Breastfeeding: Are you doing it right?

A mother’s breast milk is a baby’s first food, they say.

Studies show that a breastfed baby is 6 times more likely to survive in its first few months of birth, and a baby who is on exclusive breastfeeding is 14 times less likely to die within such few months. Clearly, there is abundance of statistics to evince this claim.

But how equipped are the new mothers and mothers-to-be these days in ensuring that their babies are receiving nothing but the greatest source of nourishment?

UNICEF estimates that there are at least 830 million working women around the globe having to juggle between demands at work and continuing to breastfeed their babies. Not an easy task, unquestionably, but many of these women aren’t aware that, not only a mother who solely breastfeeds her baby will require slightly more food than any average woman, but she will also need to revisit her entire diet plan based on how much of the baby’s diet is breast milk. That means rushing home from work to breastfeed her baby alone isn’t enough, she must also be consuming the right food (and no skipping meals!) in order to produce milk.

Essentially, breastfeeding helps in lowering the risk of breast cancer and type-2 diabetes, helps protecting the baby from childhood and non-communicable illnesses, creates a special bond between the mother and the baby, and supports brain development of the baby apart from improving general maternal health of the mother.

All said and done, it nevertheless should not be something that drains your energy. You could hence follow this simple plan below to ensure that you’re doing it the right way and that your baby is receiving what he or she deserves.

Start by adding these groups of foodstuffs to your existing diet:

Food Group

Breastfeeding only

Breastfeeding plus formula

What counts as 1 cup or 1 ounce?

Eat this amount from each group daily*

Vegetables

3 cups

2 ½ cups

1 cup raw or cooked vegetables or 100% juice

2 cups raw leafy vegetables

Fruits

2 cups

2 cups

1 cup fruit or 100% juice

½ cup dried fruit

Grains

8 ounces

6 ounces

1 slice bread

1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal

½ cup cooked pasta, rice or cereal

Dairy

3 cups

3 cups

1 cup milk

8 ounces yogurt

1 ½ ounces natural cheese

2 ounces processed cheese

Protein Foods

6 ½ ounces

5 ½ ounces

1 ounce lean meat, poultry or seafood

¼ cup cooked beans

½ ounce nuts or 1 egg

1 tablespoon peanut butter

[Note: This is a general plan, and it may vary according to your needs]

Your existing diet, moreover, would have to be revamped. It will not be the same as you’ve had over the years, at least prior to your pregnancy.

On a daily basis, ensure that you maintain a balanced, low-fat, high-protein and high-fiber diet.

Start your day by having a simple English breakfast meal with at least 2 slices of toasted multigrain/whole-meal bread and a cup of baked beans.

For people who are used to taking morning tea, try incorporating 200g of low fat yogurt with ½ cup of muesli into your diet. It’s a good way to keep you going at work, especially after a morning round of breastfeeding before leaving home.

For lunch, focus on having a high-protein and high-fiber diet by consuming, for instance, 90g of tuna and salad on multigrain roll along with a medium-sized fresh fruit.

For afternoon tea, 2 slices of cheese on 3 crisp-breads and raw vegetable sticks with hummus or peanut butter, or anything on the same ranks, would be ideal.

Most people avoid heavy dinners. Remember, however, that what you eat determines what the baby gets. Your dinner, hence, will have to be at least compensating, if not beating a gym-junkie’s. Again, a high-protein and high-fiber diet with perhaps 65g of meat/chicken, 1 ½ cups of cooked mixed vegetable, a medium potato and a cup of fresh fruit salad would do just fine.

Last but not least, a cup of reduced fat milk with a wholegrain English muffin before you head to bed would complete the day.

Again, you may need less or more of the above depending on your breastfeeding frequency. Do however watch out on foods containing calories. Some women find it difficult losing the weight they gained during pregnancy, and if that’s happening to you, may you want to control your “empty calories” intake. Often referring to the calories from added sugars and solid fats, you might want to stay away from sugar-sweetened soft drinks/sodas, fruit drinks or teas, hot dogs, sweetened cereals, candies, ice cream, desserts, fried foods and biscuits.

Stay away from caffeine as well, if possible. If you’re caffeine addicted, try to drink in moderation and limit caffeine-containing drinks such as tea, coffee, cola and cocoa to 2 – 4 times a day. Caffeine passes into your milk, and some babies under 6 months may be rather sensitive to such caffeine intake.

For some women, although rather uncommon, breastfeeding leads to constipation even if they’ve never had constipation during pregnancy. Known as postpartum constipation, it could last between several days to several weeks after labour. Consume plenty of high fibre foods such as whole meal/wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits, prunes, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and also take plenty of liquids. Not forgetting some gentle exercising such as walking, jogging and cycling; these will help to regulate your heart rate and blood flow to your bowels.

Breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby. But it’s got to be done right. Otherwise, like Adele during a concert in London, you’d be lashing out to the world on how much of a stress breastfeeding is.

X
*As causes for being overweight vary from person to person, weight loss results will also vary from person to person, dependant on various genetic or environmental factors such as food intake, individual rate of metabolism, level of exercise, etc. No individual result should be seen as typical.