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When you’re a new mom, everybody and their cat will give you advice on the breastfeeding mom diet to follow, especially what Mama should or shouldn’t eat.
Here’s a small sample of the advice I received on the required breastfeeding mom diet, right after I had my baby –~ Don’t eat cauliflower.~ Don’t eat potatoes.~ Or tomatoes.~ Or beans.~ Or any of these 263 other fruits and vegetables, because ‘baby will get gassy’.~ Don’t eat garlic, because baby won’t like the taste of your milk. Oh but also, eat garlic, because it helps with milk production.
So many well-meaning and often conflicting pieces of breastfeeding mom diet advice! So many tortured new moms eating stuff they don’t like and refraining from good healthy food they actually like!
The first few weeks post-partum are dicey – Aside from the physical discomforts of labour/C-section that many moms experience, most moms are going through a complete life transformation. Baby comes first at all times, and their own lives, jobs, careers, hobbies, and interests, are put on the back burner. Add to that the lack of sleep and breastfeeding troubles, and suddenly being denied that one glass of chilled milk becomes the last straw.
But when in doubt, consult science. So I checked on all these and more myths with my Lactation Consultant, and here’s what I found –
“Don’t eat difficult-to-digest vegetables like cauliflower, peas, potatoes, aubergine, sprouts and pulses” – MYTH
Eat any and all the vegetables / pulses you like. Even if they cause indigestion in mummy, rest assured that they won’t create issues in baby’s tummy.
Gas is a by-product of digestion, so all babies (and humans!) produce gas. Since babies don’t get much exercise the gas is not released as easily and sometimes causes colicky babies.
The solution is to make sure to burp babies after every feed, and give them some tummy-time to help release the gas!
“No spices and chili!” – Part MYTH
The one reason new mums are asked to abstain from spicy food is because many experience constipation during early post-partum days. However once your tummy is back to normal there is no harm in having moderately spicy food.
“If you don’t eat Dink and Methi Ladoos, and ghee-laden Sheera, you will not produce much milk” – MYTH
I love Dink ladoos and I used motherhood as an excuse to gorge on them, but not everybody likes these sweets.
While these traditional recipes are nutrient-rich, healthy, and are recommended, if they are not your cup of tea, feel free to drop them. You will still produce sufficient milk.
“Drink a liter of milk everyday!” – MYTH
This is the funniest myth about the breastfeeding mom diet that I’ve come across! Some people apparently think that when mama drinks milk it bypasses her digestive system and comes out of the boobs! Nope!
Drink milk if you like it, but it is in no way necessary for lactation. Cows don’t have to drink milk to produce milk. Lactation is a demand-supply phenomenon and the more the baby feeds, the more the body is signalled to produce milk. Also, a whole litre of milk can’t be healthy for anybody!
“Don’t eat curds, icecream, or other cold foods because baby will get a cold” – MYTH
Cold is caused by a family of viruses or in some cases due to allergies, and has nothing to do with chilled foods. It won’t cause baby to have a cold unless Mama has an infection related cold and passes it on! However if a mother has a known tendency to catch a cold after eating chilled food, she may avoid the same.
Also it is very much recommended to continue breastfeeding even when Mama has a cold, although she can use a mask and wash hands often to avoid passing it on to the baby.
“Don’t eat sour fruits like orange, sweet-lime, strawberries because they cause your milk to go sour” – MYTH
Really now, we don’t even need a doctor to tell us that this is a terribly silly idea.
“Chinese Food is the devil!” – MYTH
The jury is still out on monosodium glutamate (Ajinomoto), which is often used to make Chinese food tastier. While some doctors say it is safe, others say we don’t know enough to say for sure whether it causes any harm.
If you do crave Chinese though, you can dine at a good restaurant and ask them to cook sans the Ajinomoto.
“Abstain from meat and fish” – Part fact
While fish are nutrient-rich, some fish pose a risk because of their high mercury content. These are typically predatory fish such as shark and mackerel and are best avoided. However most other fish, meat and chicken are okay to have in moderate amounts.
So while there is no need to forego all the joys of eating just because baby’s here, we do need to make sure that we are eating a healthy, varied and nutritious diet.
Dr Mugdha Joshi, an IBCLC- certified Lactation Consultant and Pediatric Nutritionist from Mumbai says she does not believe in any restrictions for a balanced breastfeeding mom diet – “The new mother should eat lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as green leafy vegetables, and millets like nachni, jowar and bajra. She could also keep a box of mixed dry fruits next to her feeding spot to munch on while feeding. She can even have some fun foods, like pizza, or cake, albeit in moderation.”
Dr Mugdha also cautions that not all babies are born alike. If a mother notices that her baby is particularly colicky after having eaten specific food, she can decide for herself and avoid those items for a while. In some cases, babies may be sensitive to cow milk proteins, in which case mothers are asked to avoid dairy.
If still in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask your paediatrician about the breastfeeding mom diet you’re eating. Most importantly though, make sure that your food is making you happy. Make sure that dietary restrictions are not causing you undue stress as it happened in the case of my friend who terms herself a selective vegetarian. She was asked by her family to avoid so many staple vegetables and fruits that she was left with nearly nothing to eat!
Remember that the number one inhibitor to lactation is stress, so eat, drink and make milk – uh – merry!
Image source: shutterstock
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Yashodhara is a brand-new mommy, IT professional and cat lover who lives in Mumbai.
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