New mum? If you're planning to breastfeed, here's nutritional therapist Vicki Edgson's guide to eating well for you and the baby
So you’ve made it! After nine months of careful eating, abstaining from alcohol and ensuring that you provide your baby with all he/she needs, you’ve now run the marathon on childbirth, and have your baby in your arms – congratulations.
Inevitably all your focus and attention is now on your gorgeous child, and it’s understandable and easy to find yourself skipping meals, or just grabbing the nearest food to hand – as and when you remember. However, to ensure you produce good quality breast milk continuously, you need to nourish yourself and, most importantly….
The secret to plentiful breast milk is to ensure you are constantly drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid concentrated sweet fruit juices and if you must have them add water to fresh juices. Drink plenty of water to which you can add cucumber, mint and basil to flavour.
Pack in fruit and veg
Eat fruits that are packed with fluids – berries, peaches, apricots, melon, as well for energy. Keep a bowl of mixed fruits at the ready throughout the day.
If you are suffering from constipation, ensure you are chomping on plenty of raw vegetables – celery, fennel, endive, and chicory – all of which are laden with nutrients.
Eat to develop your baby's brain
Choose oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines for their rich source of Omeg3 DHA – essential for the ongoing development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. Avoid tuna which is now known to carry damaging levels of mercury
Vegetarian sources include pumpkin and sunflower seeds and tahini (from sesame seeds ) – which can be added to breakfast smoothies. These foods will also prevent dryness of yours and your baby’s skin.
Do not cut back on carbs - it will affect your milk supply
Pack in good quality complex carbohydrates – choose pumpernickel, rye and spelt breads, buckwheat pancakes, brown and red rice – all of which will produce great milk, and give you more energy with their abundant B vitamins and minerals. Don’t be tempted to cut back on carbs in order to lose weight – you will lose breast milk before the weight – you need these valuable foods.
Keep up energy and iron levels
Iron rich foods such as lean meat (fillet steak and lamb chops), nuts and seeds, apricots and prunes, broccoli and asparagus should be included to prevent iron-deficiency anaemia, and keep your energy levels up.
Avocados – best all-round fruit for energy - in smoothies, mashed on multigrain toast or guacamole, provide a rich ongoing source of folic acid, essential fats, vitamin E and C and beta-carotene. They aren’t fattening – they are nutritious.
FOODS AND DRINKS TO AVOID
No coffee or tea
These are naturally diuretic, and deplete the body of vital nutrients at the same time – choose herbal teas such as fennel, nettle, mint, and chamomile to hydrate you. In hot weather, brew these teas, and then pour them into glass water bottles to store in the fridge.
Limit your alcohol intake
More than two units a day may reduce your breast milk production, as well as depleting energy, so choose a spritzer rather than a glass of wine, to dilute and refresh rather than inebriate yourself.
Although you may want to celebrate with a glass of champagne, keep it to a minimum as you may find it gives your baby hiccups!
No tinned colas
They may be tempting but they contain too many additives and sweeteners – so I consider them an absolute no-no. We have no way of knowing what those chemicals may be doing to your baby’s brain.
Tuna may be an easy meal from a tin, but copious research now shows that the levels of mercury found in these deep-water fish may well be damaging to brain-development. Choosing other oily fish as mentioned above is just as easy.
No excessive sugar and sweets
Sugar may provide you with short-term energy, but will actually dehydrate you and slow down the provision of your breast milk. If you want chocolate, choose good quality dark varieties that are rich in magnesium to keep you relaxed and calm. Eating regularly is the key to avoiding sugar-cravings, and maintaining energy.
Ask for help
Above all, ask for help and support from friends and family – you don’t have to be superwoman. In tribal communities across the world, when a woman has a baby, all the women in the tribe rally round to support the mother in the first few weeks of the arrival of her newborn child, to allow her to rest and repair. For similar help visit the Mermaid Maternity Retreat on King’s Road Chelsea – residential and luxury after-care for you and your precious child.