Breastfeeding Diet Recommendations courtesy of Dr. Christina Sherry, an Abbott research scientist, about the diet recommendations for breastfeeding moms and new moms about to breastfeed.
When I nursed my kids, I thought eating healthy was enough. And, honestly, no doctor or lactation consultant ever sat me down and told me anything specific about what I should be consuming on a regular basis in order to support my baby’s growth and development.
I had an opportunity to interview Abbot Research scientist Dr. Christina Sherry in 2014 and I’m bringing this article (and others related to breast cancer, breastfeeding, and overall breast health) back to OCM as part of updating our files and revisiting info for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Dr. Sherry took part in a study published in the Journal of Nutrition that found the average diet of breastfeeding moms may not be enough to meet the needs of the baby.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What are the nutritional needs of a breastfeeding mother?
Dr. Christina Sherry, Abbott research scientist – So, the nutritional needs during breastfeeding are actually greater than any other time in a women’s life, even when she was pregnant. So, many women just kind of don’t realize that and just kind of focus on nutrition during their pregnancy, but it’s something they need to keep an eye on when they’re breastfeeding as well. The reason being is because not only is the mom providing for her nutrition, but she’s providing the nutrition for her growing baby during this time. And, if she’s not consuming a nutritious diet, she could be at risk for depleting some key nutrients from her, and they may not be in her breast milk as well.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What happens to mother and baby if these nutritional needs are not met?
Dr. Christina Sherry, Abbott research scientist – So there are certain nutrients that we know that the breast milk is going to be much more in tuned with as far as mom’s diet. So when we, in our recent study, looked at the diets of lactating women, we found that many women are not consuming many key nutrients. And, some of these – such as DHA, Lutein, and Vitamin E – have a big impact on the breast milk levels of those nutrients.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – So, let’s say that mom is not getting the nutrients from diet alone, what happens to mom and baby?
Dr. Christina Sherry, Abbott research scientist – So, the nutrients are important for mom as well, so if mom’s not consuming the nutrients, she could be at risk for inadequate intake, but also, we know that if mom’s not getting them, then baby’s not getting them. So, there could be low levels in the breast milk. We want to make sure the baby has the best of these nutrients. So, it’s important mom’s consuming them in her diet. We know these nutrients are important for brain development. We didn’t look at outcomes specifically related to that. We do know that the Similac breastfeeding supplement increases the levels of these nutrients in her breast milk. Similar to if she was eating all the fruits and vegetables and lean fish that she should be eating. She gets those levels in her breast milk while consuming the Similac breastfeeding supplement.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What types of foods should the breastfeeding moms be eating to try to get enough of these nutrients? What breastfeeding diet recommendations do you have?
Dr. Christina Sherry, Abbott research scientist – My background is a dietician. We really want to focus on the diet sources of these nutrients. So we know that leafy greens are a great source of Lutein, so consuming spinach – about 2 cups a day mom would have to do. DHA is coming from salmon or other fatty fish – having that about four times a week, or having a small handful of nuts every day. Out studies showed us though that many women are very busy and they’re not meeting the levels of these nutrients. So, the Similac breastfeeding supplement gives mom that piece of mind if she’s not getting this through her diet.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – So, if they’re not getting enough from diet alone, what options do they have to supplement their diet?
Dr. Christina Sherry, Abbott research scientist – The Similac breastfeeding supplement is a great option. It’s been specifically formulated with these three nutrients for the ideal levels for breastfeeding women. And, also as I had mentioned, we had a scientific study to support that taking the Similac breastfeeding supplement increases the level of these key brain and eye nutrients in mom’s breastmilk.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – If someone wanted to find out more about the supplement, the study you’re referring to, and what their nutritional needs are, where can they go to get more information?
Dr. Christina Sherry, Abbott research scientist: At Similac.com we put all that information together for mom. She can find out more information about her nutrition during lactating, breastfeeding if she wasn’t aware about that, she can find out more information about the supplement as well as the study.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – Ok, great. And, to be clear, this is a supplement for the moms, correct?
Dr. Christina Sherry, Abbott research scientist – Absolutely. I’m glad that you brought that point up, Lisa. This is a supplement for breastfeeding moms that she should take every day in conjunction with whatever vitamins she’s already taking – if she’s continuing her prenatal or taking another multi-vitamin – she can take this right along with that, just as a part of when she takes her vitamins normally.
For more on breastfeeding diet recommendations, visit jn.nutrition.org.