As the world marks World Breastfeeding Week (1 – 7 August), there is no denying that breast milk is incredible. Breast milk is truly magical from the way it adapts to feed different infants at different stages of growth, to its immune boosting properties. It may very well be the most powerful super food there is.
Ziyanda Magida (23) from the KwaDyuku township of Cofimvaba, in the Eastern Cape, was only a teen when she got pregnant. Unable to afford formula, she tells Health For Mzansi that she had no choice but to breastfeed her son.
Though her financial struggles led her to breastfeed, she wouldn’t have it any other way and says she enjoyed the experience.
Health is wealth for mom and baby
Magida adds that she would become concerned whenever she experienced challenges in her milk supply. “Because I am a coffee drinker, my mother would instantly stop me, suggesting that coffee burns milk. I’ve also seen that when I am insincere and sneak in a mug, I produce less than usual,” she says.
“I was also informed that rooibos tea is the finest and that I should mostly consume liquid meals and Stoney drinks to promote more milk, and I have seen that it works.”
All moms need to do, is follow a healthy lifestyle to produce a healthy supply of this magic nectar, says registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association of Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), Lerato Radebe.
Magida says that she does try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and always eats cereals [oats or Morvite] in the morning, maize meal porridge, or a glass filled with a green vegetable smoothie and ginger tea an hour later.
Moms share nutrition advice
As a mother who adores breastfeeding, Zintle Khobeni (30), from Edgemead, Cape Town, constantly consumes foods that would improve her milk supply for her baby girl.
“Winter makes it difficult to eat cold meals in the morning, so I decided to opt for puree soups, such as butternut soup, chicken and noodle soup, or mixed vegetable soup, which I believe assist in milk production. I also eat maize meal porridge, with honey or butter and cream or peanut butter, because these are liquid foods that are likely to be healthy.”
According to Khobeni, nutrient-dense foods provide her with more energy and are extremely healthy for her daughter.
“I am not a veggie fan but being a mother has taught me to always incorporate colours in my meals, [green, red, and orange list vegetables, and fruits]. According to my doctor, the healthier the food that I consume, the better the milk will be.”
Phindiswa Kula-Tapuko, (45), from Loid township in Cape Town, says she has learned how to produce more milk by beginning the day with more nutritious meals, such as cereals with milk and protein-rich foods, such as eggs, bacon, cheese, and chicken fillets.
“The prenatal and postnatal sessions for women with special-care babies taught me that eating too many carbohydrates while breastfeeding lowers milk production and would likely add more weight to breastfeeding mothers. But, eating more nutritious foods, such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, lentils, and beans, improves the amount of milk produced.”
During breastfeeding, Kula-Tapuko states that her family is aware of what they eat to support her. She continues by stating that they substitute normal rice with brown rice, mix normal rice with lentils, and eat more green vegetables, and less starch.
The best and worst foods to consume for breastfeeding
Radebe recommends a balanced diet with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and good-quality proteins to ensure mothers replenish or top up their supplies.
“Foods that have a positive effect on milk production include fenugreek, fennel, garlic, oats, brewer’s yeast, green leafy vegetables, almonds, papaya (pawpaw) and chia seeds. The most important thing moms need to make sure they do is to keep hydrated by making sure they drink no less than two litres of water daily.”
Radebe says that breastfeeding does take a lot of energy from the body though, because it draws everything from the mother in order to provide the baby with nature’s goodness.
According Radebe, our bodies are designed to filter most things that are harmful to the child. However, mothers should avoid the following foods during breastfeeding:
- Foods high in mercury such as bigeye tuna, king mackerel, orange roughie, shark, swordfish and tilefish.
- Herbs, supplements not prescribed by a healthcare professional.
- Alcohol: Mom can safely drink one serving of alcohol without the need to pump and dump. One serving of alcohol is equivalent to: 355 ml of beer, 125 ml of wine and 45 ml of hard alcohol.
- Caffeine and caffeine-containing products; remember that even some teas contain caffeine.
- Highly processed and high fat foods. Stick to foods that are provided by nature.
How breastfeeding mothers can avoid gaining weight
Radebe gives advice to breastfeeding mothers, on what they can do to avoid gaining excessive weight while breastfeeding. She says that breastfeeding is an opportune moment to lose a lot of weight gained during pregnancy.
“The trick is to control your appetite. Most often, moms’ hunger pangs are actually a sign of thirst more than hunger. So, each time you feel hungry, drink at least two glasses of water, wait 15 minutes and if you’re still hungry, then eat.”