Breastfeeding for the first time is often described as a strange but wonderful experience. Of course, it can take mums and bubs a little time to master the new activity, but what doesn't take long is the time it takes new mums to start to wonder about how their milk affects their little one.
Many pregnant women can't wait to say goodbye to the food restrictions they stuck to for nine months. And although we can now tuck into sushi, soft cheese and all the sashimi we desire, we can't throw our diet out the window altogether. When breastfeeding, eating a healthy diet full of fruit, veggies, protein, and whole grains is vital. Because what we eat passes through our breastmilk and becomes the building blocks for our little one's growth, development and future eating behaviours.
If new mums want to focus on one thing that will benefit themselves and their bub while breastfeeding: it's protein. Protein is responsible for helping to build your baby's bones and muscles. It supports healthy growth in infants and facilitates recovery in mothers. In addition, it's the best macronutrient for keeping postnatal women feeling full and satiated and will assist new mums in saying no to empty-calorie, high sugar foods.
How much protein do I need while breastfeeding?
Infants grow and develop rapidly for the first year of their life, and a new mum’s body goes through an intense stage of repair after childbirth. Protein is responsible for the growth and repair of all cells in the human body. So, it’s not surprising that around a quarter of a breastfeeding woman’s daily calories should come from protein.
The average protein requirement for a breastfeeding woman is around 1g per kg of body weight. So, for a women who weighs 70kg that’s the equivalent of a boiled egg, a tin of tuna, a serving of chicken breast and a handful of almonds.
Can I have too much protein while breastfeeding?
Just like with most foods, you can always overdo it. So instead of going crazy with a high protein diet, the best thing a new mum can do is eat a balanced diet full of a variety of wholesome, healthy foods. Ensuring each meal has a fat, carbohydrate and protein element is an easy rule of thumb to follow.
Try to stick to complex carbohydrates like sweet potato, banana, and dark rye bread, rather than simple carbohydrates like white bread and pastries. Likewise, a breastfeeding woman’s diet should be high in healthy fats, including avocado, nuts and oily fish, and low in saturated fat that you get with potato chips and fried food.
Foods rich in protein for breastfeeding mums
Breastfeeding women benefit from a diet that is rich in proteinfrom a wide range of foods. Some fantastic sources of protein include:
Every meal a breastfeeding woman eats should incorporate an element of protein. When we eat meals primarily made up of carbs, we often endup hungry again half an hour later. A diet that is super high in carbohydrates may be delicious, but it's not an efficient way to eat.
Out of all the macronutrients (protein, carbs & fats), ourbody breaks down carbohydrates the quickest and requires the least amount of energy to do so. This is why simple carbohydrates are often referred to as 'empty calories'. The fuel they provide runs out quickly, leaving us hungry andlooking for snacks.
How does protein help with postpartum weight loss?
Following a healthy diet and participating in daily exercise is the most effective way for post-partum women to lose weight. Healthcare professionals recommend waiting six weeks before returning to physical activity. However, research shows that partaking in daily gentle movement from the first few days has significant benefits for women’s mental as well as physical health. A walk around the block or some gentle yoga are two fantastic options.
In addition to daily exercise, incorporating protein into your diet is one of the most effective ways to stop new mums from overdosing on high-sugar, high-calorie foods and mindless snacking. Protein is the best macronutrient for making us feel full and satiated between meals. Plus, it helps to rebuild lean muscle.
Here’s an example of a day on a plate for a post-partum woman who is eating enough protein.
Dinner: Stir-fry with mixed vegetables and tofu or lean meat
How can vegetarian and vegan breastfeeding mums get enough protein?
Vegetarian and vegan diets are safe for breastfeeding women. However, women who don’t eat animal products still need to ensure they’re hitting their protein target through eating a wide variety of foods.
As mentioned above, tofu, tempeh and nuts are all fantastic protein sources for vegan and vegetarian women. However, as there are fewer high protein options for plant-based women, they may find it’s easier to hit their target through incorporating protein powder into their diet. In addition, choosing a breastfeeding specific protein powder, like In Shape Mummy is vital because the ingredients in the powder will pass through your breastmilk onto your little one.
Here's an example of a high protein breakfast smoothie for a vegetarian/vegan.
Not only do you need to choose a protein powder designed for breastfeeding women, but you also need to make sure it doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients that could potentially harm your baby. For example, many off-the-shelf protein powders are full of nasty additives and sugar. And, hidden sugar and harmful substances is the last thing post-partum women want, especially when making healthy choices.
Finding a formula designed to support breastfeeding women’s nutritional needs is the safest way to ensure your milk supply isn’t affected. The In Shape Mummy Health Shake for Breastfeeding Mums provides women with a good serving of protein. It alsos contain over 25 vitamins and minerals, probiotics for gut health, and galactagogues, which are herbs that have been used for centuries to support milk production. And the best thing is they don’t ontain any added sugar or artificial nasties.
How can the In Shape Mummy Health Shake help me hit my protein target?
Incorporating the In Shape Mummy Health Shake into your diet is a great way to up your daily protein intake. Each serving of shake contains around 12g of protein. We recommended having two shakes per day, so this will equal approximately total of 24g of protein.
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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