Breastfeeding: Debunking Diet Myths, part 1

Myth #1: Breastfeeding mothers must follow a special diet

When it comes to diet, breastfeeding mothers are inundated with advice on both what they should and shouldn’t eat. Most of these warnings are old wives tales. A woman’s body will provide the perfect food for her baby despite her own imperfect diet. Very little of what we eat directly affects the composition of our breast milk. Of course the mother will feel better if she eats a healthy, well balanced diet, but she doesn’t have to in order to produce enough milk or good enough milk. Though breastfeeding mother’s are advised to consume 500 calories more than when they are not breastfeeding, researchers in developing countries found that it takes three weeks of near famine conditions until the quantity or quality of mother’s milk is compromised. Women with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia will need close monitoring. Otherwise, a woman should eat according to hunger.

Enjoy those forbidden foods

Despite the rumors, there is no list of forbidden foods. Eat what you like and avoid what you don’t, even if someone advised you to eat it. Too often a baby’s discomfort is blamed on what the mother has eaten and the real cause is ignored. Before a mother is advised to eliminate certain foods, a pediatrician and a lactation consultant should explore all other causes. If you do need to eliminate foods, this should also be done with a specialist and not by hear say. You may be surprised to find that what bothers your baby is different than what people have told you. Just as there are no set rules for eating, there are none for drinking either. It is important to drink when you are thirsty. A breastfeeding mother needs to drink to stay hydrated, like everyone else. Your milk supply is not dependent on how much you drink.

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