Breastfeeding & Milk Production

The number of calories a woman requires whilst breastfeeding depends upon her volume of body fat and how active she is. A breastfeeding mother may be advised to consume an extra 500 calories per day depending on their usual intake although studies have indicated that this may be too much or too little for some women.

Most women will be required to increase not only their calorie consumption but also the other nutrients that make up their diet. If they have a varied, balanced diet then a calorie increase will have an automatic increase in all the other nutrients.

Most women usually find that they have gained weight during their pregnancy. The additional weight will be utilised during the stages of breastfeeding so lacking in certain nutrients should not make a difference to their milk production.

Research has proved human milk production does not use a lot of energy yet the woman’s metabolism is more efficient with calories and minerals. Special foods are not required to produce or increase a woman’s milk supply. The quantity of milk depends upon the baby’s needs and her sucking. During lactation, the body uses a combination of the foods the mother eats along with the nutrients stored in her body to ensure there is an adequate supply of milk.

Milk production follows the same process and has a consistent composition even if the mother’s diet is not adequate as her body will make up for any shortfall of nutrients in her diet. This is proven when studying third world countries where there is malnutrition. The milk produced by the malnourished woman always satisfies the needs of her infant.

Although it is advisable to maintain a balanced, varied diet, there are no foods that should or shouldn’t be eaten to ensure an adequate supply of milk. Ideas of what to and what not to eat during lactation may vary between different countries, cultures and religions.

The baby’s taste preferences may develop through their mother’s breast milk. Although some of the ingredients found in human milk are present regardless of her diet, there may be other ingredients that vary according to what she eats. Even though the calorie content remains consistent, the type of fat consumed by the mother relates to the type of fat the mother produces in her milk.

A lactating woman does not need to drink milk to produce milk. Humans are the only animals that drink the milk of other animals. Some cultures refrain from drinking milk or eating milk products yet mothers are still able to produce milk for their infants.

Even if a lactating woman does not consume milk herself, she is still able to obtain enough calcium from the foods she eats to provide enough for her infant. However, calcium is an important part of a balanced diet and should be consumed to help maintain health.

During lactation, you should drink when thirsty, and you are drinking enough if your urine is light in colour. It is normal to feel thirst when you breastfeed, particularly when the baby is a newborn so it is advisable to have a drink of water or juice available whilst feeding. However drinking an excessive amount of fluids will not increase the milk supply.