6 diet rules for successful breastfeeding

Make these simple food and lifestyle tweaks, so that your baby will enjoy the complete benefits of your breastmilk!

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Your breastmilk offers your kewpie amazing benefits. Not only is it nutritionally balanced, its composition will continue to change to meet his growing needs. Your breastmilk is also easier to digest as compared to formula milk.

Choosing to breastfeed can also do wonders for your well-being. Notes Dr Wong Boh Boi, a senior parentcraft educator at Thomson Medical, “The mother will usually feel very happy and satisfied that she is able to breastfeed, so postnatal blues is unlikely to occur.” Breastfeeding can also enhance the mother-baby bond as well, she adds.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their life. Follow these suggestions to ensure that your diet won’t affect the quality or quantity of your breastmilk.

1) Avoid a low-calorie diet
WHY? Drastic and long-term dieting may severely affect the amount of breastmilk you produce.
EXPERT ADVICE Dr Wong notes that you should observe a balanced diet for at least the first month of your baby’s life ― in other words, don’t restrict what you eat. This is because you’ll require an additional 500 calories a day if you’re nursing. From the second month onwards, she advises that nursing mothers maintain a daily calorie intake of around 1,800 calories a day. Her advice to women who want to regain their pre-baby shape ― start an exercise routine rather than dieting.

Drinking too much water doesn’t mean it’ll increase the amount of milk you produce, eventhough too little water will affect your breastmilk output.

2) Don’t drink too much water
WHY? You’ll feel thirstier than usual when you breastfeed, since 87 per cent of your breastmilk is actually water. Avoid drinking too much water, so that you don’t lose crucial electrolytes and salts. By the way, drinking too much water doesn’t mean it’ll increase the amount of milk you produce, eventhough too little water will affect your breastmilk output.
EXPERT ADVICE The average adult should consume at least one and a half litres of water a day ― for nursing mums, an additional 900ml should be adequate to keep you well hydrated. Dr Wong notes you’re less likely to experience any fluid loss during confinement as you’ll be less active, so you don’t need to keep chugging. “It’s not necessary to drink gallons of water. Drinking too much water creates a diuretic effect, causing your body to flush out salts and electrolytes.” When you’re short of salts, you may experience symptoms like ringing in the ears and — in severe cases — swelling in your cells.

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3) Leave out high-mercury seafood from your diet
WHY? Any excess mercury from deep-sea fish and crustaceans will be transferred to your breastmilk. Dr Wong cautions that this can affect your munchkin’s development, even compromising their mental alertness.
EXPERT ADVICE Cut down on taking shark meat, swordfish, king mackerel and replace with salmon, sea bass and pomfret.

4) Refrain from eating gassy foods
WHY? Veggies like cabbage, onions, broccoli and cauliflower are excellent sources of fibre. However, it can cause flatulence. If you consume these in large amounts, it can seep into your breastmilk, making bubba feel gassy, too.
EXPERT ADVICE Take these foods in moderation, so stick to a portion that’s no larger than a rice bowl. Make sure to also burp your baby adequately after his feeds. Dr Wong notes that most babies tend to feel bloated because parents aren’t able to perform basic babycare techniques properly.

“If you smoke 15 cigarettes, it will take about 95 minutes for half the amount of nicotine to be removed from your body.”

5) You can breastfeed even if you’re taking over-the-counter meds
WHY? The antibodies your body creates to fight the infection will go into your breastmilk, preventing your mini-me from falling ill. So, you don’t have to stop nursing when you’re unwell.
EXPERT ADVICE Most over-the-counter drugs, especially those that don’t require a prescription, are safe for breastfeeding mums. Dr Wong says meds like Benadryl, ibuprofen and paracetamol are generally safe as long as you follow the dosage on the bottle. Focus on practising good hygiene. Wear a mask to prevent infected droplets from falling onto your newborn when you latch them on directly. Also, make sure to wash your hands with soap before touching your kewpie.

6) Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
WHY? Smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day and you’ll be increasing the amount of nicotine in your breastmilk, causing bubba to cry and feel colicky. Like smoking, drinking alcohol also decreases your breastmilk supply. You’ll also need to wait at least two hours for the alcohol in your body to be cleared before you can nurse your child.
EXPERT ADVICE While kicking this bad habit is your best choice, smoke outdoors away from your baby and only five sticks a day if you really feel the urge to smoke. Dr Wong states, “If you smoke 15 cigarettes, it will take about 95 minutes for half the amount of nicotine to be removed from your body.” Get loved ones to light up outside the house, too, so as to reduce the effects of second- or third-hand smoke.

Photos: iStock

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