Breastfeeding – the best diet for you and your baby (part 2) - A healthy diet for breastfeeding, Ten tips for eating well with a new baby

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4. A healthy diet for breastfeeding

A healthy vegetarian diet while you breastfeed is similar to that for any stage of life. However, there are some things you need to pay particular attention to. When you’ve just had a baby, it can be nice to have things laid down as simply as possible, so the guidelines below should help:

  • At least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. Fruit such as bananas and raisins are especially handy when you’re busy with a new baby.
  • Protein foods, such as eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.
  • Starchy foods, such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. The extra energy you need for breastfeeding should come from having more of these foods rather than from snacks that are high in sugar or fat.
  • High-fibre foods, such as high-fibre breakfast cereal and wholemeal bread and pulses. These are particularly important in the early days when constipation is a common problem.
  • Dairy foods, such as milk and yogurt, or dairy alternatives with added calcium and vitamins B12 and D.
  • Omega 3-rich foods, such as walnuts, are good, but long-chain omega 3s, such as DHA, are particularly important .
  • Iron-rich foods. During the last trimester of pregnancy, your baby accumulated most of the iron he or she needed, at the expense of your iron needs. Your iron levels may therefore have been depleted. You will also have lost some blood when your baby was delivered, so it is important to replenish your iron levels now.
  • Plenty of fluids. The general advice for people who are not breastfeeding is to drink at least six to eight glasses of fluid a day (approximately 1.2 litres). As you are likely to be producing about 800ml of milk a day, you obviously need more than this. However, there is no need to force yourself to drink more than you want. The best drinks are water, milk (skimmed, 1% or semi-skimmed), a fortified milk-alternative or pure fruit juice.

5. Ten tips for eating well with a new baby

When you have a new baby to look after, it can be difficult to think about your own diet. However, it is important to make healthy eating and regular meals a priority. This will benefit both you and your baby.

  1. Always have healthy snacks at hand so that you don’t have to rely on biscuits for an energy boost when you’re busy.
  2. Don’t get into the habit of eating unhealthy take-aways and convenience foods because you’re too tired to cook. Instead, keep meals simple. Buy ready-chopped vegetables for a stir-fry or try one of the almost instant meals listed here.
  3. Have a big glass of water nearby every time you sit down to breastfeed. When you have a cup of tea or coffee, try to match it with a glass of water.
  4. If your baby has a morning nap, make yourself a big sandwich with plenty of salad and put it in the fridge for later.
  5. When things are going well and you have time to cook, try making extra to go in the freezer.
  6. Shop online to make life easier. Stock up on staples such as pasta, couscous, rice and tins of chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and other legumes. And don’t forget food for when you’re too tired to cook, like baked beans, tinned soup and dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
  7. Remember that eating well is more important now than how tidy your house is.
  8. Try not to graze. Regular eating is important, but it is easy to get into bad habits when you are at home all day, which can result in weight problems.
  9. When someone asks how they can help, ask them to cook a healthy meal, or suggest visitors bring fruit instead of chocolates sometimes.
  10. Think about whether you are turning to food when what you really want is more sleep, fresh air, a bit of ‘me-time’ or emotional support. If you need help, ask for it .

6. Ten almost-instant meals for busy mums

  1. A jacket potato with baked beans and cheese, and a glass of orange juice.
  2. Reduced-fat Cheddar or vegan cheese and tomato on toast.
  3. A bowl of cereal with chopped banana or strawberries.
  4. Greek salad in wholemeal pitta.
  5. A peanut butter (or almond butter) and grated carrot sandwich.
  6. Lentil soup and a granary roll.
  7. Houmous with veg sticks and bread.
  8. Toast with scrambled egg or scrambled tofu.
  9. A falafel and salad wrap.
  10. Pasta mixed with a jar of ragu and a tin of mixed beans.

7. Do you still need supplements?

Women who are breastfeeding are advised to take a supplement containing 10µg (400i.u.) of vitamin D every day. This is due to the re-emergence of rickets in recent years and is particularly important for vegetarians, as both vegans and lacto-ovo-vegetarians have been found to have lower than average vitamin D levels in their blood. If you were taking iron supplements during pregnancy because of anaemia then it’s a good idea to continue for at least the first six weeks after delivery. Extra iron is also a good idea if you lost more than 400–500ml of blood during labour (which will be in your notes) or if you had heavy bleeding afterwards. If you’re not sure whether your diet is supplying everything you need, particularly calcium and vitamin B12, then a multivitamin and mineral supplement containing these nutrients is also a good idea. You may also want to take a DHA supplement.

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