re breastfeeding your baby. Nevertheless, it seems sensible that if (on an individual basis) you find that every time you eat a PARTICULAR food, your baby appears ‘windy’ or uncomfortable, or develops a rash, it might be good to omit that for a time, just to see if there is actually a cause and effect, although It can be difficult to know for sure.
You may find it reassuring to know that you don’t have to eat a certain amount of food to make good quality milk for your baby unless you’re on a really restricted diet of 1800 calories or less.
Losing weight while breastfeeding
If you do want to go on a diet, it can be useful to contact organizations that can help you to slim healthily and take your needs as a breastfeeding mother into consideration.
So the general rule is to eat to hunger, with no need to count calories.
Another positive point is that your body uses up an extra 300-500 calories per day just to make the milk.
However, I’m not suggesting that you buy a couple of extra chocolate bars every single day just to compensate for that, but it stands to reason if you’re eating normally, as you would, just to hunger, then you’re likely to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight faster than you would if you weren’t breastfeeding which is really positive.
To conclude – yes, it’s a great idea to eat a variety of nutritious foods, and I hope you do this as a breastfeeding mother as you need all of the energy that you can get for general health, but irrespective of that, your body is extremely efficient at being able to make a really good quality and nutritious food for your baby.
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Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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