Nutrition for the breastfeeding woman

Nutrition for the breastfeeding woman

The nutritional needs of the breastfeeding woman are higher than those of the pregnant woman.

However, the breastfeeding woman may be advised to have a food style that is not very different from that of the pregnant woman, bearing in mind, however, that the energy surplus required is considerably greater (milk production is a heavier job than pregnancy), even if partially balanced by the use of fat reserves created during pregnancy. 

The dietary model suitable for the breastfeeding woman is similar to that recommended for the pregnant woman, with some variants concerning in particular, towards the adult woman, a greater demand for protein (more 17 g / day), calcium (more 200-400 mg / day), iodine (plus 50 mcg / day), zinc (plus 5 mg / day), copper, selenium, vitamin A (plus 350 mcg / day of retinol equivalent), vitamins of group B and vitamin C, as well as water.

Milk production involves above all an increase in the needs of calcium, proteins and water: this increase must be met through feeding, otherwise the production of milk suitable for the needs of the newborn will take place at expenses of the maternal organism. 

Water: the losses to be compensated for a daily milk flow rate of 750-800 ml (at 87% of water) can be calculated in approximately 650-700 ml / day to be added to normal needs. Calcium: the calcium content of breast milk is 320 mg / liter and therefore – for an average daily consumption by the infant of about 750 ml – the breastfeeding woman loses about 240 mg of the mineral every day. In order to prevent the depletion of the mineral heritage of the maternal organism, a daily increase in calcium intake up to 400 mg is recommended.

For the breastfeeding woman, the best way to meet these needs is to eat a rich and varied diet, which includes significant quantities of liquids (water, fruit juices, milk, etc.), olive oil as a seasoning fat ( oleic acid is essential for the maturation of the infant’s nervous system), frequent consumption of fish (to enrich breast milk with omega-3 fatty acids, useful for the nervous structures of the infant), fresh fruit and vegetables colored in orange and with dark green leaves, milk and dairy products and legumes. Then there are some foods or drinks that must be limited or excluded, as appropriate, for various reasons.

Some foods (such as asparagus, garlic, onions, cabbage, bitter almonds) and some spices give the milk smells or flavors that may be unwelcome to the infant, so as to remove it from the breast: in this case should be excluded. – Foods that, as rich in pharmacologically vasoactive substances or capable of inducing their release, are potentially responsible for the triggering of allergic-like clinical manifestations: fermented cheeses, crustaceans, molluscs, mussels, possibly also cocoa or chocolate, strawberries, cherries, peaches, apricots, etc.

Strictly avoid spirits (ethyl alcohol passes into milk, can inhibit the milk froth and cause sedation, hypoglycaemia, vomiting and diarrhea in infants). – Wine, even the one with low alcohol content, should not be drunk; if limited to quantities not exceeding a glass, once or at most twice a week, exclusively with meals. – Drinking beer does not give the breastfeeding woman any advantages: it is not true that it promotes milk secretion and, in addition to alcohol, it can give bitter substances to breast milk, giving it an unpleasant taste for the infant. – Coffee, tea, cocoa, cola-based drinks and all nerves in general must be limited: the alkaloids they contain are excreted with breast milk in a not negligible quantity. If necessary, prefer decaffeinated products.


In Conclusion: how to behave

During breastfeeding your nutritional needs are even higher than those of pregnancy: a varied diet, rich in water, fresh vegetables, fish, milk and derivatives, will help you feel good and produce a completely suitable milk to the needs of the newborn.

During breastfeeding, avoid those foods that can give unpleasant smells or flavors to your milk or trigger allergic-type manifestations in the infant.

Avoid alcoholic beverages and use products containing nervine substances (coffee, tea, cocoa, cola-based drinks, etc.) with caution.

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10 Responses

  1. Drink lots of water, eat in a varied and balanced way so you get your child used to different tastes, limit coffee and don’t forget about fish.

      1. About 85% of the milk composition is represented by water, which is why the mother’s water needs increase.

        1. Those who experience breastfeeding know that they are very thirsty while breastfeeding or immediately after; it is a natural physiological mechanism that allows to restore immediately the maternal water reserves necessary to maintain a good state of hydration of the mother and allow a continuous and cyclical production of milk.

          1. The feeding of the breastfeeding mother must be varied, rich and possibly distributed over five meals (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner) with a balanced overall energy intake.

            1. The nutritionist suggests for a correct intake of minerals and vitamins: two portions of vegetables and two / three portions of fresh seasonal fruit every day.

              1. The omega 3 fatty acids contained in fish pass into breast milk and promote the development of your baby’s nervous system: eat it three times a week!

  2. The composition of breast milk is closely related to the mother’s nutrition. It should therefore be borne in mind that the consumption of drinks such as tea and coffee involves the passage of substances such as caffeine into breast milk which have a known stimulating and exciting effect on the nervous system with effects on sleep modulation.

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