Breastfeeding, diet and your child's future
Personally, I found breastfeeding very hard, with many moments where I wanted to give up. Our little one suffered from colic and severe reflux, and despite all the benefits associated with breastfeeding, I felt that this may be the cause of all these symptoms. Of course, it was not, and breastfeeding was still the best possible option, I just needed to remind myself of that on a regular basis.
Breastfeeding provides protection against respiratory and gastrointestinal infections and is associated with a reduced risk of inflammatory diseases such as asthma, atopy, diabetes, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease . Prolonged and exclusively breastfed infants have improved cognitive development . A mother’s breastmilk also provides immunity to her infant and develops the infant's intestinal mucosa, microbiota, and their own immunologic defenses . Breastfeeding provides so many benefits, and when possible, it is important to try and breastfeed for as long as possible.
A mother’s diet and lactation
Can a mother’s nutritional status and or diet, affect the quality of her breastmilk? Unfortunately, the nutritional stores of a lactating woman may be more or less depleted as a result of the pregnancy and the loss of blood during childbirth . The nutrients present in breastmilk comes from the mother’s diet or her nutrient reserves . The alteration of nutrients in food to nutrients in breastmilk is not complete . Thus for a breastfeeding mother to have a good nutritional status she has to increase her nutrient intake . Luckily, the nutritional content of breastmilk remains quite similar, there are only a few nutrients that become deficient in breastmilk if it is deficient in a mother’s diet. A mother whose diet is deficient in thiamine and vitamins A and D will also produce breastmilk deficient in these nutrients . Studies have also shown that the levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids especially Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a mother’s diet influences the levels in her breastmilk . Keep in mind that this fatty acid is essential for neurological development, and if not consumed within the diet, supplementation is recommended.
In conclusion, we are all aware that breastfeeding is the gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition. However, we as mothers can get very concerned about our own diets and how it will affect the breastmilk provided to our infants. It is always best to speak to your medical professional but to maintain and sustain a well-balanced and nutrient-dense diet can provide benefits to the mother as well as her baby. Don't give up mommies at the end it is really worth it!
- Le Doare K, Holder B, Bassett A, Pannaraj PS. Mother’s Milk: A Purposeful Contribution to the Development of the Infant Microbiota and Immunity. Frontiers in Immunology. 2018: 8; 361.
- Segura SA, Ansótegui JA, Díaz-Gómez NM. The importance of maternal nutrition during breastfeeding: Do breastfeeding mothers need nutritional supplements? Anales de Pediatría (English Edition). 2016: 84 (6); 347.
- Bzikowska A, Czerwonogrodzka-Senczyna A, Wesołowska A, Weker H. Nutrition during breastfeeding - impact on human milk composition. Europe PMC. 2017. 43(258):276-280.