THE most important nutrients to consume while you're breastfeeding are....
When I was met by care providers right after having my baby girls, not a single one enquired about my eating habits during the early days post-delievery or while breastfeeding. Of course I have an advantage of knowing these things but what about other new mums? That was one of the things that provided me with motivation to set up my nutrition biz here in Edinburgh. There's a few things to add (and sometimes omit) to a mums eating plan to make sure she is nursing herself back to optimum health post-delivery. Below is a brief list of essentials that most mums should be consuming during this highly demanding time (both physically and emotionally!)
Folic Acid (500mg/d) found in green leafy veggies. This helps your body to make new cells and to synthesise DNA. Research also suggests that it may help with cardiovascular health.
Omega-3 fatty acids (about 1000mg/d) acids are long-chain polyunsaturated fats that aid in brain and eye development in fetuses and infants. Omega-3s (EHA and DHA forms) pass through your breast milk. Fatty, cold water fish like salmon and mackerel are great sources. You can also take a mercury-free quality supplement. Omega 3s are also thought to reduce postpartum depression.
Calcium (1000 mg/d) is important as pregnancy leaches this mineral from your body. If you are either breast or bottle feeding you need to make sure your taking in enough. As for the breastfeeding mums, The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals states a nursing mother typically transfers up to 300 milligrams of calcium to her baby daily. Dairy products, fish and green vegetables are good sources. Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium. Aim for a minimum of 2000 IU/d of this nutrient.
Vitamin C (120 mg/d) helps with iron (about 45 mg/d) absorption. Iron is needed to reduce the risk of postpartum anaemia. This can be serious and have long-term health implications for the mother and baby. Iron rich foods are mostly found in red meat, chicken, seafood, peas, and beans. Vitamin C rich foods are found in fruits and some veg like kale and brussel sprouts. Eat them at the same sitting.
So there you have it. So simple. And so critical to a healthy recovery.
My approach is food first meaning: aim to get the nutrients you need through enjoying tasty, nourishing foods, not supplements. But, if you're finding yourself unable to do so, supplement. Continue taking your prenatal multivitamin (make sure it doesn't contain too much iron leaving you constipated!) for a month or two after you deliver.