The First 6 Weeks ... Tips on Nutrition and How to Keep Milk Supply Up

March 19, 2020

The First 6 Weeks ... Tips on Nutrition and How to Keep Milk Supply Up

A mother’s nutrition post-delivery is critically important.

There are two main reasons:

Firstly, nutrition post-delivery needs to ensure that moms stores are replenished from the pregnancy and birth. Secondly, a mother’s nutrition needs to support her extra energy needs during breastfeeding. Breastfeeding a full term baby can use up an extra 500 calories a day. This is equivalent to an apple, glass of full cream milk or 2 slice peanut butter sandwich.

Here is our helpful guide on healthy eating whilst breastfeeding:

Tip 1: Eat enough energy

If you don’t get enough energy, you won’t make enough milk. Most breastfeeding moms need a quarter to a third more calories than the average woman, so don’t underestimate how much food you need!

Respect your body’s signals and eat when you are hungry – about five to eight small meals and snacks a day. If weight loss is an important goal to you, we recommend you avoid going on a diet until baby is at least two months old, and not to drop below 1800kcal a day.

Tip 2: Fill up with healthy fat

The major source of energy in your breast milk is fat. Baby especially needs ecosapentanoic acid (EPA) and decosahexanoic acid (DHA) for brain and eye development.

Eat oily fish such as fresh salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, flaxseeds and flaxseed oils, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. A good supplement with between 200mg and 1000mg DHA will be helpful – most pregnancy supplements provide 200mg-300mg per day which is perfect. You will still need to avoid high-mercury fish, including shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.  Eating 90g of fatty fish no more than three times a week is healthy and safe.

Tip 3: Pack in the protein

If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, baby won’t get enough protein in your milk for growth, immune system and brain development.

Make sure you’re eating lots of protein-rich foods like chicken, fish, meat, dairy, nuts and beans. 

Tip 4: Fit in fluids

Breastfeeding moms need around three litres (12 cups) of liquid a day, depending on your lifestyle. Dehydration will compromise your milk supply!

The best bet is to listen to your body and respond to your thirst, and always have a water bottle with you. Watch for signs of dehydration like dark urine or constipation that mean you are not drinking enough.

Tip 5: Stick to special nutrients

Baby does have some special requirements. Choline and lutein are necessary for brain development.  Polyamines are essential for gut development. Vitamin D is essential for bone and brain development.  Iron is important to support your health and prevent anaemia.

#1. Lutein
Good Dietary Sources: Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard and Garden Cress
Tip: 2 cups of raw spinach or half a cup cooked spinach will proivde you with enough lutein for the day

#2. Taurine
Good Dietary Sources: Fish, Chickpeas, Black Beans, Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Cashews and Almonds
Tip: Make a home made mix of nuts to keep on hand as a snack

#3. Glutamine
Good Dietary Sources: Beef, chicken, lamb, salmon, almons, hazelnuts, peanuts, soy beans, kidney beans, eggs, raw cabbage, asparagus
Tip: Aim to include a protein at every meal

#4. Arginine
Good Dietary Sources: Turkey, pork loin, chicken breast, soy beans, chickpeas, peanuts
Tip: one chicken breast contains 70% of your protein requirement

#5. Choline
Good Dietary Sources: egg yolk, chicken, turkey, flaxseed, nuts (especially pistachios), broccoli, brussel sprouts, dark green leafy vegetables

Tip 6: Don’t avoid these foods

There is no need to avoid gassy foods (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beans), strong flavours (spicy, chilli, garlic), or acidic foods (citrus, tomato). It is also unnecessary to avoid allergenic foods (eggs, soya, nuts, gluten, fish).

Only avoid a food if you suspect an allergic reaction in baby and you have a family history of allergies.  Only avoid foods with the guidance of a professional. Exposing your little one to a range of flavours in your breast milk is excellent for helping him or her accept a range of foods later in life.

Tip 7: Moderate these foods

Most artificial sweeteners won’t have an effect on your breast milk, but it is best to avoid them. Caffeine won’t impact your breast milk supply, but some babies are caffeine sensitive. Moderate alcohol intake is probably safe, but does not increase your milk supply!

Sweeten food and drinks with honey, sugar or xylitol. Stick to two or less cups of coffee a day, and reduce this if you see baby struggling to sleep, being unusually alert or fussy.  Try not to drink more than two alcoholic drinks a week, and wait for two hours after drinking to breastfeed or express milk.

Tip 8: Don’t waste time and money 

Jungle juice is widely supported as a breast milk booster, but it is unlikely to help your breast milk supply and is filled with sugars that will compromise your own health!

Another challenge in the first 6 weeks is quantity of breastmilk:

Breastmilk supply is initially low while your body adjusts your hormones to trigger breastmilk production. This usually takes 2-4 days, after which your milk supply should increase to provide the optimal amount of breastmilk for your baby.

Here are some tips for boosting your breastmilk supply:

#1. Feed your baby on demand.
This should range from every 2 to 3 hours (can be more), day and night. Stick to this range if you are expressing too. It is important that your breasts receive this stimulation, either from your baby feeding, hand expressing or a pump.

#2. As hard as it is with a new baby, try and get as much rest as possible. Eat well and frequently as well as drink plenty of water throughout the day and night. If you have friends and/or family around, ask for assistance with chores so that you are able to focus on breastfeeding.

#3. If you are hand expressing and still have a low supply, consider purchasing or renting a breast pump. These pumps are effective in mimicking what your baby does at the breast as well as stimulating milk production.

#4. Skin-to-skin; research indicates that skin-to-skin assists with increasing breastmilk production.

#5. If your milk supply remains low or diminishes, consult your Doctor and/or a Lactation Consultant.

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About Nutripaeds Founder, Kath Megaw

Kath Megaw (BSc Dietetics Hons, Diploma Paediatric Dietetics) holds four medical qualifications including a paediatric dietetic qualification from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Balitmore, USA. She has been published in the Epilepsia journal on the use of the paediatric ketogenic diet in third-world settings and frequently speaks to groups of both professionals and parents on infant and childhood nutrition. Kath is the author of Real Food, Healthy, Happy Children (Quivertree Publications), the co-author of Feeding Sense (Metz press), The Low Carb Solution for Diabetics (Quivertree Publications),as well as co-author of Weaning Sense and Allergy Sense (Quivertree Publications). Kath has been in private practice for over 18 years and is the founder of Nutripaeds, a paediatric dietetic practice.




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