Nutrition is one of the keys to successful breastfeeding. However, many young mothers have many questions. What foods should they choose or avoid? What should you eat to produce plenty of milk? Our dietician Dorothée takes stock of the situation for you.
To breastfeed or not?
The decision to breastfeed belongs to each woman, couple or family. Listen to your needs and desires as well as those of your baby. Indeed, any young mother, even an inexperienced one, will instinctively feel what is good for her and her child. She will always find the most suitable solution. Don’t let those around you influence you and trust yourself!
Breastfeeding: getting off to a good start
You may be one of those mothers who are afraid of not being able to breastfeed. Fear of being too frail, of having breasts that are too small, of not having enough milk or of it not being nourishing enough. Don’t worry: these fears are normal if you have never breastfed before. You will soon realise that breastfeeding is very natural and that you simply need to give yourself the means to get off to a good start.
Before the milk comes in, the mother’s body secretes a thick, yellow liquid called colostrum. It is very rich in energy and contains a high level of protein and antibodies. This composition allows the baby to get his fill very quickly and to hold on during his long periods of rest. Colostrum can appear as early as the end of pregnancy. Its secretion generally starts after the birth. Sometimes it may take a few days to arrive after the baby is put to the breast. So don’t be discouraged, it always arrives on time!
The onset of lactation
Milk secretion does not always depend on the size of the breasts. To trigger the lactation mechanism and continue to produce milk, you simply need to start feeding from the first hours of your baby’s life. It is then the regularity and frequency of breast stimulation that maintains the process. Breast milk is the most suitable food for the development and maintenance of your child’s good health. Its composition changes over the weeks to adapt to his growth. However, it also changes during the feeding: at the beginning it is rich in water and minerals to quench thirst, then gradually proteins, lipids and carbohydrates appear. This is why it is important to leave your baby at the breast for at least 10 minutes, to give him time to assimilate the nutrients.
During your stay in the maternity hospital, the midwives and nurses will be there to accompany you and answer your questions. Back home, you can also talk to other mothers who have already breastfed or contact a lactation consultant.
Nutrition and breastfeeding: should you eat for 2?
Breastfeeding mothers eat for two, that’s a fact. This does not mean that they should eat twice as much. Women’s nutritional needs during breastfeeding are 300-500 kcal higher than the recommended intake, or about 25%. Young mothers should therefore improve the quality of their diet more than the quantity.
The “ideal” diet for breastfeeding
This is not a “diet” for breastfeeding women. Rather, it is a set of good practices to adopt in order to cover the increased energy needs, stay healthy and limit the effects of fatigue and/or the baby blues. No food is strictly forbidden, you can enjoy yourself while adopting a healthy diet. It is important to maintain a varied and balanced diet, with a preference for organic, natural and seasonal products.
Here are some recommendations:
– PROMOTE FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES in all their forms: raw, steamed, in juice, in soup.
– VARIETY OF FULL CEREALS: quinoa, oats, barley, rice, millet, buckwheat…
– DRINK IN SUFFICIENT QUANTITY, during and outside of meals, drink one glass each time you breastfeed, i.e. about 8 to 10 glasses/day: still or sparkling water, herbal tea, kefir, milk, smoothies, 100% pure fresh fruit or vegetable juice, etc.
– CONSUME GOOD VEGETABLE OILS: rapeseed, walnut, sesame, rich in omega 3, choose virgin, cold-extracted and organically grown oils.
– LIMIT EXCITANTS: the alcohol consumed will be partly transmitted in the milk, even the beer, take rather brewer’s yeast or malt flakes, coffee is to be consumed preferably in decaffeinated version and tea, one cup per day seems a reasonable quantity. Avoid sodas and fruit juices rich in sugar.
There are natural foods that promote lactation, to be consumed naturally, as seeds, oil, leaves or infusions…
– USE LACTATION AID: Add to your dishes, salads, desserts and snacks: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, aniseed, fennel, cumin, ginger, oats, millet, brown rice, barley, brewer’s yeast, fenugreek…
Be careful if you are a vegan, as this diet can lead to deficiencies in vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, iodine and calcium in the mother and thus have an effect on the child. Ask your doctor for advice and prescribe the appropriate supplements for you.
Breastfeeding and colic
If you notice that your baby is having reactions such as squirming, crying due to discomfort or even a temper tantrum within an hour of feeding, then your baby may be prone to colic. Then your baby may be prone to colic.
Between 3 weeks and 3 months, the development of his intestinal flora is sometimes quite uncomfortable: leading to gas and acute stomach aches. An upright and warm position is then soothing: arms or a sling are often the solution!
Your diet may be the cause of some discomfort. Certain foods eaten by the mother can have an influence on the baby’s transit. In this case, monitor your food intake by writing down your meals in a notebook. Here is a non-exhaustive list of foods likely to cause colic in baby: citrus fruits, leeks, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cow’s milk, chocolate, etc. If you suspect a food is the cause of colic, stop eating it for a few days. This will show you if the situation improves. If the problem persists, do not hesitate to ask your midwife, paediatrician or pharmacist for advice.
Find time to prepare healthy food
Opt for simple, nutritious meals. For proteins, lean meats, white fish and eggs are quickly cooked, and most can be eaten hot or cold. As for side dishes, starchy foods and raw, grated vegetables in salads are quick to prepare. Finish your plate with some nuts: sesame, sunflower, walnuts… Take advantage of a nap to peel and cut vegetables in advance. Finally, always cook so that you have leftovers for the next meal, when you are alone with baby!
Similarly for fruit, cut it up and store it in the fridge for daytime or overnight snacks if needed. They can also be very useful, slipped into the changing bag, to satisfy a craving in the middle of a walk, accompanied by a handful of nuts with no added salt.
The important thing is to listen to and trust yourself
Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, whether you manage to do so for 15 days, 5 months or 1 year, don’t put any extra pressure on yourself, so that you can enjoy the first moments with baby as calmly as possible. Do what you think is best for you and your family and above all take care of yourself!
To go further, you can consult :
– INPES-Guide-allaitement-maternel: https://www.santepubliquefrance.fr/determinants-de-sante/nutrition-et-activite-physique/documents/brochure/le-guide-de-l-allaitement-maternel
– Leche league : www.lllfrance.org