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Worried About Low Milk Supply? These Moms Share What Breastfeeding Diet Worked For Them
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  • Many pregnant women set their minds to breastfeeding their babies (read here about its benefits), so they ask for advice even before they give birth. One of the things they want to know is the types of food that will help increase milk supply, or if there's a breastfeeding mom diet.

    Breastfeeding and nutrition

    "Diet for lactating women is designed to meet increased nutrient needs during breastfeeding due to various physiologic changes," says Renezzi Libay, a registered nutritionist-dietitian.

    Libay explains to Smart Parenting in an email interview that there is an additional requirement of 500 calories in the diet of lactating moms. This is higher than what is required for pregnant women by 300 kcal. The reason: to provide adequate milk production.

    Here are the general dietary recommendations when breastfeeding:

    1. Increase protein intake by 27g/day during the first 6 months and 18g/day in the second six months.

    2. Make an additional intake of 750 to 1000 ml/day of fluids to avoid dehydration.

    Mothers who consume caffeine-rich drinks (coffee, tea, energy drinks, soda) may pass small amounts of caffeine through breast milk, but it does not cause harmful effects on the baby when consumed in low to moderate amounts. This is about 300 mg per day or an equivalent of 2 to 3 cups of coffee.

    3. Eat more green leafy vegetables.

    These type of food contains high iron and folate, which are considered as critical nutrients in nursing moms.

    4. Opt for a healthy diet.

    Generally, there is no restriction in food items for lactating women. But go for a diet that adheres to Moderation, Balance, Variety (MOBAVA).

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    5. Mind the micronutrients.

    Lactating mothers have an additional need for:

    • Vitamin A (+400 μg RE)
    • Vitamin E (+4 mg)
    • Folate (+150 μg DFE)
    • Vitamin C (+35 mg)
    • Zinc (+2 mg)
    • Selenium (+9 μg )
    • Iodine (+100 μg)
    • Magnesium (+50 mg)
    • Thiamin (+.2 mg)
    • Riboflavin (+.6 mg)
    • Niacin (+3 mg)
    • Vitamin B12 (+.5 μg)

    These micronutrients are usually obtained from additional foods. However, there is also a possibility that increased needs of micronutrients may not be sufficient in the diet alone, especially for people who have a vegan or vegetarian diet.

    That's why multivitamin supplements may be likewise indicated, as long as you consult your doctor. It is best to consult a physician for this matter.

    Breastfeeding mom diet

    For healthy lactating mothers who do not have health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, Libay says they may follow Pinggang Pinoy guide for a sample of diet plan and menu. Otherwise, consult your doctor or registered nutritionist-dietitian for your nutrient needs.

    Moms on Smart Parenting Village, the online community of Smart Parenting, share the food items, beverages, and supplements that they've tried and tested to be helpful in their breastfeeding journey.

    Here are their recommendations:

    Broth

    One mom says any broth, or sabaw, made from meat (chicken thigh, fish, bony parts of pork) will do. Just add malunggay leaves. She recalled having an abundant supply of breast milk when she had her first child that she was also feeding another baby whose mom couldn't nurse.

    Malunggay

    Many moms swear by malunggay, which they add when making broth or any soupy dish (tinola, tahong). One of them suggested "iba't-ibang luto with malunggay" and another recommended boiling its leaves (or stalks of tanglad/lemongrass) to make tea or juice.

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    Some said they took malunggay capsules on their first month after childbirth, while others went on for longer duration. One mom remembered taking one capsule three times a day. But cut down to just once "within two days" postpartum because she was making so much milk that she ended up breastfeeding for three years. 

    Water, water, water

    One mom confessed to not conforming to the recommended 8 glasses of water intake daily before she got pregnant. Her habits changed when she and her husband had their first baby and they decided to go for breastfeeding. She began to drink more water and eat "masabaw na ulam," resulting to breastfeeding their child, who's now 3 years old.

    Oats

    One mom said she always had oatmeal for breakfast, while some snacked on oatmeal cookies. Oats are rich in fibers, vitamins, and minerals.

    Lactation cookies or brownies

    Lactation goodies or pastries contain galactagogues or ingredients that are believed to promote milk production, such as oatmeal, flaxseed, fenugreek, and Brewer's yeast. A lactation consultant pointed out, though, that new moms should not rely solely on lactation goodies.

    Fenugreek

    This clover-like herb, which belongs to the pea family, is also used as an ingredient in making lactation goodies. It can also be taken as a nutritional supplement in capsule form.

    Fenugreek is traditionally used for diabetes and increasing milk supply in countries in North Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. But there are only limited studies to confirm such health benefits of fenugreek, according to the United States National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

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    More than having the recommended breastfeeding mom diet, the Smart Parenting Village respondents said constant, consistent, or what they call "unli latch" comes first. Avoiding stress and getting enough sleep also help in lactation.

    Read also: Breastfeeding Problems Like Pain, Mastitis, and Low Milk Supply

    --

    References:

    Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Maternal Diet. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html

    DOST-FNRI (2015). Philippine Dietary Reference Intakes. Retrieved from https://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph/images/images/news/PDRI-2018.pdf

    The Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines (2010). Diet Manual, 5th Edition. TYC Printing, Tandang Sora Quezon City

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