It is often said that you are what you eat. If this is true for you, then it is also true for the child that is being nursed. A young child’s main source of food is the breast milk for the majority of their infanthood and the child will be drinking the nutrients that the mother ingests. It is therefore very important to take care of what a mother eats and drinks, because these nutrients are what can eventually be passed into the breast milk.
The most important advice one should follow when breastfeeding is:
1 . A Healthy, balanced diet!
WHO Africa, the World Health Organisation, recommends above all that a mother should maintain a healthy and balanced diet. This means that one should be eating from a vast array of food groups in equal, proportionate amounts. Fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates, fibres, and of course plenty of fluids – water and milk are always good options.
Although there aren’t really any foods that you should avoid, it is advisable to avoid eating more than 240g of oily fish a week (e.g. mackerel, sardine, tuna). The biggest problem in many countries in Africa is the high intake of salt. Please try your best to avoid high-sodium foods or food with added salt. To do this, try to eat as natural as possible!
2 . Avoid Alcohol
Consumption of alcohol may affect your baby’s development. It is strongly advised to avoid alcohol during pregnancy – there are no health benefits to drinking alcohol and the same applies to your baby.
3 . Vitamins are important, but there is not necessarily the need to take supplements
You do not have to take vitamin supplements. Your body is very capable when it comes to nourishment during breastfeeding. Breast milk has natural nutrients and does not require the mother to supplement it by taking vitamins. Yet, it is important for a baby to have a strong source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D can be gained by being in the sunlight for an hour every day. (Please remember to protect your skin with sunscreen if needed!)
4 . Avoid Caffeine if possible
Caffeine is a stimulant that can be found naturally in coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks and some fizzy drinks. This stimulant may lead to keeping your child awake if ingested through breast milk. It is advisable for mothers to avoid caffeine wherever possible. Water, 100% natural soft drinks, fruit juices and decaffeinated coffee and tea are good alternatives.
5 . Avoid Foods that you do not trust!
Some breastfeeding mothers may have expressed a slight distrust and concern towards imported, foreign foods. A solution to this may be to avoid what you do not trust. Although it is unlikely that imported foods will be detrimental to the quality of your breast milk, if you feel uneasy about consuming a product simply avoid it.
A much healthier and stress-free solution to consuming foreign, imported foods is to eat 100% natural foods. Grains, rice, vegetables and fruits are the best that a mother can eat.
Please read the labels of any packaged products. Numbers that have an ‘E’ in front of them, trans-fats, saturated fats and sodium should be avoided where possible.
Above all else, mothers, please stay, eat and live healthy!