World Breastfeeding Week is a global campaign to raise awareness for breastfeeding annually from the 1st to the 7th of August, so we thought this is a good time to talk about the nutritional and health benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies!
In Australia, more than 95% of children aged 0 to 3 years received breast milk, and 1 in 3 infants were exclusively breastfed at six months (1).
There is abundant evidence to demonstrate the benefits of breastfeeding (2). Some of the benefits of breastfeeding include, but are not limited to:
|Benefits for the baby||Benefits for the mum|
|Lower risk of infection||Lower risk of osteoporosis|
|Lower risk of obesity in childhood and adulthood||Lower risk of type 2 diabetes in mothers with gestational diabetes|
|Lower risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes||Encourages the uterus to contract after birth and return to pre-pregnant state|
|Nutritionally superior to formula milk||Helps with weight management postpartum|
|Nutrient composition of breast milk changes to adapt to the baby’s needs||Skin-to-skin contact enhances physical and emotional bonding between the mother and the child|
The nutritional requirements for breastfeeding mothers differ slightly from the general population (3). Some of the nutrients that have a higher requirement for lactating mothers include, but are not limited to:
Interestingly, calcium requirements are not increased in breastfeeding mothers aged 18 or above, as the body adapts during breastfeeding to absorb calcium more efficiently. That being said, dairy foods (the richest food source of calcium) represent a highly nutritious addition to meals and snacks, and breastfeeding mothers should still aim to meet the recommended daily intake (RDI) of 1,000mg of calcium per day (or 1,300mg per day for those aged 14-18 years). Meeting this RDI for calcium is necessary to maintain adequate supply of calcium to the baby and enhance postpartum bone health. A 250ml glass of lactose-free milk contains approximately 292 to 308 mg calcium, which would meet approximately 35-39% of daily requirements (varies across brands). Many dairy foods are also a great source of protein and energy.
The increased nutrition requirements ensure the baby receives nutrient-packed breast milk that the bundle of joy needs for optimal growth and development! These extra nutrients are also essential to support milk production and provide adequate nutrition for the mother.
So what are some of the low FODMAP foods that mothers with IBS can reach for to support their nutritional needs during breastfeeding? We have summarised the number of serves from each food group (source: eatforhealth.gov.au) and nutritious low FODMAP food options.
|Food group||Recommended daily number of serves||Examples of low FODMAP foods|
|Vegetables, legumes and beans||7.5||Leafy greens (spinach, kale, bok choy), carrots, green capsicum, cucumber|
|Fruit||2||Firm banana, kiwifruit, orange, mandarin|
Gluten-free corn flakes*, rolled oats, quinoa, rice, spelt sourdough bread*
*look for fortified (extra nutrients added) options
|Lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans||2.5||Plain cooked lean meat and poultry, seafood that are lower in mercury (e.g. salmon, sardine), eggs, firm tofu, macadamias and peanuts (including peanut butter)|
|Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat)||2.5||
Lactose-free yoghurt, lactose-free milk, soy milk (soy protein), hard cheese
*look for calcium fortified (120mg or above per 100ml) options when choosing beverages
As nutritional requirements are different between individuals, we highly recommend speaking with a Monash FODMAP trained dietitian to personalise a low FODMAP diet tailored to your nutritional needs.
Any use of medication during breastfeeding to manage IBS symptoms should be discussed with your doctor. Whether or not vitamin supplementation is needed during lactation should also be discussed with a healthcare professional prior to commencement.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. Breastfeeding [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics; 2022 Jun 17 [updated 2022 Jun 17; cited 2022 Jul 25]. Available from: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/breastfeeding/latest-release#breastfeeding-prevalence
Binns C, Lee M, Low W. The Long-Term Public Health Benefits of Breastfeeding. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health. 2016;28(1):7-14.
Better Health Channel. Breastfeeding and your diet [internet]. Victoria: Better Health Channel; n.d. [updated 2022 Apr 20, cited 2022 Jul 25]. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/breastfeeding-and-your-diet