After giving birth, women are required to take note of the kind of food they eat in order to manage their health. Nutritionists advise food that will not cause allergic reaction to the nursing baby.
Dr John Muganda, an obstetrician gynaecologist at Harmony Clinic Kigali, says that vegetables and fruits give healthy carbohydrates that provide energy to one’s postpartum diet, as well as vitamins and minerals, which both the mother and baby need.
He adds that fruits and vegetables are also a source of fibre, which helps prevent constipation, especially if one had a Caesarean section and is taking narcotics for pain. Fruits like oranges are a great food to boost energy yet rich in Vitamin C.
New mothers need to feed on iron-rich foods like lean beef in order to boost their energy; they should also feed on extra protein and vitamin B-12, Muganda says.
Sapience Kengayiga, a nutritionist at University Teaching Hospital of Butare, says that women don’t need to eat any special or different foods while breastfeeding, just follow a balanced diet — which is a combination of healthy foods.
She notes that a balanced diet includes starchy foods or carbohydrates which give them the quickest source of energy — mothers must choose complex carbohydrates that absorb more slowly and stabilise blood sugars, such as bread, potato, pasta, maize and rice. Choose wholegrain varieties of cereal-based starchy foods for added nutrients.
“Mothers need carbohydrates to increase calories to maintain energy levels to take care of their new-born and produce milk. They also need protein as it rebuilds the body as well as increases the baby’s growth. Protein can be found in red meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, beans, soy and some dairy produce, such as a yoghurt and milk,” she explains.
Kengayiga says that both the mother and the baby need the right fats in their diet, like Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, as this helps in the baby’s brain and eye development. Use olive or vegetable oil rather than saturated fats such as butter palm oil or coconut oil for cooking; these oils contain unsaturated fats that decrease your cholesterol.
She further says that Vitamin C plays a crucial role in the development of healthy bones, teeth and muscles in the new-born and helps in the absorption of iron. Sources of Vitamin C include; orange, lemon, strawberries, tomatoes, and natural fruit juices.
Vitamin A is important in the new-born growth and it is found in carrots, mangoes and tomatoes, while Vitamin D plays a vital role in maintaining blood calcium levels and bone density, Kengayiga notes.
She adds that iron is an essential mineral which is responsible for the creation of new blood cells. During delivery, mothers lose a lot of blood, and that is why they need food rich in this mineral. You can find iron in red meat, tofu, beans, lentils, eggs, some fruits like passion fruit, and dark green vegetables like spinach.
Adding that, calcium is very necessary for nursing mothers as it keeps the heart pumping, muscles functioning, and nerves signalling. The great sources of calcium are dairy products such as; milk, cheese and yoghurt; green leafy vegetables like; broccoli, cabbage; and soy products like tofu. New mothers should drink enough water, juice and porridge.
WHAT TO TAKE NOTE OF
Muganda urges you to reduce the quantities of food a new mother takes because there is high risk of gaining too much weight.
“Try not to have too many caffeinated drinks when you are breastfeeding, alcohol passes through your breast milk to your baby, which could harm them,” Kengayiga advises.