The best diet for breastfeeding
Breastfeeding and mother’s diet.
We all know that the diet and environment of a baby during the first crucial months of its life are very important. The burning question then becomes, what is the best diet to have to ensure your baby has good health?
Around 80% of women start breastfeeding their babies in the UK. It is possible to do for virtually all women, but it can require a certain amount of effort to get started. The World Health Authority now recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding at the start of life, and additional partial breastfeeding for up to a year after this as the baby is weaned onto solid foods. I think these recommendations get it about right. The advantages of breastfeeding are enormous.
Advantages for the baby are:
- It builds a closer bond between mother and baby, possibly by virtue of the skin to skin contact and warmth that it experiences as a result of breastfeeding.
- The milk is the correct temperature every time.
- It reduces the risk of obesity and heart disease in later life.
- Reduces infections such as tummy upsets, colds, chest infections and ear infections as it contains specific antibodies that are not present in infant formula.
- Exclusive breast feeding for the first six months reduces the chance of your baby being ill in its first year.
- The risk of cot death is reduced.
- Some studies have linked breastfeeding with increased intelligence, although other studies found no link after adjusting for parental intelligence and other key factors.
Advantages for the mother are:
- It helps build an emotional bond between mother and baby.
- It is free with the cost of formula being estimated at roughly around £500 per year.
- You have fewer bottles to wash, sterilize and prepare.
- There is no need for the baby to have any additional fluid such as water.
- Baby becomes a less fussy eater, as it gets exposed to a wide range of tastes in breast milk.
- It lowers risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Some studies have shown least risk of ovarian cancer with those who breastfeed for between eight and 10 months.
- It reduces the risk of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis as well as degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis.
- It reduces risk of developing type two diabetes in mothers who had gestational diabetes.
- Uses up to 500 calories per day and so helps new mothers lose weight effectively and safely.
Environmental pollutants can be present in breast milk, but it is unlikely that their effects will outweigh the benefits of breastfeeding. Basically breastfeeding is the biggest gift that most people will ever be able to bestow on their child. I strongly recommend doing it if you can.
What is the best diet for mummy?
Quite simply a good healthy diet is vital at this time to ensure your baby has the best start in life. It is possible to eat badly and produce milk that is less beneficial for the baby than infant formula, so if you are breastfeeding it does pay to ensure your diet is healthy.
Key components of your diet include fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K as well as essential fatty acids.
There was a story in 2011 about some French vegans whose babies died from vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is available from sunshine on bare skin, and in the diet from oily fish and dairy produce such as milk, butter, cheese as well as eggs and liver. If you are vegan intending to breastfeed then it is very important to look at supplementing vitamin D, Vitamin A (as beta-carotene does not provide it too well) ,and also omega 3 oils which are available from certain types of algae.
The quantity of breastmilk is rarely an issue as your body will adjust how much is produced based on feeding frequency. Especially during the first few weeks it is best to feed on demand as this increases the amount of available milk for the baby over the months ahead, allowing it to grow to schedule.