Nutrition During Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding women have an incredible ability to produce breast milk in sufficient quantity and quality for the baby, even if they are not feeding properly. The woman's body prioritizes milk production, but there are limits to where the body can compensate for an inadequate diet, either in quality or in quantity of calories and nutrients.

But the fact that your baby is not harmed by any lapses in his diet does not mean that you can not suffer nutritional problems. When breastfeeding have problems in your diet and can not get the nutrients you need, your body will behind its reserves, which can eventually exhaust them. Breastfeeding is not the time to worry about dieting to lose weight. Remember that you need strength and stamina to meet the physical and psychological demands of caring for a baby in the first few months of life.


Maternal weight during lactation

Weight changes in lactating women are very variable. Usually, a gradual loss of weight occurs during the first six months of breastfeeding. Weight loss may be higher or lower depending on some factors such as quality and quantity of diet, physical exercise, weight gain during pregnancy, pre-pregnancy weight, muscle mass, mother's age, mother's leave time, etc. These factors can cause the difference in rhythm of weight loss between two infants to be up to 1 pound per month.

It is important to remember that in the first few weeks much of the weight loss refers to the loss of water that was retained during pregnancy. After the bumps go away, the weight loss is due to the elimination of fat. Usually, in well nourished women, there is no relevant loss of muscle mass during the breastfeeding period. The weight loss occurs even by the consumption of adipose tissue (fat).

Although it is widely reported that breastfeeding helps a woman to lose weight after pregnancy, this relationship is still controversial. Different studies show conflicting results, ranging from increased weight loss to breastfeeding, reduced weight loss with breastfeeding or no difference in weight loss among lactating and non-lactating women.

It is a fact that milk production increases the mothers' basal caloric intake. A woman who breastfeeds needs to consume, on average, 500 more calories in her diet to maintain adequate caloric intake. However, you do not have to worry about counting calories in your diet, since most women end up naturally increasing their calorie intake because of the increased hunger that breastfeeding causes.

Fluid intake during breastfeeding

Infants produce on average 750 to 800 ml of breast milk a day. Many women have questions about how much water they should drink during breastfeeding so as not to harm milk production. You do not have to quantify the volume of liquids you drink throughout the day. The important thing is to consume enough water to not feel thirsty, trying to keep the urine always diluted and clear. To make your life easier, before each breastfeeding, always keep a glass of water nearby so you have easy access when you feel like drinking it.

Avoid drinks with caffeine, as well as passing it to your baby through milk, caffeine has a diuretic effect, which can make it more dehydrated.

Recommended nutrients

In most cases, the mother's usual diet is more than enough to maintain a good nutritional status of the baby and herself. The increase in hunger is an excellent mechanism to unconsciously increase the consumption of calories, proteins and other nutrients, reaching desirable values.

Let us briefly comment on some of the nutrients that cause the most doubts among infants.

1. Iron

Breast milk provides an average of 3 mg of iron per day. In general, if the mother does not have anemia, there is no need to replace iron, a balanced diet is enough. The loss of iron to the milk is less than the usual loss of iron during menstruation. Because they do not menstruate in the first months of breastfeeding, women end up having better iron stores during breastfeeding than at other times in their lives.

Good sources of iron include meats, beans, peas, lentils, fortified cereals, products made with whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and nuts. To help with absorption, try eating iron-rich foods in combination with foods rich in vitamin C such as strawberries, citrus fruits, or tomatoes.

2. Proteins

The average amount of protein excreted daily in breast milk is 8 grams. An increase of 25 grams of protein in the usual diet is recommended to compensate for these losses. In general, the amount of protein in milk does not change, even if the mother has a low protein intake in the diet. The problem of lack of protein is not for the baby, but for the mother, who can start to have her muscle mass consumed.

Good sources of protein can be found in meats, eggs, dairy products, soybeans, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

3. Calcium

About 210 mg of calcium is excreted in breast milk daily. Breastfeeding can cause a temporary reduction in the amount of calcium in the bones. However, studies show that this loss can not be reversed, even with increased calcium in the diet. The good news is that this fact does not seem to have much clinical relevance, since bone loss is usually recovered after the end of the lactation period. In addition, some studies indicate that older women who breastfed when young have a lower osteoporosis rate compared to women who did not breastfeed.

Therefore, calcium consumption during breastfeeding need not be increased. All mothers should consume a daily minimum of 1,000 mg of calcium, which is the amount indicated for all women in general.

The primary sources of dietary calcium are milk and other dairy products, such as cheese, butter and yogurt. Green vegetables, such as spinach, are also good choices.

4. Vitamins

Vitamins are also excreted in the milk, so it is indicated an increase in their consumption during the period of breastfeeding. Again, a varied diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, meats and meats is enough to replenish these needs. If you can not have a balanced diet, your doctor may recommend using multivitamins to ensure good vitamin A, E, C, and B intakes.

Nutritional precautions

Some types of food and beverages should be avoided or reduced during breastfeeding. Let's talk a bit about some of these foods.

1. Alcohol

When the infant consumes alcohol, a small part of it is transferred into breast milk. The amount of alcohol considered "safe" during breastfeeding is controversial. A number of factors affect the amount of alcohol that is transferred into breast milk and how much the baby absorbs.

An average woman needs about two hours for a single dose of alcohol (a glass of beer or glass of wine) to be completely metabolized and eliminated from her body. Therefore, to avoid any amount of alcohol being transferred to the baby, experts recommend that the woman does not consume alcohol if she is to breastfeed in the next 2 or 3 hours.

Note: the use of pumps to remove milk does not accelerate the process of eliminating the alcohol in it.

2. Caffeine

Most physicians suggest that during breastfeeding mothers should limit their caffeine intake (including coffee, teas, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, etc.) to no more than 300 mg per day (about 3 cups of coffee per day).

Attention: this 300 mg limit is still under debate, so the ideal is to consume as little food as possible with caffeine. If your baby becomes cranky with the caffeine in your diet, cut off the coffee, soda, and diet chocolate.

3. Fish containing mercury

Fish provide high quality protein and other essential nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. Fish consumption by breastfeeding mothers has been suggested because of the large amounts of essential fatty acids that are important in the development of the newborn's brain.

However, almost all fish and seafood contain traces of mercury. For most people, this small amount is irrelevant. However, even remnants of mercury appear to be harmful to the baby's developing nervous system.

Therefore, breastfeeding mothers should not eat shark, swordfish or mackerel because they are fish that naturally contain high concentrations of mercury. Other fish or crustaceans have lower concentrations of mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, whiting and catfish, and should be limited to 2 servings per week.

Babies who do not tolerate certain foods

Most moms can eat a wide variety of foods, including spicy ones, without this causing any reaction to your baby. Some mothers, however, swear that certain foods, such as broccoli, cabbage, milk, nuts, eggs, chocolate, citrus fruits, garlic, chili, pepper, soy or seafood, onions, etc., make your baby get more gases and irritated.

It is important to note that every baby has his or her best and worst days, without necessarily having a clear explanation for it. Many mothers soon find some culprit in the diet that justifies these changes in the baby's behavior. Usually the mother's diet is not to blame, but if you suspect that some food may be making your baby more restless than usual, it will not cost you to suspend it for a few days and see if there is any response. Attention, even if the baby improves mood, it does not prove that the food was the culprit. As we have said, the baby's mood can vary greatly from day to day in the first few months of life.

In rare cases, your baby may be allergic to something you have eaten. In these cases, it is possible to notice skin reactions, noisy breathing, nasal congestion and changes in the usual characteristics of the stool. If you suspect allergy, contact your pediatrician.

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