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How To Ensure Your Baby Gets Premium Breast Milk

By now, if you are an experienced mother, you would know that where breastfeeding is concerned, it works on a demand-and-supply process. That is, the more you give, the more your body will make. However, as Ginny, a doula and childbirth educator, points out, many women also wonder about the issue of quality. How can you ensure that your milk is best?

Are there special dietary advice or lifestyle habits to adopt? "The strange thing about breastfeeding, is, no matter how ideal or less than ideal your diet is, your milk will still be good enough for your baby," says Ginny. Just as during pregnancy, no matter how little thought you put into your diet, your baby will still manage to take the best from you, she adds.

According to traditional Chinese medicinal belief, it is imperative for a lactating woman to eat nutritious meals comprising lots of protein and calcium. "This is to prevent ailments such as osteoporosis and anaemia during old age," says Li Shan, 32, an auditor and mother of two boys. When she was breastfeeding, her mother would cook dishes with slabs of fish and pork just for her.

There is some logic to it, says Ginny. "It is important to replenish whatever may be possibly lost, and to take care of yourself now for the future," she says. If you are breastfeeding your baby, he will probably have a "taste" of the food that you eat. "This is because whatever is in your diet crosses over to the milk that you produce," says Ginny.

That is why some women avoid consuming large amounts of strong-smelling and strong-tasting spices such as aniseed, chilli and ginger when they are breastfeeding. Yet, there are just as many women who will eat, say, more garlic-flavored foods. Li Shan says: "My mother believes that because Jonathan and Joel were both breastfed, they were exposed to all the flavors in whatever I ate, which in turn made their weaning earlier and easier." Both her boys, now three and five,

Besides affecting the flavor of breast milk, certain foods have been reported to cause tummy discomfort in some babies. The most common "gas-causing" food are broccoli, onions, cabbage, cauliflower and beans, says Ginny. Babies affected by such food commonly exhibit colicky behavior and gaseous bowel movements.

In some cases, babies may be allergic to dairy products, and may develop eczema or rashes. "So while you don't have to scrutinise every morsel of food you eat, do be aware that your diet counts," she says.A breastfeeding diet for an infant or a young child should be very much like a pregnancy one, with emphasis on omega-3 and -6 oils, commonly found in fish such as cod and sardines. These oils have been shown to be vital for brain development, she says.

Staying Hydrated

A breastfeeding mother not only needs to take in 300 to 500 more calories a day, she also has to up her water intake. "Breast milk is made of 88 per cent water, and that's why you need to replenish what baby drinks," says Ginny. Some women think that drinking too much water "dilutes" their breast milk. "That is completely untrue," she says. "Equally untrue is the myth that if you want more milk, drink more milk." Calcium requirements during lactation are not higher than usual -typically, a woman 19 years or older just needs 1g a day.

Caffeine, Alcohol And Medication

Opinions are divided over whether a breastfeeding mum can even have a sip of caffeine or alcohol. Ginny thinks it's better to err on the side of caution. If you need coffee, take it decaffeinated, she says, or else not more than one cup a day. But Li Shan, who is a self-proclaimed coffee-junkie, threw caution to the wind both times when she breastfed her boys.

"Once I returned to work, I was back to my usual three strong brews a day, and nobody turned out to have insomnia or hyperactivity," she says. But she was more careful with alcohol, restricting herself to half a glass of wine once in a while. Ginny says: "It's best to completely swear off alcohol while still breastfeeding. If you drink, do not breastfeed in the next four hours after your drink.

"Besides having toxins that may pass into your milk and on to baby, alcohol also dehydrates your body. When it comes to medication, check with your GP that it is safe to take it when you are breastfeeding. "If you are buying any over-the-counter medication, you should check with the pharmacist before taking it," she says.

Hair Dyes And Pedicures

It is perfectly safe to color your hair or paint your nails when you are breastfeeding, says Ginny. Research has not shown how these chemicals can enter your body and into your milk in any significant amounts, if at all. Even then, you shouldn't dye you hair or paint your nails with baby close by, she adds. This is to prevent baby from sniffing any trace amounts of chemicals used in the solvents that are commonly found in nail polish. "I would advise my patients to remove nail polish from their fingernails before giving birth, to prevent transferring nail polish into baby's mouth during handling," she says.

"Happy" Breast Milk?

Stress and having insufficient rest and sleep have been shown to affect breast mills supply but not quality, says Ginny. Especially when breastfeeding a newborn, you should sleep whenever baby sleeps, as she can wake up every two to three hours to nurse.

However, since the same rules that govern pregnancy also govern breastfeeding, some women believe that if you are mostly unhappy or angry and hostile, you could transfer some of that negative energy to your baby via your breast milk - just as they believe that if you are mostly unhappy or angry during your pregnancy, you will pass on some of that energy to the unborn child.

For mothers who do not feel like sunshine all day, Ginny points out that breastfeeding is the best solution for those with postnatal blues: "When you are breastfeeding, two important hormones - oxytocin and prolactin - otherwise known as love and bonding hormones, are released." And if you are suffering from postnatal blues and afraid of transferring "bad energy" to your baby, do not fret.

No matter what, breastfed babies will be happy babies, because breastfeeding is bonding and comforting. "That's why it's common to hear breastfeeding mothers say that their babies are almost always 'easy' babies," she says.


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