Mothers should eat a balanced, varied and healthy diet while breastfeeding. However, first-time mothers are often offered so much advice that they can lose sight of the big picture. What should you pay particular attention to?
If you exclusively breastfeed your child, your energy requirement rises by approx. 500 kcal per day. The body takes this energy either from additional food or from reserves accumulated during pregnancy. Excess kilos are shed as a result. If, however, you find that you are losing more than half a kilo per week, you should increase your food intake a little. You should avoid reduced-calorie and/or unbalanced diets at all costs. Both the baby and you need sufficient energy and nutrients after the energy-sapping pregnancy and birth.
Sudden weight loss, due to strict diets for example, can put your baby at risk. Toxins accumulate in fatty tissue over the course of a person’s life. If you lose weight quickly, these substances are released by the body and end up in the breast milk. That’s why mothers should lose weight slowly and be careful about eating some varieties of fish (e.g. swordfish, herring, salmon and tuna) which may be contaminated with dioxins and mercury.
You should also avoid caffeine, alcohol und nicotine. These get into the breast milk through the blood and harm the baby. The same applies to medication (including alternative medicine). You should therefore think carefully and talk to a doctor or pharmacist before you take any medication.
The need for nutrients can increase slightly during breastfeeding compared to pregnancy. The following vitamins and minerals are particularly important and you should make sure that you get enough of them:
- Folic acid: green vegetables, tomatoes, pulses and egg yolk
- Vitamin C: citrus fruits, spinach, paprika, broccoli, redcurrants and blackcurrants
- Vitamin D: oily fish, avocados, mushrooms and sunlight
- Calcium: dairy products, mineral water, nuts and green vegetables
- Iron: meat, fish, egg yolk, wholegrain products, pulses
Also make sure that you get enough protein because your daily protein requirement increases by approx. 7 grams when breastfeeding. This corresponds to one extra portion of a dairy product (e.g. 200 ml of milk or 1 yoghurt extra per day). A vegan diet is not recommended unless it is supplemented with vitamins and minerals that are primarily found in animal products.
Drink at least two litres per day to ensure a good supply of milk. Still water is best.
Foods to avoid
The best idea is to watch how your baby reacts after breastfeeding. Every mother has to find out for herself what her baby enjoys. Some foods (e.g. garlic, cabbage and onions) can lead to wind, while large quantities of citrus fruits can lead to digestion problems and/or nappy rashes. Every baby is different.
SWICA supports the 2023 Breastfeeding Campaign, which runs in German-speaking Switzerland from the beginning of May until July. For more information, visit stillkampagne.ch.