We’ve teamed up with Nutritional Therapist, Charlotte Watts, to make it easy for new parents and parents-to-be to shop for nutritious food and drink.
As well as helping us with special aisles full of tips and healthy produce, she’s writing a series of blogs full of advice on what to eat at each stage.
Eating nutritious food is essential for all new mums. If you’re breastfeeding it becomes of doubly important, as providing your baby with the nutrients it needs to thrive and grow can sometimes slow your recovery. Plus, when it comes to energy, producing milk can require as many as 500 extra calories a day. It’s important to get those calories from nutrient-dense food rather than quick-fix convenience foods.
Plough in the green leafy veg
People who eat fewer than three vegetables a day – especially green leaves that can be eaten raw like wild rocket and watercress – usually have lower levels of folate. Folate, also known as folic acid, supports the growth of new tissues for mum and if you’re breastfeeding, baby too.
Green leaves also contain carotenoids. These are deep yellow, red and orange pigments that protect fatty body areas like your baby’s growing eyes, liver, brain and heart. Green leafy veg also provide vitamin K, which supports bone growth and as your baby cannot make this on their own just yet, your milk is the best supply.
Prioritise omega 3 oils
Studies suggest that the levels of omega 3 oils in your diet directly affect those in your breast milk. Good levels in a mother’s diet have been shown to lower the risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), poor sleep patterns, asthma, eczema and learning difficulties in babies. Here are a few ways to get the right oils in your diet:
- It’s good to eat smaller oily fish 2-3 times a week when you’re breastfeeding. Try smoked mackerel, Ocado Poached Scottish Salmon Flakes or for an easy meal, Ocado’s ready-to-cook Cornish Sardines with Green Chilli Garlic & Lemon.
- If you’re vegetarian, walnuts, pumpkin seeds or Linwoods’ pouch of Milled Flaxseed, Almonds, Brazil and co-enzyme Q10 provide omega 3 oils. However, they need to be converted into DHA, which is not a particularly efficient process. You can also consider an omega 3 oil
Quick and nutritious meal ideas
- Baked sweet potato with feta and organic watercress. Sweet potatoes contain more nutrients and have a better calcium to magnesium balance than normal white potatoes. Feta and watercress add more calcium and the watercress also provides sulphur to help grow your baby’s bones.
- Soups like Biona Organic Hearty Lentil Soup or New Covent Garden Lentil & Bacon Soup are easy and nutritious. The pulses, beans and meat in soups like these give you the B vitamins that help you to produce lactation hormones as well as helping to develop your baby’s nervous system.
- Try Gail’s Bakery American Pumpernickel Bread with smoked salmon and avocado. This combo gives you protein, calcium, B vitamins, zinc, omega oils and protective monounsaturated fats. Rye bread also contains less gluten than wheat, which will be easier for your stomach to tolerate if the regularity of your bowel movements need a little help.
- For a vegetarian option, put together Merchant Gourmet Beluga Lentils (ready-to-eat), Ocado’s Mozzarella with Marinated Semi-Dried Tomatoes and a mixed salad of watercress, rocket and spinach. It’s an all-round nutritious package and you can add a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds for extra zinc.
Handy foods to snack on
When you breastfeed for long periods, you’re usually stuck in one place. That means you don’t have easy access to the food you need to keep blood sugar levels and energy up while you produce milk for your little one. Plan ahead and keep a range of snacks in a bag (if you’re out and about) or a drawer close to where you usually sit to feed your baby. Here are some tips on what to include:
- Nuts help your zinc levels, shown to be low in nursing women. This mineral is vital for your healing post-birth, but your body will send most of it to your breast milk to help with your baby’s growth. Adding extra zinc to your diet will stop your health and immunity suffering as a result.
- Nuts also provide a combination of carbohydrates for energy as well as protein and fats needed for breast milk. Organic almonds can satisfy sweet cravings particularly well and help you avoid non-nutritious sugary snacks.
- Fairtrade bananas are great as an energy-boosting sweet snack and they’re often used by athletes to maintain energy levels. They provide potassium for you and your baby’s brain and muscle function and the amino acid tryptophan that helps produce serotonin for good mood and sleep. The fibre they contain, called inulin, promotes healthy gut bacteria that helps your immune health and also passes on to your baby through your milk.
- Have fruit rather than biscuits or chocolate. Dried mango, organic apples, clementines or Ocado berries are good choices, as they provide soluble fibre to keep digestion regular and balance female hormones. Fruit also provides vitamin C to support
Specific tips for breastfeeding
Finally, make sure you go outside every day. Vitamin D from sunlight will enhance your mood and help your body to absorb calcium.