As a mother who spent 16 months breastfeeding I experienced first hand the physiological effects nursing has on a woman’s body. Increased thirst and devastating hunger being two I remember most clearly.

On top of my time-served experienced as a breastfeeding mother I’ve studied fitness instructing and nutrition for a personal training plan, adapting exercise for antenatal/postnatal clients along with sports nutrition in detail. All of these areas with certification achieved n the last 5 years.

Incidentally, the antenatal/postnatal exercise is a Level 3 qualification I studied for whilst my son was just 5-8 months old. I would sit in a rocking chair, nursing him whilst swotting up on my coursework and submitting my tests online during the moments I felt my foggy, sleep deprived baby brain was least affected!

I believe my background perfectly positions me to offer my guidelines for what I believe is the optimal breastfeeding diet, this being, a daily diet that promotes good health for both mother and infant.

Before I share my recommendations, here a couple of facts explained about breastfeeding.

Did you know?… Breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories per day, which can be advantageous to fat loss. This boost in metabolic function can be beneficial to baby-weight loss providing a careful balanced diet is adopted and calorie intake is monitored. But we must be careful: breastfeeding does tend to make the appetite soar! Sensible, disciplined food choices are key here, combined with daily physical activity such as brisk walking with the buggy. Drinking lots of extra fluid can help curb the appetite somewhat, as sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger.

Did you know?… A baby’s nutritional needs depend entirely on what their mother consumes and their needs will always take priority. Any shortfall in the required essential nutrients consumed by the mother will be detrimental to her, long before they affect have any negative affects on the baby. Clever mother nature always ensures these nutrients are passed into the breast milk for baby first and foremost. It is therefore very important for certain food groups rich in specific nutrients to be consumed in greater than normal amounts, on a daily basis, in order for the mother to benefit from their health-giving properties also.

Here are my guidelines to which food groups and how much of each should be consumed daily during the nursing period...

FIVE servings of CALCIUM rich food including milk, cheese, yoghurt, bananas and broccoli. FIVE servings of MULTI VITAMIN and MINERAL rich colourful fruits and vegetables such as cauliflower, spinach, carrots, cabbage, blueberries and pineapple. THREE portions of PROTEIN such as fish, chicken, tofu, lean meat and beans.

THREE servings of COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATE foods such as wholegrain bread, wholewheat breakfast cereal and wholewheat pasta.

TWO servings of VITAMIN C rich food such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, green and red peppers and strawberries.

TWO portions of ESSENTIAL FAT rich foods including avocado, nuts, oily fish and olive oil.

ONE portion of IRON rich food such as red meat, green leafy vegetables, lentils, nuts and soya beans.

and... THREE litres of non alcoholic, non caffeinated FLUIDS including still and sparkling water, fresh fruit juices and fruit squash.

Last of all… Nobody said we have to ban caffeine entirely during breastfeeding, it’s just sensible to keep consumption to a minimum owing to its diuretic effects on the body and the risk it may make baby a little more alert than is desired at certain times of the day.

A daily cup of coffee before midday or a couple of cups of tea over the course of the day is a sensible guideline to stick to. Another suggestion is to switch to decaffeinated versions for a while.

The same rule applies for alcohol. The odd one won't hurt but more than a couple is not recommended by doctors as its effects on the baby can be an unknown entity.

For any nursing mothers out there reading this, I hope you find these guidelines useful. I understand how breastfeeding can feel like a lengthy old slog, it's a day and night commitment which can be draining and at times, excruciating.

Love it or hate it, breastfeeding really is the best thing for baby and I totally admire women who stick it out for 6, 12, 18 months or even longer.

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