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Breastfeeding and Diet

Breastfeeding - A Healthy Diet Is Very Important

It is important that your diet replaces the nutrients that are used up during breastfeeding, such as protein, calcium, iron and vitamins. There is no evidence that certain foods upset the baby or give them diarrhoea or colic. Limit your intake of alcohol to one to two glasses per day.

Preventing rapid weight loss
Breastfeeding burns up a lot of energy (kilojoules). Some of the energy will come from the fat you laid down in pregnancy. However, some women will need to eat extra snacks to prevent rapid weight loss. Use your weight and appetite to work out your energy needs.

What snacks to choose
Ideal snacks for helping to prevent rapid weight loss include:

  • Sandwiches
  • Milk drinks
  • Cereal with milk
  • Fruit
  • Yoghurt.

    If you are having trouble getting back in shape
    Although breastfeeding uses up a lot of energy, some women have a problem with extra weight. Tips for losing weight include:

  • Grill, steam, bake or casserole lean meat, fish and poultry
  • Use butter and margarine sparingly
  • Avoid high fat foods such as chips, rich desserts or greasy takeaways
  • Limit your intake of sugary foods such as soft drinks, cakes and lollies
  • Exercise - for example, push the pram around the block. Build up to between 30 and 40 minutes three to four times per week.

    Don't go on a strict diet
    Strict diets and skipping meals are not recommended because you could miss out on vital nutrients.

    Meeting your daily nutrient requirements
    Protein Breast milk contains a lot of protein. So, you will need to include extra protein in your diet, from foods such as:

  • Meat, fish and chicken
  • Eggs
  • Cheese and yoghurt
  • Nuts and legumes, for example, lentils, baked beans and split peas.

    Calcium Calcium is another major ingredient in breast milk. You will need extra calcium from:

  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. These are the best source of calcium.
  • Soymilk fortified with calcium - look for a brand which includes around 120mg calcium per 100mls soymilk.

    If your diet does not contain plenty of calcium, your body will use calcium from your bones to meet your increased needs. This weakens your bones and increases the risk that you will develop osteoporosis later in life.

    Iron Pregnancy uses up your iron stores. During breastfeeding, you need to rebuild your iron stores with iron rich foods:

  • Liver, red meat, chicken and fish are the richest sources of iron
  • Legumes - for example, baked beans
  • Nuts and dried fruit
  • Wholegrain bread and cereals
  • Green leafy vegetables.

    Folate and vitamins Breastfeeding also increases your need for:

  • Folate - for example, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts.
  • Vitamin C - for example, citrus fruits, berries, tropical fruit, tomatoes, capsicum and potatoes.
  • Vitamin A - for example, dark green and yellow vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and pumpkin.

    Vegetarian mothers
    A vegetarian diet can meet the nutritional needs of a breastfeeding mother as long as it includes a variety of foods, including:

  • Legumes
  • Eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt
  • Wholegrain breads and cereals
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables.

    Check with your dietitian to make sure your diet contains the right amount of kilojoules and nutrients.

    Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Maternal and Child Health centre
  • Lactation consultant

    Things to remember

  • It's important to eat a diet rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamins while you are breastfeeding.
  • If you want to lose weight, do it gradually. Don't go on a 'crash' diet.
  • Get healthy and delicious recipes at Free Gourmet Recipes

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