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Food for nursing mothers

In a way, you're sharing your food with your baby when you are breastfeeding.. So think about what you put on your plate and make sure it's nutritious and varied.

In a sense, you're sharing your food with your baby when you breastfeed since everything you eat passes into your breast-milk That’s why eating nutritious, varied meals is not only essential when you’re pregnant, but also when you’re breastfeeding But this is often easier said than done When you’re breastfeeding for hours on end, chances are that eating a varied diet is not your top priority Your staple diet is probably cereal and milk, toast, bread, yoghurt, fruit and other food you can grab with just one hand, little preparation and zero planning

But this diet doesn't give you the energy you need Try these tips to ensure you’re eating well enough for the two of you:
1 When you or your partner cook meals, make large quantities and freeze individual portions that you can defrost
2 Buy a large stash of ready-cooked meals so you can have at least one pre-prepared meal a day
3 Put more than just butter on your bread Load it with proteins and salad
4 Vegetable sticks – keep these in the fridge and serve with cottage cheese or peanut butter

Food intolerances
Your baby reacts to what you eat Here's a classic example: if you eat a lot of prunes to stimulate your bowels after giving birth, your baby will also get loose bowels Some babies get a reaction such as a rash or stomach pain if you eat a lot of beans, garlic or very spicy food If you suspect your child has reacted to something you’ve eaten, try cutting it out of your diet for a few days and see if things improve When you reintroduce the food, you’ll find out immediately if that was what caused the reaction

Food allergies
Your baby may also react to things you eat if they’re allergic to a particular food, such as cow’s milk If you suspect a food allergy, speak to your GP or Well Child Nurse to discuss a solution Beware of tinkering too much with your diet without getting advice For example, cutting milk from your diet deprives you and your baby of vital calcium Exclusive breastfeeding for around six months is a good step towards preventing allergies in your baby

Breastfeeding is thirsty work
It takes a lot of liquid to produce milk, so drink plenty of water Use your thirst as a guide Aim for 10 cups of fluid each day and try to have a drink with each breastfeed Extra fluid may be needed during hot weather, after activity or if you are vomiting or constipated
Cut down on coffee and tea and cut out alcohol completely Be cautious about drinking herbal teas Discuss this with your doctor, midwife or Well Child nurse
Tea should not be drunk with meals because the tannins in tea mean you will not absorb the iron in the meal as well as you could
Limit soft drinks, flavoured waters, fruit drinks, cordials and diet drinks as these are low in nutrients and may be high in sugar Avoid energy drinks

Eat a variety of healthy foods every day from each of the four main food groups:
1 vegetables and fruit
2 breads and cereals (wholegrain is best)
3 milk and milk products (reduced or low-fat milk is best)
4 lean meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds

Also limit your intake of fatty (especially saturated fat), salty and sugary foods and drinks by:
– preparing foods with little added fat, salt and sugar
– when shopping, reading labels and looking for foods that are lower in fats (especially saturated fat), salt and sugar New Zealand women get most of their saturated fats from butter, milk, baked products, cheese, hot chips and meat
• If using salt, choose iodised salt
• Take care when buying, preparing, cooking and storing food so that the food is as safe as possible to eat

Iodine
Iodine is important for growth and for the mental and
physical development of the baby Eat foods containing iodine regularly, such as reduced- or low-fat milk, wholegrain bread, eggs, fish and seafood Foods containing seaweed, such as sushi are good sources of iodine but make sure it is freshly prepared
Supplements containing seaweed, kelp and iodine are not recommended for breastfeeding women because the iodine content and quality of the supplements is variable

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for healthy, strong bones
Vitamin D is made in the body through the action of sunlight on the skin It is therefore important to spend some time in the sun each day
During daylight saving months (October to March), avoid being in the sun between 1100 am and 400 pm, when the sun is strong Stay in gentle, shaded sunlight for 5–20 minutes – and be ‘sunsmart’ Wear a sunhat, protective clothing, sunglasses and SPF 30+ sunscreen During non-daylight saving months (April to September), make sure you spend some time in the sun so that your body keeps making enough vitamin D
Vitamin D is found in foods such as fresh and canned oily fish (tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel, warehou, eel), eggs, fish oils and vitamin D-fortified margarine These foods should be eaten by women who do not make enough vitamin D from the sun This includes women who:
• have dark skin (their skin takes a longer time to make vitamin D in the sun)
• stay inside most of the time
• keep their skin covered for religious or cultural reasons
Supplements
Choosing a variety of foods from the four food groups will meet your requirements, and supplements should not be necessary
If you are taking any vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements, always make sure your LMC knows It is
best to only take supplements when recommended by your LMC or dietitian

Advice
Some women may need special advice from a dietitian about eating Ask your doctor or midwife to arrange for you to see a dietitian if you:
• find that certain foods you eat are affecting your baby
• have a medical condition affecting your eating, such as diabetes
• eat very little or have a history of eating problems
• are vegetarian or vegan
• are 18 years old or younger

For more dietary information, download a free copy of Eating Healthily for Breastfeeding Women from: wwwhealthedgovtnz

Have you got any tips for fast nutritious food for breastfeeding mums? Share them with us here

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