Breast Is Best
Even with all the improvements in formula milk for babies, everyone generally agrees that Breast is Best. However, there are women who are unable to nurse because they are seriously ill, or are taking certain types of medications where breast milk would be harmful to the baby. And there are women who shouldn't breastfeed, like those with AIDS or who are HIV positive, or who are taking street drugs. In addition, some women just don't have the time or the desire to breastfeed, that's ok too.
Breast Milk Content
Did you know that there are over 200 constituents to breast milk? In fact, researchers are still finding out exactly how complex breast milk actually is. For example, breast milk not only changes according to what you eat, but also according to the age of the baby! So as baby grows, the balance in breast milk- which contains a mix of fat, carbs, proteins, lactose, minerals and vitamins and other nutrients - changes to match! So you can be sure that your baby will be adequately nourished, however long you breastfeed.
If you are having problems with your milk supply make sure you are getting enough sleep! Also make sure you are drinking enough by having a large glass of water every time you nurse. Often this is all you need to do to increase both the quantity and the quality of your milk. Remember even women in poor countries with bad nutrition manage to produce quality milk, even if their own nutritional reserves are depleted!
Foods To Avoid
When a nursing mum eats spicy foods like curry or gassy foods like cabbage or baked beans they can often disagree with baby. So if your baby seems to have a lot of wind or indigestion, or is colicky or fretful you might want to keep an eye on what you are eating and see what is affecting your baby. If you exclude these foods from your diet and it doesn't seem to help then it's worth looking at dairy and wheat as possible culprits as many babies are also sensitive to these common foods.
Foods To Enrich
It's worth having your levels of iron, vitamin D and vitamin K checked when you are nursing, as many women tend to be low in all three. Your doctor or health visitor may recommend a vitamin and mineral supplement if they think it necessary. Adding brewer's yeast or Marmite to your diet can improve your vitamin levels, and in the old days doctors even recommended a pint of Guinness a day to nursing mothers because of its rich iron content! And of course, you need to make sure you are getting your 'five a day'of fruit and vegetables, as well as enough protein.
A suggested rule of thumb is 1gm of protein per day for each pound you weigh. So if you weigh 9 stone that would be 126 grams of protein. You need to consume around 2500-2,700 calories a day when you are breast feeding and while baby is small, upping it to about 2,800 calories a day once baby is over 3 months. However obviously that does depend whether you are fully nursing your baby, or supplementing with other foods or a bottle. Some of the calories can come from your fat stores, but if you have a low BMI, or tend to be underweight, you need to be extra sure you are getting enough calories.