Breastfeeding is one of the important aspects of motherhood. Breastfeeding has lot of benefits for the tiny one as well as for the new mother. Breast milk is the most nutritious food a new born baby needs and it is an effective way through which the baby receives all necessary fat, minerals and vitamins for their growth. Breast milk also contains tons of antibodies that can help a baby build its immunity naturally. Daily intake of breast milk helps the baby to fight against various diseases and keeps the infant happy and contented.
While breastfeeding, what the mother eats and drinks plays a very important role. Every baby reacts differently to different food that the mother consumes. Now the big confusion starts on what to eat and not to eat while nursing.
The lingering question
The often asked question by new mothers is, ” Can I eat ______ when I breastfeed?”. You can fill in almost any food in these blanks. While some fruits and cereals are advised by doctors to consume for healthy breastfeeding, other foods fall under they grey area. Most often that not, these are myths and a mother can safely consume small quantities of any natural food without causing harm to the baby.
I have mentioned few foods that does not suit most of the babies. We have also tried to suggest ways of consuming some of the foods. You may keep these in mind when you plan your diet chart.
Can you eat mangoes when breastfeeding?
Mango is a delicious fruit and is very nutritious too. Studies show that mango tends to increase the body heat no matter in what weather condition you live in. After delivery and during initial months of nursing, you and your baby’s body are very sensitive and very reactive.
When you eat mango, your body may not be able to digest it smoothly and might cause stomach problems. When your baby feeds on your breast milk, your baby also faces the same problem. There are high chances that your baby suffers from gas and loose stools.
Both raw mango and mango fruit are not recommended for nursing mothers. If you cannot resist eating mango (most of us can’t!) and specially while nursing you tend to crave for favorite foods, try eating a very less portion of mango fruit. If your baby seems okay, you can have the same quantity once or twice a week. Consume a glass of milk after eating mangoes to reduce the body heat. This milk should ideally be cow’s milk. If you are on a vegan diet, then drink lots of water to reduce body heat.
Do not eat too much of mango just because your baby is okay. Your baby’s body keeps changing and it might show reactions on later stages. You should avoid Raw mango strictly while breastfeeding. Do not eat even a small portion of raw mango when breastfeeding. Avoid any dish made out of raw mangoes as well .
Other foods to avoid while breastfeeding
Fishes like swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish contain high amounts of mercury in them. When a nursing mother consumes fishes that are high in mercury, it passes directly to the baby through breast milk. High mercury levels in babies affect the growth and development right from the initial stages.
It is advised to consume fishes like salmon, catfish, cod, tilapia, shrimp, pollock and canned light tuna. These type of fishes contain less mercury and are not harmful. A nursing mother can consume fish once or twice a week. Daily consumption of fish may not suit the mother and the baby.
Caffeine rich food
Babies are very sensitive to caffeine as it takes very long time for them to digest it. Studies show that a new born baby takes around 160 hours to process/digest caffeine, which is not good. A new mother is always tired and may need an energy boost frequently. Need of coffee or tea is very normal, but it is not good for your baby.
It is advised that you restrict the amount of coffee or tea to one or two cups a day. Make sure that you do not drink energy boosters, as they are loaded with caffeine. There are even chocolates in which caffeine is an ingredient. So, when you crave for a chocolate, check the label for ingredients before you eat them.
You can drink organic healthy tea that can not only boost your health, but can also improve lactation.
Fact: Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine which acts like caffeine (1). Small quantities of this compound does not affect the baby. Chocolate also contains carbohydrates, protein, vitamin, minerals and fat. For enhancing the flavour of the final output, it could also contain added sugar. Very small (really small) quantities of chocolate does not harm most babies or mothers.
How much chocolate is bad?
But when the mother consumes large quantities – more than 500mg, of theobromine or caffeine it affects the baby.
When there is high amount of theobromine in breast milk, the baby may be fussy and irritated most of the time. Since each baby is different, the effects of theobromine could be mild or severe.
- Colic and nausea
- Rashes on the skin
- Baby might also have issues in sleeping and exhibits erratic behavior.
Alcohol is something a nursing mother should be avoiding completely. When a mother consumes alcohol and feeds the baby, traces of alcohol is found in the breast milk. A baby’s body is not designed in a way to accept and process alcohol. The baby can show symptoms like – weakness, drowsiness, always sleepy or goes to deep sleep, abnormal weight gain.
Alcohol not only affects the baby, it also affects the sensitive body of the mother. It reduces the milk-ejection reflex. It means, the mother might not know when there is enough amount milk in breasts to feed the baby. It is also called as “Let down” reflex (automatic release of milk to nipple area).
