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What to feed your breastfeeding friend

16 May, 2017

What to feed your breastfeeding friend

Following on from our blog last week, where we talked about what to offer your pregnant friends to eata few people asked me if the same rules apply to breastfeeding too.

Luckily, the rules around what you can and can't eat when you are breastfeeding are a bit more relaxed than in pregnancy.  But there are still a couple of do's and don'ts that I'll list below.  I've also gathered some great tips and ideas from mummy friends about what worked for them when they were breastfeeding themselves.

How much more food and drink do you need when you are breastfeeding?

what to feed your breastfeeding friends

First, some good news.  If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you need to consume about 300 - 500 calories per day more than usual.  Unfortunately, the same does not apply to us 'friends of breastfeeders'.

what to feed your breastfeeding friends

Most people believe that you need to drink much more to stay hydrated and produce milk when breastfeeding too.  Anecdotally, friends tell me they were always extremely thirsty, particularly during feeds.  However, a little research into the Association of Breastfeeding Mums tells me this is not actually true.

“It's a myth that you need to drink more fluid when you are breastfeeding... In fact, studies suggest that drinking purposefully beyond your basic needs could even slightly reduce the quality of your milk.”

It's likely that new mums might forget to drink enough fluids throughout the day, though, and only notice their thirst when they sit and feed their baby.  

Tip: Offering a cup of tea or glass of water or juice when you visit might be a helpful prompt for new mums 

What are the best foods to eat when you are breastfeeding?

A normal varied diet is perfectly sensible for most breastfeeding mums.  While certain foods can change the taste of the milk, if a mum has eaten those foods during pregnancy it should be fine to keep eating them when breastfeeding.

Anecdotally, my friends had some tips for the best foods that worked for them when breastfeeding especially to help boost milk production:

what to feed your breastfeeding friends

Oats and blueberries are best for breakfast:

"Porridge for breakfast was my saviour.  I was told it would help with milk production, and apart from that it gave me energy to face the day!"

what to feed your breastfeeding friends

Brightly coloured vegetables are a great source of vitamins: 

"Eating lots of colourful vegetables just ensures that you are giving baby all the vitamins he/she needs"
what to feed your breastfeeding friends

Some new mums swear that spices such as fenugreek, cumin, black sesame and fennel seeds help with milk production:

"My mum told me to eat these spices as they help to calm the baby and are good for milk production"

Tip:  offer your friend some fennel or fenugreek tea - hydration and milk production rolled into one!

What foods do you need to avoid when you are breastfeeding?

what to feed your breastfeeding friends

The only foods it is really recommended breastfeeding mums limit are:

  • caffeine - this can pass into breastmilk, and if nothing else can cause baby to be grumpy and unable to sleep (no fun for anyone!)
  • alcohol - excessive alcohol can pass into breastmilk, most new mums tend to avoid alcohol when they are feeding, or strategically pump
  • high mercury fish - fish is really healthy, particularly oily fish, but it is recommended that you don't eat more than a few portions per week

So the list of don'ts seems pretty simple, right?

Having said that, there are times when babies will just not react well when their mums eat certain foods.  

The most common foods that babies object to in breastmilk are:

what to feed your breastfeeding friends

Caffeine and alcohol

    "Even a sip of wine hours before a feed and my baby let me know she wasn't happy!"

    Spices (cinnamon, garlic, curry, chilli pepper)

    "My friends told me they struggled with this... Luckily I ate spices all the way through pregnancy so I think he [my baby] was used to it already"
    what to feed your breastfeeding friends

    Certain fruits (citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple)

    "Acidic fruits made my baby very gassy, while my Filipino friend told me pineapple was too prickly for him!!"

      what to feed your breastfeeding friends

      "Gassy" veggies (onion, cabbage, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, and peppers)

        "Gassy foods, gassy baby"

        what to feed your breastfeeding friends

        Strongly flavoured herbs (peppermint, parsley, sage)

        Tip: If in doubt, steer clear of making anything too strongly flavoured for your breastfeeding friend!

          What if my friend's baby has an allergy?

          what to feed your breastfeeding friends

          If it is identified that a baby is allergic to a certain food group, then the mother usually has to avoid that food themselves while they are breastfeeding.

          The most common food allergies include, dairy, egg, wheat or peanut.  Luckily, there are lots of alternatives to choose from.

          What else should I know about breastfeeding?

          That's basically it! If you want to support your breastfeeding friend, an extra slice of cake, regular cups of (caffeine-free) tea and offering to hold / burp / change the baby will always go down well.

          If you have a friend who is pregnant or just had a baby, take a look at our baby boxes here (there's also a great gift to help older siblings feel included too!).

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