What constitutes a healthy diet for breastfeeding mums? Find out from Ms Kellie Kong, Dietitian from the Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH).
Breastfeeding mums should be mindful of what they eat, as food they eat will affect the baby. Ms Kellie Kong, Dietitian from the Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the
SingHealth group, shares food tips for breastfeeding mums and some guidelines for weight loss after pregnancy.
What you can eat when you’re breastfeeding
Ginger and other yellow foods
There is currently no evidence to show that eating ginger, sesame oil or any other yellow foods such as lentils and lemons may cause your baby to have jaundice, a condition which leaves your baby’s skin and eyes yellowish.
Jaundice is caused by the accumulation of bilirubin, a byproduct of red blood cell breakdown in the body.
Eggs, cow’s milk, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and shellfish
The evidence to date does not support the belief that avoiding specific foods, such as eggs, cow’s milk, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and shellfish, will lower your baby’s risk of developing allergies to these foods later in life. So you can go ahead and consume them in moderation.
However, if you think that a certain food you’re eating, such as garlic, onions and other foods with strong flavours, are upsetting your baby, avoid the food for several days and see if it helps.
Meat and liver to replenish blood
To replenish your iron supply, you may include meat and liver in your diet. However, eat these foods in moderation as they contain saturated fats and cholesterol.
Your meat and liver intake should be complemented with wholegrain foods, milk and dairy products, fruit and vegetables so that you get a well-balanced diet.
Herbs to increase milk supply
Fenugreek (known as ‘venthaiyem’ in Tamil or ‘halba’ in Malay) and black cumin (Nigella sativa) are herbs that can be used to increase breast milk supply. They are both listed as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when used in moderation.
To improve breast milk supply, you may consume fenugreek ‘tea’ four times a day. Just add 3 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds into a glass of hot water. Alternatively, fenugreek capsules are available from pharmacies. Don’t exceed the recommended dosage, as it may lead to loose stools.
Other guidelines for eating and losing weight when breastfeeding
When you’re breastfeeding, your body requires a higher level of certain nutrients (e.g. protein and B vitamins) than during your pregnancy. It is important then that you eat according to your hunger. On average, three well-balanced meals and 2-3 snacks can meet your nutrient needs.
Wait 6 months after your baby’s birth to start any weight loss programme
It is not recommended to go on a weight loss diet while breastfeeding, since it may affect your breast milk production. Not to worry ― your body stores of fat will be mobilised to produce breast milk for your baby. Losing 1 to 2 kg a month is considered healthy.
After 6 months, and if your baby is fully weaned onto solids, you can safely embark on a weight loss programme.
For tips on
what and how much you can drink while breastfeeding, see previous page.