After your baby is born, there are the obvious changes mums expect: sleep changes, physical changes, and emotional changes. But one change which many mums do not anticipate is a change to their dietary needs and their appetite.
If you are a new breastfeeding mum and are surprised by your new semi-ravenous state, you are not alone. But there is a reason why you are suddenly finding yourself hungrier than you may have ever been, and it is simply because your body needs more nutrients to sustain you and your new bub.
Eat Up, Breastfeeding Mothers!
It is essential that breastfeeding mums eat enough nutritious foods so that they are getting the necessary amount of nutrients for themselves and their baby. Producing breastmilk increases your appetite because the demand for some nutrients increases, including:
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
What Breastfeeding Mothers Should Be Eating
So what are the best foods for breastfeeding mums to eat to meet these nutritional requirements?
Breastfeeding mums only need a little bit more protein than they otherwise would. Some of the leading sources for protein include:
- Fish (preferably low mercury such as salmon, tilapia, and shrimp)
- Dairy products
Vegan and vegetarian mums can also up the protein ante by enjoying foods such as:
- Nuts and seeds
Zinc is important for immune health and plays a key role in cell growth and division, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates.
The best sources of zinc are mussels, oysters and red meat. But those who are vegetarian or vegan can eat more zinc by preparing meals with legumes.
This nutrient is key for controlling thyroid hormones. Supplementation may be required for some women (though this is best discussed with your doctor or dietician), but many women can increase their iodine intake by eating iodised salt, seafood, seaweeds and sea vegetables.
This trace mineral helps the body create antioxidant enzymes. If you think you may be low on selenium, all it takes is eating two Brazil nuts every day to meet your new requirements.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are critical to brain function and to body growth and development. Those who enjoy fish will be able to boost their omega 3 fatty acid levels by eating oily fish two times a week.
Some of the best options include:
- Ocean trout
Not a fan of seafood or are a vegetarian? Then you can still get omega 3 fatty acids by eating chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and omega 3 enriched foods (such as eggs).
- Vitamin B12
This vitamin is responsible for helping the body maintain healthy nerve cells and it aids in the production of DNA and FNA. You can get more vitamin B12 by eating red meat, though some fermented foods (such as canned mushrooms) do have this vitamin as well.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is responsible for helping tissues in the body grow and heal. It also helps the body produce collagen.
As long as you are eating the recommended amount of fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis (5 to 9 servings), you are meeting your vitamin C requirements.
Don’t Forget to Drink!
Because your body is producing breastmilk, your body needs extra fluids. Water is the perfect way for most new mums to stay hydrated, though other drinks such as low fat milk is a good choice because of the protein, vitamins, and minerals it contains. Try to avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks whenever possible.
How To Find The Time To Eat
In those first few weeks and months, your schedule will be in a constant state of change. While it may seem impossible to sit down and enjoy a well balanced meal, eating nutritious foods frequently throughout the day is important as it will:
- a) Give you the fuel you need to get through the day; and
- b) Help your body recover faster
Worried About the Calories? Don’t Be.
Many new mums are self conscious about their bodies after giving birth. Some may want to go on a strict diet while others are eager to embark on an exercise regime.
Do not resist your body’s new demands to eat more. As long as healthy, nutrient dense foods are being chosen for the majority of your snacks and meals, you will not gain weight. In fact, breastfeeding mums burn as much as 600 more calories each and every day, so your body has transformed into a calorie burning machine.
Feeling Good After Birth
There is an adjustment period after having a baby where your body will be in a state of “flux”. From growing breasts to shrinking tummies and thighs, trying to dress your new curves is no easy feat.