Breastfeeding provides many benefits for the mother as well as her baby. Research has shown that women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer. Another health benefit for the mother is weight loss. Because breastfeeding burns calories, it helps the mother get back to her pre-pregnancy weight more quickly. However, one of the most important benefits of nursing is the bond that develops between the mother and child. Nursing a baby provides close physical contact that only occurs when breastfeeding. I feel very blessed. I am still breastfeeding my one year old. Although she is down to 5 feedings a day, it still takes a toll on my body. About 6 months ago, I noticed that I was not getting enough protein and was starving all the time!
It is recommended that the mother get an extra 350 calories per day during the first 6 months of breastfeeding and 400 during the second 6 months of feeding. Mothers also have increased protein needs. They require an additional 25g of protein per day. It is important to get adequate amounts of vitamin D during lactation as well, to help promote bone health and prevent rickets.
Simply eating more of the usual balanced diet should allow you to meet the higher energy demand while you breastfeed. On average, 100 ml of human milk gives 70 kcal of energy. During the first six months after delivery, 750 ml of breast milk is produced daily. If the extra demand for energy is not met from dietary sources, then your reserved fat stores will be used instead. If you do not have reserved fat stores, your body suffers. It will pull from sources such as muscle protein.
The increase in protein requirements during lactation are minimal compared to that of energy. However, if your energy intake is low, protein will be used for energy production. The additional protein requirements during lactation can be met by consuming protein rich foods. Not being a huge meat eater, my body was craving protein and I was not listening to it. If you do not have a high enough protein intake, then the proportion of casein in your milk may be reduced. Casein protein is an important component of your milk, and helps to provide your baby with calcium and phosphate.
Your intake of other nutrients such as vitamins C, A, thiamine, riboflavin, B6, B12, iodine and selenium is reflected in your breast milk composition. Newborn babies have very little amounts of these particular nutrients, and so they rely on breast milk for an adequate supply. Good sources of iodine are seafood and iodised salt. On the other hand, nutrients in your breast milk such as zinc, iron, folic acid, vitamin D, calcium, and copper are not affected by what you eat. The levels of these nutrients in human milk are constant, despite variations in the mother’s diet or body stores. Calcium is essential during lactation because it is required for milk production. An intake of 1000 mg calcium per day is required during the first six months after delivery. Calcium rich foods include eating green leafy vegetables and fish, in addition to drinking milk or other dairy sources. Fish can contain high levels of harmful substances such as mercury, so be cautious of the amount you are eating and from what source.
In general, while breastfeeding, remember that you need to eat more than usual to replenish energy that is lost through breastfeeding. Eat regularly to increase your food intake and meet all your nutritional needs and keep your intake of empty calorie foods to a minimum by eating more nutrient-dense foods. Plan your meals well by using the food pyramid as a guide in selecting your daily foods. Include plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk products, fish, poultry, nuts, whole grains, rice, beans and lentils. However, if you are still having trouble boosting up your calories and protein intake, here are some protein powders that our family loves and are gluten free too!
There are two types of protein powder that I buy: Rice and Whey protein. I buy the Biochem Sports 100% Natural Whey Protein in the vanilla flavor. Two scoops provide 20 grams of protein, 110 calories and no fat grams and 7 grams of sugar. It also provides 10% of your daily allowance of calcium. I usually mix one scoop into my fruit smoothies for an added burst of protein in the mornings. Another crowd pleaser in my house is the Rainbow Light Vanilla Rice Protein Energizer. One scoop provides 15 grams of protein, 100 calories and 2 grams of fat. It also has 6 grams of fiber with only 2 grams of sugar.
Mom’s After School High Protein Milk Shake
1 Scoop Rainbow Light Vanilla Rice Protein
8 ounces Vanilla Rice or Almond Milk
2 T Non-dairy liquid creamer
Shake mixture in a cup with a lid or in a blender until well powder dissolves.
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