An Eating Guide for Breastfeeding Mothers

Breastfeeding – it seems like the most natural thing in the world for a mother to do for her child. Yet, for first-time mothers, this task may seem like one of the most daunting experiences of her life. For something that should be so instinctive, there is actually very little about it that is intuitive. 

Thankfully, there are a number of things that a mother can do to prepare herself. Aside from building a strong network to support her efforts during the early days of breastfeeding, she should also arm herself with as much information as possible. It is said that knowledge is power and there is no greater truth than this when it comes to breastfeeding.

What nutritional requirements does a mother planning to breastfeed her child need to consider?

Firstly, she will need to increase her daily caloric intake by an extra 500 calories. Ideally, these calories should come from a nutritionally balanced diet to support her milk production. Getting adequate vitamins and minerals is not only important for her little one, it is also essential for maintaining her health. Remember that a mother must first tend to her own needs before she can take care of her child - healthy mother, healthy child.

There is no perfect breastfeeding diet, however, the following provides a good guide for what mothers should be aiming for:
✿ During lactation, consume more protein-rich foods to support breast milk production. It can simply be achieved by adding one medium-sized fish (e.g. ikan kembong) and one egg to your existing diet.
✿ Your energy needs to be increased by 25% throughout the lactation period. Your extra energy requirements can be met by consuming additional 3 ½ servings of cereal (e.g. rice, oats) or cereal products (e.g. bread, noodles) for first six months of lactation.
✿ Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, i.e. 6-8 glasses plain water daily, even if you are not feeling thirsty.
✿ Your calcium requirement increases by 25% during the lactation period. Meeting your calcium requirement can be as simple as adding one glass of milk to your current diet.
✿ Take iron supplements as advised by your doctor. Iron can also be obtained from meat, chicken, eggs and certain vegetables such as spinach and kangkung.
✿ Take 3 servings of vegetables a day. Examples of 1 serving: ½ cup cooked dark green leafy vegetables with edible stem, 1 cup ulam.
✿ Take 2 servings of fruits a day. Examples of 1 serving: 1 slice of papaya/watermelon/pineapple, 1 medium banana/orange/pear/apple, ½ medium-sized guava.

Recommended foods that mothers can include in their meals to help them meet these needs include salmon, dairy products, beef, legumes, blueberries, brown rice, eggs, oranges, green leafy vegetables, whole-wheat bread, and whole-grain cereals. Even with the best of intentions to eat well, a mother may be overwhelmed by the responsibilities of looking after her new child. Especially in the early days, it can be difficult enough to find time to eat, let alone sit down for a properly balanced meal. An easy way for mothers to ensure that they are getting the nutrients needed to support breastfeeding is by including a maternal nutritional supplement, like Similac Mom®, in their diet.