“Breast is best” as the saying goes, but it’s only as good as the raw materials used to
make it. The following article should give you all the information you need to ensure
that you give your baby the best possible start in life, by giving him/her the most
Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for development and growth in
the first four to six months and research suggests that the longer you breast feed, the
better it is for both your health and that of your baby. Ideally your baby should be
exclusively breast fed for the first four to six months, and then breast milk should
supplement solids until your baby is about a year old, if your lifestyle allows this.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
o Antibodies found in breast milk protect your baby against infection by
boosting their immune system. Colostrum is particularly rich in antibodies,
which protect your baby for the first few days of its life. Research has shown
that babies breastfed exclusively for 6 months are less likely to develop
pneumonia, colds and ear infections. They are also much less likely to suffer
with allergies later in life.
o Bifido bacteria are present in breast milk. These friendly bacteria enable your
baby to build up healthy gut flora, which will protect him/her from an overgrowth of
unfriendly bacteria, and boost his/her immune system, giving your baby a better chance
of avoiding eczema and allergies, such as hayfever.
o Breast milk contains high levels of the essential fat DHA which is needed for
brain development, and could explain why children who were breast fed have higher
IQ scores than their bottle fed counterparts.
o Breast milk contains more minerals and in more absorbable forms than
formula milk. In particular selenium and chromium, which are respectively
essential for the immune system and energy production, are not found in
formula milk; and the calcium, manganesium, zinc and iron in breast milk are
more readily absorbed.
o Breast milk contains high levels of fat soluble vitamins, in particular vitamin D
which is essential for bone development and the immune system.
o Breast feeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, which
stimulates the uterus to regain its pre-pregnancy shape.
o Breast feeding reduces the risk of breast cancer – and the longer you feed,
and the more children you have the more that risk is reduced.
What you should be eating to make the best quality milk?
Breastfeeding mothers should be consuming an extra 500 calories a day – more than in the final trimester. Don’t make these calories up with cakes, biscuits and crisps – as these are empty calories, delivering no nutritional benefits. Choose wholegrains, fruit and vegetables instead to boost the nutrient density of your diet – and these nutrients can be shared with your baby via your milk.
Increase your protein intake (meat, fish, eggs, beans, chickpeas, lentils, soya, dairy products, nuts and seeds). One study has shown that increasing the amount of protein in the diet increased milk supply and consequently babies’ weight increased.
Eat oily fish regularly (or take flaxseed if you don’t eat fish) to ensure that your baby
is getting an adequate supply of essential fats.
Make sure you get your minimum 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, so that
your diet contains a good range of vitamins and minerals to pass on to your baby via
Avoid anything containing artificial sweeteners, colourings or preservatives, as these
will pass via your milk to your baby, and his tiny liver will have to process them
The same is true for caffeine: avoid or restrict your intake of coffee, tea, cola and
chocolate, as caffeine places a burden on the liver.
Whilst advice may vary, it is best to avoid alcohol, as it does pass directly to your
baby and their livers are not ready to deal with this toxin.
Eat three meals a day, plus a mid morning and mid afternoon snack, to keep your
energy levels up and ensure you have enough energy to produce a good supply of
Aim to drink 3 litres of water a day to ensure that you are optimally hydrated
Is there anything I can do to boost my milk supply?
Firstly before trying anything else ensure that you are adequately hydrated and nourished and that you are getting enough rest (hard though this may be, it will be difficult for your body to produce a good milk supply if you are exhausted).
There are a number of natural remedies which are purported to increase milk supply
including using milk thistle or fenugreek herbal remedies, and drinking fennel tea.
Do I need to take a supplement whilst breastfeeding?
It is very difficult to get all the nutrients we need from our diet when we only have
ourselves to think about, but when you are looking after a newborn baby this
becomes even more of a challenge. I would recommend that breast feeding mothers
take a breast feeding specific multivitamin and mineral supplement to ensure that
they are getting adequate amounts of essential nutrients.
If you would like more advice on any of the points mentioned in this article or
would like to find out how nutrition can support fertility or pregnancy and
beyond please contact Emily on 07967 639347 or email