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How to make sure your baby’s excellently breast-fed!

Nana, 24, was looking malnourished. She could only afford to eat once a day, because she was poor. She got pregnant for her boyfriend who ran away after he discovered she was pregnant. Nana managed to take care of herself with little assistance from her widowed mother before she put to bed. After the birth of her child, it was joy and sadness, as she wondered on how to take care of the child and herself. Now, her fears have come to reality, her baby is malnourished, because she cannot eat a healthy meal which is affecting the growth of her child.

Eating food by a nursing mother not only fulfils her own nutritional needs, which are greater during the postnatal period, but also enables her to produce milk. A woman who does not eat properly may still have a healthy baby, but it will be to the detriment of her own health. Experts say if you lack sufficient nourishment, your body will make milk production its first priority, and your needs will go unmet. It is just the same as it was during pregnancy, when the nutritional needs of the foetus were satisfied before those of the mother. In fact, the baby, who weighs only a few pounds, will receive nearly 1,000 calories per day in breast milk!

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Mrs. Sarah Abagai, Head of Dietetics Department at the National Hospital, Abuja says a breastfeeding woman should eat a healthy diet, because her system depends on it. “The milk will take some part of the nutrients to nourish the baby and they need some to also sustain their own health.  So they should eat healthy food. Some mothers lose a lot of weight when they are breastfeeding, so, mothers should eat well so they don’t become susceptible to infection as a result of weight loss,”Abagai says.

We can compare a breast-feeding mother to a marathon runner, whose race will last 24 hours, not four minutes like you have in some sprints. Hence, health experts say there are basics that are necessary for every breastfeeding mother.

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Nursing women tend to be thirstier, especially when they are  feeding their babies, because part of their water consumption goes directly to milk production. Breastfeeding mothers need more fluids than usual. Hence, they should   drink a glass of fluid each time they nurse or pump. Plain water, low-fat milk, and 100 per cent fruit juice are good choices. Limit soft drinks which are high in sugar and calories – choose plain water instead, or try diluting juice with water.

Eat more proteins. The basic rule is to eat one gramme of protein each day for every pound you weigh. Breastfeeding women need 25 more grams of protein per day than normal, the same as during pregnancy. This extra demand can be met by eating a chunky size lean meat plus three cups of low-fat milk a day.

Also, breastfeeding requires an additional 500 calories per day – more than pregnancy requires! These calories should come from healthy, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein sources.

During pregnancy, folic acid is vital to the development of the baby’s nervous system. Nursing mothers are well advised to continue taking their prenatal vitamins. Folic acid also can be found abundantly in cabbage, corn and spinach. Many other foods, such as wheat and orange juice, have been enriched with folic acid too.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is a primary structural component of the human brain cerebral. Experts say an omega-3 fatty acid, is naturally present in breast milk. It is critical to brain, eye, and nervous system development in babies. Breastfeeding women are encouraged to eat natural sources of DHA: oily, cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel. Some products are fortified with DHA, including eggs, milk, yogurt, soya milk and other soya products.

When Nana told her story to the nurses, they simply advised her to try and buy soya beans and make the soya milk powder which she can fortify with crayfish. This they advise her to take with pap more regularly to enrich her protein intake so has to help her baby.


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