As a new mum, we dive into a world of the unknown. It doesn’t take long, after heading home from hospital, for Google to become our best friend, doctor, and nutritionist. We must pull up that trusty search engine at least 20 times a day, seeking advice and information about everything from how many times a day a newborn should poop to how to ease constipation in the fourth trimester. There are great resources out there, if you know what you’re looking for, but often we’re hit with conflicting ideas leaving us a little lost and often very confused. Here are our three top tips, with research to support them, for breastfeeding mums.
1) Vitamin D:
The amount of vitamin D in the mother’s breastmilk will depend on her vitamin D intake and vitamin D stores. It is recommended that breastfeeding women take a vitamin D supplement of 6,000 IU a day, and if you do this you shouldn’t need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement because your breast milk will contain enough vitamin D. If you aren’t taking a supplement (or getting a good amount of sun exposure), and you are solely breastfeeding, then you should give your baby a vitamin D supplement of 400IU a day. This is a public health guideline, so supplements should be available through your doctor.
Why is vitamin D important?
It’s quite commonly known now that in addition to calcium being an essential nutrient in bone health, so is vitamin D. Vitamin D is also an important nutrient for immune health and immune support, so when we’re looking at baby allergies such as eczema and even asthma or respiratory conditions, vitamin D can play an important role.
Gut health is a hot topic right now in the nutrition world and more research is coming out to support the idea that a healthy gut is the key to a healthy body and mind. Setting up our babies with a good healthy gut microbiome will not only influence their digestive tract, but also can influence their overall future health.
Breast milk contains over 700 different types of bacteria. There are a couple of different ways and different theories as to how probiotics travel from the mother’s gut to the breastmilk, but what we do know is that it does transmit, so essentially mum’s gut becomes baby’s gut.
Why are probiotics important?
Whether by choice, or not, cesareans are at an all-time high. With a cesarean, the initial exposure to natural bacteria from passing through the birth canal is missing, meaning that being able to supply your baby with a good supply of probiotics through the breastmilk is key. Some formulas now also contain probiotics, so if you are not able to breastfeed try to find formula milk that will give your baby as many of the benefits of breastmilk as possible.
Antibiotic use, for mum or baby
It’s quite common that mum or baby will be given antibiotics during or after birth. Antibiotics will not only affect the maternal gut health which will be influencing the baby’s health, but also antibiotics may also pass through the breastmilk and affect the colinisation of the baby’s gut. If you are worried about taking antibiotics post-partum, we would recommend you speak to a qualified health professional for advice.
3) Essential fatty acids:
There are so many fats that our body requires from our foods like Omega-3, found in oily fish, Omega-9 from olive oil or monounsaturated fats found in avocado. These are all essential fats and will contribute to the composition of the different fatty acids in your breastmilk. We want our babies to have exposure to all these different types of very important fats, and that’s where mum’s diet comes into play. You have the ability to positively change your breast milk’s fatty acid composition and your baby’s development in just two days of changing your diet to include healthy fats like oily fish, olive oil, egg yolk, nuts and seeds.
Why are fats important?
The most important essential fat for baby, particularly from 0-2, is Omega-3 DHA. This is one of the main fats present in breast milk, which is pulled from maternal stores. DHA is necessary baby’s brain development, eye development and nervous system development. Vegans and vegetarians may want to consider a high-quality supplement, if they are not including any oily fish in their diet.
As mothers, it is always important to remember that we are all different, and all our babies are different. Just because one thing works for one mum, does not mean it will work for everyone. The nutritional status for each mum can vary greatly and while nutrition can fall into a general category of health and wellness, it should also be considered a focus at this time. Remember, breastmilk will always be good quality, whether this means depleting you of all your nutritional stores, or not. The baby will be the priority, so it is vital to feed yourself correctly during this demanding time.
Article written by Amanda Ashy-Boyd, Nutritional Therapist at Hub.