Food intolerance can significantly affect quality of life, yet many people don't connect their symptoms to the food they eat.
Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, sleep problems, rashes, stomach aches, diarrhoea, constipation, mouth ulcers and hyperactive behaviour in children are related to diet in many people.
Symptoms in babies can include
colic, gastro-oesophageal reflux and rashes.
Some sensitive babies who are breastfed can have problems as a result of what their mothers are eating. Click here to download Joy's article published in
Child magazines throughout Australia in June 2010. Another of Joy's articles on this subject can be found here.
Each mother/baby pair with food-related symptoms is different, so special diets excluding large numbers of foods are not the best that you can do for yourself and your baby. The aim is to find the least restricted diet. This way you can enjoy lots of normal foods and avoid only those that cause problems.
Mothers' nutrition is also important. Click here to see an article written by Joy on diet and weight loss while breastfeeding.
to eat and drink when breastfeeding
A 'perfect' diet
is not essential for
making good breastmilk,
but you will feel better and more able to cope with the
demands of caring for a baby if you eat well. See the Australian Dietary Guidelines at http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au
Some minerals, such as iron and calcium,
are important for you but your intake will not affect the levels in your milk.
In contrast, extra iodine is needed during both pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Health authorities in Australia advise all pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
take a supplement containing iodine, as it is very hard to get enough from diet
alone. For more information, click here to see Australian Government recommendations.
The levels of vitamins in your breastmilk
are affected by your diet, so it is a good idea to eat a good range of foods
from the major food groups: breads and cereals; fruits; vegetables; dairy
products; and meat and/or vegetarian alternatives. Vegan mothers will need to
eat foods fortified with vitamin B12 or take a supplement.
All breastmilk contains omega-3 fatty acids,
known to be important for brain development in babies, but you can boost the
levels in your milk by eating oily fish, such as salmon, 2-3 times per week.
There is no need to keep avoiding foods at
risk of containing Listeria, as you would have in pregnancy. Similarly, the
risk to the breastfeeding baby of contaminants in certain types of fish is much
less than during pregnancy.
Some babies seem to react to some foods in
mothers' diets, such as 'windy' foods (legumes, cabbage family vegetables,
onions, etc). Not all babies will have a problem with these. Similarly, some
babies become unsettled if the mother eats spicy food; however, if that is part
of your normal diet and you ate these foods during pregnancy, your baby may not
necessarily have a problem with them through your milk.
Water is the best drink, and breastfeeding
does make you thirsty due to the extra fluid needed to make milk. There is no
set amount of water you should drink each day, as it depends a lot on your
activity levels, the weather and what you eat. Don't ignore thirst, perhaps
carry a water bottle with you, so you can easily quench your thirst wherever
Caffeine can pass through the milk and make
a baby wakeful, but 2-3 cups of tea or coffee each day are not likely to be
enough to affect a baby. It might be best to avoid high-caffeine 'energy' drinks.
Health authorities recommend that pregnant
and breastfeeding mothers avoid drinking alcohol. However, the risk to the baby
is less during breastfeeding than before the birth, although it is still best
to avoid alcohol at least in the early weeks of your baby's life, until her
feeding pattern becomes more predictable.
One standard drink takes approximately 2
hours to clear from your body, so you could have a drink straight after a
breastfeed, if you know that your baby will not want to feed again for a couple
of hours. You can't get rid of alcohol from your breastmilk by expressing, as
at any one time, your milk alcohol level is about the same as your blood
alcohol level. Only time will reduce the level in your milk. If you plan to
have more than one or two drinks, you could express some milk beforehand to
feed to your baby while you wait for the alcohol to leave your system.