According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies which help protect against many common childhood illnesses. Breastmilk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life.
The milk changes in volume and composition according to the time of day, nursing frequency, and age of baby to promote healthy growth. Breast milk according to experts, is the perfect food for a baby.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding to the baby?
Breastmilk is important to the baby in the following ways:
- It supplies all the necessary nutrients in the proper proportions.
- It protects against allergies, sickness, and obesity.
- It protects against diseases, like diabetes and cancer.
- It protects against infections, like ear infections.
- It is easily digested – no constipation, diarrhea or upset stomach.
- Babies have healthier weights as they grow.
- Breastfed babies score higher on IQ tests.
Benefits of breastfeeding to the mother?
According to the New York State department of Health, mothers who breastfeed:
- Have a reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes and certain cancers such as breast cancer
- May find it easier to return to what they weighed before they got pregnant
- Strengthen the bond with their children
Preparing to breast feed
The best time to prepare to breastfeed is before delivery. The decision to breastfeed should be made as early on in the pregnancy as possible, if not before pregnancy. The preparations should be finalized din the last 3 months before delivery. Experts have recommended the following tips to prepare for breastfeeding:
- Get a breast pump. It is important to order one before hand after extensive research in the brand to use. This helps in expressing milk and eases breastfeeding.
- Choose a lactation counsellor. Breastfeeding can be challenging at home, so it is important to choose a lactation counsellor who can easily be accessible either physically or virtually.
- Talk with the Obgyn about possible medical problems affecting breastfeeding which may result in low milk supply.
- Plan for skin-to-skin contact right after delivery. Skin-to-skin contact helps establish the bond between mom and baby. It is also one of the first signals to your body to start making milk.
- Free up time for breastfeeding. This involves doing as much work as possible before the baby comes in the last month of pregnancy. This will leave more time to breastfeed.
Recommended food for breast feeding
According to the CDC, breastfeeding mothers generally need more calories to meet their nutritional needs while breastfeeding. An additional 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day is recommended for well-nourished breastfeeding mothers, compared with the amount they were consuming before pregnancy (approximately 2,000 to 2,800 kcal per day for breastfeeding women verses 1,600 to 2,400 kcal per day for moderately active, non-pregnant women who are not breastfeeding).
In addition to extra calories, it is also very important to stay hydrated when breastfeeding as the baby is practically ‘sucking the mother dry’.
While a well-balanced diet is basically all that is needed to eat healthy for breastfeeding, emphasis on certain food make the process a whole lot easier and healthier. The Cleveland clinic particularly recommends the following for breastfeeding mothers:
- Whole grains: These are naturally high in fiber, minerals and vitamins, as well as carbohydrates, protein and healthy unsaturated fats. They help to maintain a steady blood sugar state among the many other benefits.
- Fish like salmon and sardines are a great source of protein, as well as vitamins and omega-3s, which can decrease inflammation and help in the baby’s developing nervous system.
- Beef: This is rich in essential B vitamins and most importantly, zinc which helps to maintain the energy levels.
- Leafy greens and legumes which are rich sources of vitamins and antioxidants for both the mother and the baby.
- Sweet potatoes
- Nuts and seeds
Can I drink coffee while breastfeeding?
Among the foods to eat and drink while breastfeeding, the question often comes if coffee is safe for such women. Consumption of moderate amounts of caffeine is unlikely to affect a full term, healthy baby, especially after the first month. In most cases, only about 1.5% of the maternal dose of caffeine crosses into the breast milk and reaches the baby. The European Food Safety Authority states that a daily intake of 2 cups of coffee (200 mg of caffeine) is safe to consume while nursing a baby. The USA Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 300 mg or less per day, 2-3 cups of coffee is acceptable. While several researches have found no real adverse effect or benefit to babies as a result of caffeine/ coffee exposure, two studies report an increase in infant colic, and severe to moderate exacerbation of infant atopic dermatitis in babies exposed to caffeine.
So, in summary, moderation is key concerning coffee while breastfeeding. The best liquid for breastfeeding due to its obvious benefits remains water.