While highly rewarding, having a baby is no walk in the park. Breastfeeding, in particular, can be challenging for new mums—even though it can also be an important bonding time with a baby. Irregular hours, lack of sleep and inadequate diet can also take a toll on breastfeeding mums. While tools such as breast pillows can make the breastfeeding process easier, it is also important to ensure that new mums get sufficient vitamins, nutrients and fiber during this crucial time. Particularly, since nutrients are passed to a baby through breast milk. As what mums eat can affect the taste of their milk, eating veggies such as carrots and broccoli is likely to instill healthy eating habits in a newborn. With this in mind, here are five key nutrients to keep yourself and your baby healthy during the breastfeeding period.
Water is an essential nutrient responsible for the healthy function of tissues, organs and cells. Adult women should drink around three liters of water per day. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to forget to do this—especially if you are busy looking after a new baby. It is important to remember that the majority of breast milk is composed of water, putting breastfeeding mums who don’t get their daily intake of water at a greater risk of dehydration. Inadequate fluid intake may also leave you exhausted, cause headaches and decrease your milk flow.
Calcium is essential to help growing babies build strong bones and in later years teeth. An inadequate supply of the nutrient in breast milk can leave your baby at risk of problems in later life. Likewise, if your calcium intake is insufficient, you are putting yourself at a greater risk of fractures and osteoporosis. An adult should consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, which roughly equates to two and a half servings of dairy.
Getting adequate levels of vitamin D is as simple as spending 15 to 30 minutes per day in the sun. Nevertheless, newborns can make daily outdoor excursions difficult. While most babies are born with vitamin D in their system, this can get depleted a short time after birth. Insufficient vitamin D can lead to decreased calcium, as well as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease and type one diabetes. As vitamin D is difficult to replenish through food, take a supplement if you think that you are not spending enough time outside.
Vitamin A promotes development of bones, vision and immunity, as well as skin, hair and nail growth. As such, sufficient intake of this nutrient is vital for both new mums and their babies. It is recommended that breastfeeding mums up their vitamin A intake from the standard adult dose of 700 micrograms to 1,100 micrograms per day. Generally orange-colored fruits and vegetables, such as oranges and carrots, are rich in vitamin A, however, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes also contain high doses of the nutrient.
As only half of the normal amount of zinc is normally absorbed during breastfeeding, new mums should increase their intake of this nutrient by 3.2 milligrams per day to help them maintain healthy digestion and metabolism. Zinc can be found in seafood and meat, as well as oatmeal, dairy, tofu, and nuts and seeds. As zinc sourced from animal products is more readily absorbed by the body than plant-sourced zinc, vegetarians and vegans need to pay special attention to what they eat to minimize the risk of a deficiency.