Vegetables that cause gas or bloating
Fact: certain vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli will cause bloating in the mother and this could affect the breastfed baby too. Babies could experience colic and excessive gas, especially if too much broccoli is consumed by the mother. This is true for large quantities of garlic too.
When consumed in small quantities (4-5 cloves) of garlic per day can help to improve secretion of breast milk and keeps the digestive system of the mother and baby healthy.
Method of cooking garlic to improve lactation:
- Peel garlic cloves and keep aside.
- Take 150 ml milk in a small vessel.
- When the milk becomes hot, add the peeled garlic cloves to the milk.
- Allow it to boil for about 3 minutes.
- Switch off and let the milk become warm.
Chew on these garlic cloves and drink the milk to improve lactation.
Some mothers also experience flatulence due to consumption of cucumbers and onion. You know how your body reacts to certain foods. So just keep away from them.
Fact: Citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C which is good for both the mother and the baby.
There are few babies who may not be able to accept too much of Vitamin C. The acidic nature of this vitamin will cause gastric troubles in babies. Diaper rash, increased sensitivity in skin, fussiness, irritation and gas formation in stomach may be some of the symptoms.
If you want to consume citrus fruits, try consuming in small quantities and you can increase it if you do not see any issues. Limes, lemon, orange and grapefruits are the mos commonly consumed citrus fruits. Even if you would like to consume citrus fruits and your baby is fine with it, consume it as a fresh fruit to get the fibre content. I wouldn’t recommend consuming in the form of a juice or with ice.
Those mothers who previously had hypertension should refrain from consuming pickles made with citrus fruits. The salt and cayenne pepper content in these pickles is very high and is not ideal for consuming during breastfeeding.
Peanuts are very healthy and works well when consumed for a snack.
Nutrition in peanuts:
Peanuts have excellent amounts of niacin, vitamin E, folate and protein. Of these, folate is helpful in protecting the fetus, preventing birth defects and promoting cell and tissue growth.
How to consume peanuts during pregnancy?
If you or anyone in the family is allergic to peanuts, it is better to be cautious about it. Start with very small portions of peanuts and check if there is any allergic reaction in the baby. If you don’t see any allergies, you can happily eat peanuts.
The healthiest way to consume peanuts is after boiling them. Take a cup of peanuts along with the husk and add them to 2 – 3 cups of water. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the water. Cover the vessel with a lid and boil for about 15 – 20 minutes. Strain the water and then remove the husk. These peanuts are very healthy and do not cause nausea in pregnant women.
Why do we boil along with the peanut husk?
The shell of the peanuts are filled with fiber, it can naturally purify water and enrich the nutrition of the peanuts. But be sure to remove the shells before consuming! You do not want those to interfere with your digestive system.
Fact: Dairy consumption is safe and you need not worry about consuming milk, yogurt or cheese. But the best ways to consume dairy is in the form of ghee and buttermilk. Needless to say, this is not applicable if you or your baby is lactose intolerant.
A variation of buttermilk made the Indian way can ease your digestive system and make you feel healthier.
- Take 1 tablespoon of yogurt.
- Add 4 tablespoons of filtered water.
- Mix well.
- Add a pinch of salt, few chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves and chopped curry leaves (2-3 leaves will d0).
- Now add 1/4 teaspoon of hing (asafoetida) powder to the buttermilk and stir well to avoid lumps.
Drink this once in the afternoon to keep your body cool.
Another safe milk product is Paneer. It is similar to cottage cheese and is very healthy. It is a good source of whey protein and you can consume up to about half tablespoon of panner once in two days or so. When we talk about dairy, I should tell you about the wonder that is “ghee”. Also called clarified butter in some parts of the world, ghee is a treasure from Ayurveda and it has amazing benefits for a new mother. During the first two months after delivery, you can consume ghee in the following way:
- Take half a cup of hot cooked rice.
- Add 1 tablespoon of roasted cumin seeds powder and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper powder. (If you know how to make ‘Angaya powder’ at home, that would be the best)
- Pour 2 tablespoons of ghee.
- Mix well and consume this rice for lunch.
While breastfeeding you will need all necessary nutrition for you and your baby. Moderation is a very important key that you need to keep in mind while you consume any food. Keep your diet nutrition rich with a balance of nutrients. Do not be in a hurry to shed all that baby weight. Cherish the breastfeeding experience, eat well to be healthy enough to feed. There are a million diet plans and workout regimens to lose the weight after your baby turns 6 months at least. Till then, keep it simple. Keep it stress free. And keep it happy.
Eat healthy and have a happy motherhood experience!