Q&A on Maternal Nutrition

I'm excited to share with you today the answers to the maternal nutrition questions that you posed!

I would like to thank Dr Peter Chew for taking our questions and providing these answers. Dr Chew is a Senior Consultant Obstetrician, Gynecologist, Infertility Specialist and MIS Specialist, currently in private practice at Gleneagles Hospital.

Special thanks also goes to Abbott Nutrition and Similac Mum for supporting this email interview in conjunction with their Growing the Milk Bank event held a couple of weeks ago, that I unfortunately wasn't able to attend.

Here are the answers we have been waiting for. I have grouped the questions according to similar type for easier reading:

Breast Milk Supply Issues:

1. What is the impact of maternal nutrition on the quality of breastmilk? What are some maternal nutrition guidelines to follow in ensuring sufficient breastmilk supply? (During pregnancy and after)
Once delivered, the baby only source of food is breast milk from their mothers if the mother breastfeeds. As such, the quality of maternal nutrition is critical during and post-pregnancy, as whatever the mother consumes will be passed on to the baby and determine the nutrition composite of the breast milk. 

One way to ensure the quality of breast milk is to maintain a balanced diet by following the food pyramid. Consuming food with carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and nutrients are important to ensure the maternal milk supply is sufficient and nutritious. If the mother is severely averse to certain food, fussy about food or malnutrition then they may want to consider maternal milk supplements that will provide the vitamins and nutrients required. 

As a general guideline, during pregnancy, mothers need an average of 300 more calories than a normal person and post-pregnancy, especially with breastfeeding, mothers need an average of 500 more calories than a normal person. 

2. Many mothers have supply dips when stressed (eg. returning to work) - are there special supplements or foods that they should consider taking more of during these periods of low supply?
When people are feeling stressed, it will affect their hormones, and that is the same for breast feeding mothers, who may experience an effect on the milk supply. At this stage, mothers who would like to boost their milk supply can consider maternal supplements such as milk powder and vitamins. 

Similarly as mothers cannot produce DHA naturally, it is important to consume food such as fish or drink maternal milk supplements, such as Similac Mum formula from Abbott, to boost the quality of the breast milk. Milk supplements would be a convenient way for them to gain the necessary nutrients that they require to ensure adequate breast milk flow and nutrients. 

Mother's Diet and its Effect on Breast Milk:

3. Is it possible that a baby will not be adequately nourished if maternal nutrition is poor? Does eating junk food daily, and not taking care of what I eat affect the nutrients going to my (fully breastfed) baby?
Yes, if the mother isn’t eating well and not taking in quality food, it will then affect the quality of milk. If a mother consumes only junk food, then the baby will be getting ‘junk milk’. It is vital to note that the milk quality is from the nutrients absorbed by the mother and it will be passed down to the child. 

4. Is there an easy way to remember what transfers into breastmilk and what doesn’t? For instance, alcohol does, and we’re told that strong flavours like curry would. And fish oils do. How about rum in rum-&-raisin especially if quite a good bit of rum is used? Perhaps an explanation of how certain substances enter breastmilk/composition of breastmilk would help us understand why some things are transferred but not all.
There is no barrier between the food consumed by the mother and the milk she produces. Mothers should remember that whatever they eat will directly translate to the nutrients that the baby receives.

5. How long do medicines or other toxins stay in milk? Eg mother has to take antibiotics or other medication, or cannot avoid inhaling some volatile organic compounds like petrol (while at the petrol station) or paint, or pesticides (through fogging to prevent mosquito breeding).
The medicines and other toxins will stay in the milk as long as the mother consumes them. So once a mother is on medication, she should temporarily stop breastfeeding the child. To keep the milk supply going however, mothers can consider pumping out the milk for discard so as to maintain the flow, until the body is healthy to breastfeed again. 

Mother's Diet and its effect on Breastfed Baby:

6. If my baby reacts with loose stool after eating certain foods (eg. dairy), does it mean that he has an allergy to those food?
Yes, the mother’s diet will have an effect on the baby and so with the reaction, he is probably allergic to the food. For those babies who are not breastfed however, they are usually more prone to allergies such as rash on the skin and loose stool. 

7. Is breastmilk an adequate source of nutrients for a preschooler as compared with the same volume of cow's milk?
Assuming a preschooler as 2 – 3 years of age, then no. According to World Health Organization, it is recommended that the minimal period for breastfeeding is 6 months as key nutrients are delivered to the baby during this period. After 6 months, breast milk alone cannot sustain the growth of the baby, and the baby will require other supplementation. Breastfeeding after 6 months helps to foster bonding. 

8. Assuming a mother has an adequate diet, does breast milk provide an adequate supply of iron to a baby who is 6 months or older and who has yet to eat meat?
After 6 months, it is recommended that mothers start introducing the baby to semi-solid and gradually solid food. Similarly, it is important for the child to consume a balanced diet and they should follow the food pyramid closely. 

Mother's Weight-loss and Breast Milk:

9. Is there any danger of toxins that are stored in a mother's fat getting into breast milk as she loses weight post-par-tum?
From a medical point of view, fats do not store toxins so there is no link between toxins and fats. As such, there is no danger in losing weight post-partum, as long as the mother maintains a balanced diet to ensure an adequate supply of breast milk that is nutritious for the baby’s growth.

I hope you found these answers useful!

For those of you keen to get the new Similac Mum with Advance EyeQ Plus®
by Abbott Nutrition, you can read about it here or request for a sample.


Poiema said...

Thanks for getting these answers! For #7, guess the qn was whether with the supplemention of solids, breast milk is just as good if not better than cows' milk...

Miss Leney said...

Oh wow, this is very informative for me! Thanks for that love! :)

Anonymous said...

I guessed as much that baby was allergic to dairy...sigh hoping for a miracle. (It's really tough to stay away from dairy, e.g., ice-cream and cheese!)
Thanks so much for compiling this Q&A! I'm reminded that since I'm breastfeeding, I should make all the effort to eat nutritious food! :)

Corsage@A Dollop Of Me said...

Ah! Thanks for pointing that out. I didn't read the question properly myself and perhaps neither did Dr Chew. From his response it does seem that overall nutrition is of importance though - ie if the right nutrients are taken, it matters less whether breastfeeding is done or not.

I'm glad it helps you! :)

Don't be too discouraged! When I was breastfeeding certain foods caused my Bub to break out in rashes too. But I do think they mostly outgrow it - or at least tolerate it well enough for it to be less of an issue.