It is going in and out of fashion, where there should be really no question about it: the best thing for your baby is breast milk.
Breastfeeding: Infants introduced early in life to cows’ milk have a higher risk of developing food allergies.
Breast Milk Perfect Food For Infants
None of the biggest science minds could create a more balanced, nutritious, perfect food for substitute. Human breast milk differs in composition and digestibility from cow’s milk greatly, and this explains why infants introduced to dairy early in life have a higher risk of developing food allergies, asthma and hay fever. Nature knows best. If you are able to breastfeed, do it.
Breastfeeding has Numerous Health Benefits
Breastfeeding offers numerous health benefits to both mother and infant. For infants, it provides appropriate composition and balance of nutrients, hormones that promote physiological development, improves cognitive development, protects against a variety of infections, protects against food allergies and may even protect against some chronic diseases, such as diabetes (type 1) and hypertension, later in life.
Benefits Mother As Well
For mothers, breastfeeding delays the return of regular ovulation, thus lengthening birth intervals, allowing the body to repair and re-charge (although not a dependable method of contraception!), conserves iron stores (by delaying ovulation and the return of menses), helps to get the uterus and the whole body get back into shape, and may even protect against breast and ovarian cancers.
During Lactation a mother needs an extra 330kcal of nutrient dense foods.
Mother Needs Extra Calories from Nutrient Dense Food
A nursing mother produces about 25 ounces of milk per day. To produce an adequate supply, a woman needs extra energy‐almost 500kcal a day above her regular need during the first 6 months of lactation. To meet this energy need, she can add extra 330kcal of food each day – and I’m talking about nutrient dense and not empty calories! – and let the fat reserved accumulated during pregnancy provide the rest.
Weight Loss Dieting May Reduce Quantity of Breast Milk
Severe energy restriction in the hope of losing weight faster may hinder milk production, nutritional inadequacies reduce the quantity not the quality of breast milk. So women can produce milk with adequate nutrient levels even if their own supplies are limited, however the milk quality is maintained at the expense of maternal stores: e.g. dietary calcium has no effect on breast milk Ca concentration ‐ maternal bones can lose some of its density during lactation.
Mother’s Nutrient Needs Acquired Primarily Through Balanced Diet
Breastfeeding has no negative long‐term effects on bones, bone density increases when lactation ends. Nutrients most likely to decline in response to prolonged inadequate intakes are: vitamin B6, B12, vitamin A and D. Most lactating women can obtain all the nutrients they need from a well balanced diet and sunbathing without taking vitamin‐mineral supplements. Some women however may need iron supplements; not to enhance iron in milk, but to enhance depleted stores, as pregnancy and blood loss during childbirth often diminish iron stores.
Drink Water to Avoid Dehydration
Despite misconceptions, a mother who drinks more fluid does not produce more breast milk, however, adequate water consumption is recommended in order to avoid dehydration.
Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilan.
Strong Tasting Foods May Affect Taste of Breast Milk
Foods with strong or spicy flavours (such as garlic) may alter the flavour of breast milk and a sudden change in the taste of milk may annoy some infants. Babies who develop symptoms of food allergy (colic, eczema, restlessness) may be more comfortable if the mother’s diet excludes the most common offenders: cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, etc.
Colic Relief Obtained Through Mother’s Diet
If the baby suffers with colic pain, the mother should take probiotic capsules, eat organic natural yoghurt and drink 3-4 cups fennel tea/ day. Avoidance of foods that can cause bloating is also important for these months, such as broccoli, cabbage and beans – however healthy they are. Softer fibered versions are usually well tolerated: try Kale, chard, peas and sweetcorn.
Alcohol Not Recommended
Alcohol consumption is not recommended during breastfeeding as it easily enters breast milk and significantly diminishes the amount consumed by the infant. It changes the taste of the breast milk and even low doses of alcohol are not metabolised efficiently by the infant which suppresses feeding and causes sleepiness. Alcohol interferes with lactation by inhibiting the hormone oxytocin, which is needed for milk flow.
Smoking Holds Numerous Health Risks for Mother and Baby
Smoking also reduces milk volume, so smokers may produce too little milk to meet their infant’s energy needs. Nicotine also alters the taste and smell of the breast milk, and infants fed by smoking mothers are at higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Caffeine Impairs Iron
Caffeine is another well known culprit; it enters breast milk and can make the infant irritable and wakeful. Large doses of caffeine may interfere with the bioavailability of iron from breast milk and impair the infant’s iron status. Coffee consumption should be limited to 1 cup of weak coffee a day.
Calm Environment Recommended
Stress also interferes with the lactation hormones Prolactin and Oxytocin, therefore plenty of rest, calm environment and plenty of support should be provided for the new mother.