Mothers around the world wonder how what they eat will affect their baby.
When the baby is in the womb, he develops taste buds by the 13-15th week of pregnancy. The taste of the amniotic fluid changes according to the mother’s diet, so that the baby becomes used to different flavours.
When mothers are breastfeeding, a similar mechanism is taking place, allowing various proteins to get into the milk, making the milk taste somewhat different. Generally speaking, this is why babies tend to prefer food from their own culture. What the mother eats, the child experiences.
Because of this, when you eat traditional foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it makes it more likely that your child will enjoy them when it comes time to introduce solid foods, sometime around six months of age.
What you eat will not have a significant effect on the quality of your milk. You don’t need to eat a perfect diet to breastfeed. It may sometimes be hard to eat a well balanced diet, but if you eat a variety of nutritious foods, you will feel better yourself and your body and your baby will appreciate it. Your baby will also appreciate the variety of tastes.
There are a few nutrients that are more affected by diet than others. Although studies have shown that the amount of fat in the mother’s milk is not affected by her diet, the type of fat is. You can change the types of fat in your milk by changing the types of fats that you eat. It is best to limit processed or fast foods so that you and your baby will not be exposed to trans fats that are unhealthy. Eating a varied diet with food as close to its natural state as possible and including fish low in mercury will help ensure that you and your baby receive the healthy fats you need.
You might be wondering if there is something you can eat to make more milk. Different cultures have different beliefs about foods that increase milk supply. The only thing that has been proven to increase the milk supply is breastfeeding often and a correct latch and position.
On the other hand, most of the foods often associated with increasing milk supply are healthy foods such as oatmeal, almonds, barley, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. These are all healthy food choices and it is fine for a breastfeeding mother to eat them.
Cree Elders recommend fish broth. This nutritious food can be a good choice as part of a mother’s varied diet. Eating foods you have heard may increase your supply can help you feel confident that you will have plenty of milk to feed your baby.
Different people may suggest that you need to avoid specific foods so that the baby doesn’t get fussy or so the milk supply doesn’t decrease. Some herbs have been shown to decrease supply. A good rule of thumb is to not take any herb in large quantities and certainly not without consulting an Elder or a traditional medicine practitioner. Ordinary quantities of herbs and spices used in cooking should be fine.
Most babies do well, no matter what the mother eats. It is rare for a food a mother eats to cause problems. Usually, if your baby is fussy, this is normal infant behaviour, and not related to what you eat. But if your baby is highly sensitive, he may have a reaction to the proteins from foods you eat that are passed on to him through your milk. You will likely notice other symptoms such as a rash, vomiting, colic, intestinal upsets or other symptoms. If you are concerned and think your baby may be reacting to a particular food, it may be helpful to eliminate that food from your diet. Speak to your nurse or CHR for more information. Babies do get fussy, and food is not always the cause. You can speak to the community nutritionist if you need help balancing your diet.
Mother’s milk does change depending on what she eats. This is one of the ways that breastfeeding provides a unique experience for the mother and her baby.