Because your nutritional requirements are a lot different compared to pre-pregnancy…
If you’ve got a bun in the oven, you probably know that your nutritional requirements are a little different compared to pre-pregnancy. But, what you might be surprised to learn is that they continue to change after you’ve given birth – in fact, you require even more of certain nutrients when breastfeeding than you did when you were preggers.
First up, let’s recognise that breastfeeding is hard work! It takes up a lot of energy (roughly 500 calories per day), so your appetite is likely to increase and it’s important to ensure you’re meeting your energy demands. When you’re pregnant, however, your body ‘lays down’ fat, so some of the extra energy needed comes from that. To get you up to speed, the specific food groups that are recommended to increase (compared to pre-pregnancy) are vegetables and grains.
On top of total energy, your body also needs more protein and micronutrients like calcium, iron, Vitamin B12, folate and iodine. In fact, it is recommended that breastfeeding women take iodine supplements – but it’s important to consult your doctor or dietitian, first. Vitamins A and C are also important during breastfeeding.
And finally, drinking plenty of water is key, so I often encourage people to carry around a drink bottle.
So, without further ado, here’s a basic sample meal plan for mothers who are breastfeeding:
Two poached eggs on two slices of wholegrain toast with a quarter of an avocado, one tomato and half a cup each of sautéed mushrooms and spinach
Three wholegrain crispbreads with hummus and a glass of reduced-fat milk
Brown rice salad made with one cup brown rice, half a cup of chickpeas and two cups of salad vegetables (e.g. mixed leaves, cabbage, tomato and carrot), sprinkled with reduced-fat feta cheese and mixed nuts
One slice of wholegrain toast topped with one teaspoon of natural peanut butter and one sliced banana
Spaghetti bolognese made of one cup of cooked wholemeal pasta, 65g lean beef mince and a vegetable-based tomato sauce (including broccoli, carrots and capsicum), with one cup of salad on the side
One small tub of plain reduced-fat yoghurt topped with a quarter of a cup natural muesli and berries
While the above meal plan is in line with the recommended serves for breastfeeding as outlined in the Australian Dietary Guidelines, it’s important to listen to your body and see a qualified dietitian for individualised advice.