Essential Nutrients for Breastfeeding Mothers

Breast milk is what we call a complete nutrition source. Meaning, babies can solely survive and thrive off the milk produced by a breastfeeding mother. Isn’t that amazing?

 

Grasping the fact that your little one is relying on you for all their nutritional needs can be a little daunting. And many mothers experience a high level of stress and anxiety, as they worry their milk isn’t adequate.

 

But luckily, our bodies are efficient in ensuring our little ones are getting all they need, even if it means we momentarily miss out. That’s right, our bodies make sure our bubs get first dibs on the good stuff. So, although we can rest easy knowing our babies are likely getting the nutrients they need, we still need to ensure our diet supports our needs. If a breastfeeding mother isn’t eating enough nutrients, it’s highly likely a deficiency will arise.

 

What should I eat as a breastfeeding mother?

Breastfeeding mothers should follow a diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and dairy products or dairy alternatives. No major food groups should be avoided. Your little ones are exposed to all the flavours you're eating right from the beginning. So, the more variety, the better.

 

Generally, breastfeeding mothers require an additional 300-500 hundred calories per day to support the energy required to produce milk. Therefore, eating regularly is essential, which means you should be having three meals a day plus snacks when you need them. 

 

Essential nutrients for breastfeeding mothers

Getting enough of the following nutrients will help guarantee you have enough energy to support yourself and nourish your little one. It will also ensure your milk supply is not affected and, if eaten in the right quantities, will allow you to lose weight safely while breastfeeding.

 

Protein

Protein is super important for lactating women. The recommended daily intake for protein is around 25 grams more for nursing women than non-nursing women. This is because your body requires additional protein to heal after birth, but it is also necessary for your little one’s growth and development. Many health professionals believe that protein is the most crucial nutrient post-birth and that's why we recommend incorporating protein into every meal. Nuts, legumes, eggs, fish, lean red meat, poultry and tofu are all excellent protein sources.

 

Calcium

Lactating women need approximately 1000mg of calcium per day. Our baby's needs for calcium a super high in the first few months of their lives and our bodies are aware of this. This is why our bodies are capable of pulling calcium from our bones to supply to our little ones. But don't stress, our calcium stores are replenished when it comes time to wean. If you are deficient in calcium there’s a chance that your baby might not get the amount they require. In these instances, a supplement will be necessary. Some of the best sources of calcium include dairy products like milk, yoghurt, and cheese. Mothers who follow a vegan diet should include as many dark leafy greens, beans, and fortified cereal into their diet as they can.

 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-three fatty acids are also known as the 'good' type of fat. Our babies need healthy fats to grow and develop, and this particular type of fat helps our babies’ brains and eyes develop. The easiest way to meet your omega-three fatty acid target of 200 - 300mg a day is by eating oily fish like salmon or ocean trout a couple of times a week. For those who don't like fish or are vegetarian or vegan, your best bet is to consume oily seeds and nuts like flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. 

 

Do I need to supplement while breastfeeding?

Most breastfeeding women who eat a diet abundant in fresh produce don’t need to supplement. However, women with imperfect diets can become deficient in specific nutrients during pregnancy, and it can be hard to build the stores back up while breastfeeding. Time restraints with the busyness of motherhood can make it hard for mothers to stay on top of their health. 

 

In these cases, supplements can be very beneficial and help ensure the maternal stores of nutrients don't become further depleted. A general blood test will determine whether you need to supplement, and your GP or naturopath can arrange this.

 

Below are some of the most common supplements taken by pregnant and breastfeeding women.

 

Multivitamin

A prenatal vitamin is comprised of essential vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, which is particularly important during pregnancy. However, many women don't realise that it's also beneficial while breastfeeding. Folic acid passes through breastmilk and aids growth and development. Many health care professionals will recommend women continue taking their prenatal vitamins for the first few months of breastfeeding.

 

Vitamin D

It's common for women to become deficient in Vitamin D while pregnant, and routine blood tests can bring a deficiency to light. If you are Vitamin D deficient, your healthcare professional will prescribe a vitamin D supplement, and you'll likely be advised to continue the supplementation well into your breastfeeding journey. This will ensure your maternal stores aren't further affected. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium, so it's a crucial vitamin for breastfeeding women.

 

Vitamin B12

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, chances are you are on a vitamin B12 supplement because you can only obtain this vitamin through consuming animal products. Vitamin B12  is essential while breastfeeding because infants who don't get enough vitamin B12 can experience developmental delays.

 

How can I get enough nutrients without supplementing while breastfeeding?

Including a breastfeeding-specific health shake into your diet while breastfeeding is an excellent way to increase your intake of essential vitamins and minerals. Each serving of the In Shape Mummy Health Shake contains 25 essential vitamins and minerals and the other vital nutrients listed in this article like protein.

 

One serve of In Shape Mummy provides 25% of your daily essential vitamin and mineral requirements. Most mums like to have two shakes per day, which is equal to 50% of your requirements.


If you’re having a shake as a meal replacement, bulking it up with nutritious foods like oats, bananas, yoghurt, nuts, and seeds will ensure you’re still getting enough calories to support your energy needs. When having a shake as a snack, simply mix it with your favourite dairy free milk or milk.

 

 

Can I swap my multivitamin for the In Shape Mummy Health Shake?

Many In Shape Mummy customers find they can stop their multivitamins when they start the shakes. However, women who have a diagnosed deficiency will still need supplementation. If you are concerned you have a deficiency it’s best to speak to your healthcare professional like a doctor.

 

 

Extra Support

For extra support, the In Shape Mummy Breastfeeding Support Group on Facebook.

Shevi is a qualified nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food sciences. As a new mum herself, she is passionate about postnatal-related nutrition. Shevi has worked alongside some of the most famous leaders and celebrities in the fitness industry throughout Australia and the UK.

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