It is World Breastfeeding Week. This is a global movement to promote, protect and support breastfeeding by anyone, anywhere and at any time. Breastfeeding helps to satisfy a baby's needs, it is also a special moment in which mothers bond with their babies and create a long-lasting relationship.
From a nutritional point of view, breastfeeding is essential in giving your baby the healthiest start possible and it is beneficial for their overall physical health. Breast milk is recommended for about the first six months of your baby's life; it promotes healthy growth and development.
Accumulation evidence has established the protective effects of breastfeeding against infectious disease in babies such as gastrointestinal illness, respiratory tract infection and middle ear infections. A multicentre randomised control trial which included more than 17,000 mothers and baby pairs, demonstrated that exclusive breastfeeding in the first year of life lowered the risk of GI tract infections by 40%. Breastfeeding can also help reduce your baby's risk of diarrhoea, type two diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
Breastfeeding can also have a positive effect on maternal health, such as, contributing to increased weight loss and return to mothers' body weight pre-pregnancy; it may protect against type 2 diabetes and reduce risk of breast cancer by getting rid cells in breasts that may have DNA damage.
Breastfeeding and diet
When breastfeeding it is essential to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. You do not need to go on a special diet or do anything extra unless advised by your doctor or any healthcare professional. The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. Additionally, drinking plenty of fluid is key! - water, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk are good options.
Though, you don't need to do anything special when eating unless advised otherwise, you do need to be mindful of certain foods you consume. For instance, eating fish is good for you and your baby's health but while you are breastfeeding you should have no more than two portions of oily fish a week. Oily fish include fresh tuna, mackerel and sardine.
In addition, drinking caffeinated drinks should be restricted to less than 300mg a day. Caffeine is a stimulant that can make your baby restless. If you are a habitual tea or coffee drinker, then try to opt for decaffeinated tea and coffee, you can also opt for 100% fruit juice (less than 150ml a day) or water.
There are conflicts in findings from studies about eating nuts while breastfeeding that it may affect a baby's chance in developing a nut allergy. Though nuts are generally good for you and can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet, you should speak to your GP or midwife for any questions or concerns.
Also.....Don't forget your Vitamin D - Everyone in the UK, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, should consider taking a vitamin D supplement (10mcg) daily. As we are currently in "vitamin D making season" (late March/April to the end of September) the majority of the population will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight when they are outdoors but vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding is imperative.