Eating for two during pregnancy may now be considered excessive however there is some truth to the saying that a mother needs to eat for two to ensure she successfully breastfeeds. The nutrient needs of a woman reach an all-time high during the period an infant is exclusively breastfeeding, as breastmilk production requires a lot of energy. You will need an additional 500 calories during the first 6 months of exclusively breastfeeding, will which then gradually taper down once the baby starts solids and consuming less breastmilk.
In order to produce enough milk, you need to ensure you are eating enough calories, and choosing your foods wisely. Consuming the right diet ensures that your baby is obtaining optimal nourishment during its rapid period of growth.
So how do you go about doing that? The key words are ‘nutrient dense’. Nutrient dense foods are those that contain complex carbohydrates, lean protein, good fats, and give you the most amount of essential vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients without the excessive empty calories.
Wholesome choices such as wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, low fat dairy products, lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds is the way to maximise the overall nutrient quality of your diet. Just eat a serving more from each food group to achieve your extra energy requirements. (1)
And remember, this is not the time to use crash or fad diets, where you lose weight quickly, as this will affect breast milk quality and quantity. Aim to lose weight gradually after the first few crucial months of breastfeeding and accept that it may take up to a year for you to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight. If you are overweight or obese, it’s best to consult your doctor on a weight loss plan.
By Namrata Trivedi
1) Ministry of Health, HealthHub, contributed by Health Promotion Board 2015, accessed 17 July 2017, https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/159/eating_guide_breastfeeding_mothers