Expert Advice: Do Breastfeeding Mums and Toddlers Need Supplements?

Breastfeeding mums often face the dilemma about what to eat, how much to eat and worry if their personal nutritional tanks are seemingly drained by their nursing child.

Personally, I try to go for healthier food options, breastfeeding or not. But knowing that the quality of breastmilk has some correlation to my diet makes me a little more conscious over my choice of food. Furthermore, it is essential to stay in the pink of health to take on the demands of being a mother. Nothing beats the importance of health, right?

Previously, our experts tackled questions on confinement myths and breastfeeding in this article. Post-confinement… do breastfeeding mums really need supplements? As for our children, how do we know if they should be taking additional vitamins too?

We posed our questions to Ms. Yong Wai Chin, Senior Nutritionist at Nature’s Farm, who patiently addressed these concerns. Read on to learn more!

Nature's Farm Singapore breastfeeding mums diet supplements

Let’s hear it from Nature’s Farm’s Senior Nutrionist, Yong Wai Chin, to find out breastfeeding mums can eat well too!

As a breastfeeding mum, do I need additional nutrition? If so, what should I consume more of?

A breastfeeding mother (during 100% breastfeeding period, meaning baby is receiving all of his/her nutrients from mummy’s breastmilk alone) will typically exhaust 500 kcal per day to produce all the milk that baby needs. If we consider this as a mathematical formula, breastfeeding mothers will need to then consume the minimum calories she needs to maintain her own nutrition and energy needs + an additional 500 calories to provide for the energy/nutrients she needs to produce baby’s milk.

However, since most women tend to put on some additional kilos during pregnancy, breastfeeding mothers can typically consume the quantity of food that they would as per pre-pregnancy without feeling stressed that they need to, or must consume additional foods to provide for the 500 calories, as breastfeeding is an opportune time to help new mums lose the “baby weight”. The main consideration here should be in making conscious efforts to consume healthy, natural and wholesome foods, taking care to consume “quality foods instead of quantity”.

According to Singapore Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) data, a lactating mum (up to 12 months) as compared to a non-lactating adult female requires additional intake of Protein, Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin Bs and Folic Acid.

(Note: Please refer to the attached RDA Data)

Breastfeeding in public: What's your view? . With 2 babies with very different nursing behaviours, I find myself continuously learning to meet their needs amidst various scenarios. Nursing with a cover may be my preferred modus operandi, but a successful execution depends ultimately on the child. . I've to say, it takes tons of courage to nurse openly without a cover. And that's even with nursing clothes that help make it discrete. Mum's desire to nurse is only a one-sided affair; a distracted baby is another matter altogether. . Parenting is a journey of challenges and lessons, plenty of trial and error with no single solution. But we learn to block out the external distractions and judgements, by focusing on our baby there and then. After all, breastfeeding is personal, not some fancy show to earn stripes on one's shoulders. There isn't any way to please everyone, so doing what we need to is as natural as can be. . Thank you for having me @straits_times @bovesingapore – looking forward to the interview piece this Sunday ❤

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I’ve come across information that calcium carbonate (in calcium supplements) may be extracted from stones and animal bones. What should I look out for when getting calcium supplements?

There are different types of calcium supplements available in the market. Among these, calcium carbonate (mainly derived from oyster shell) is the most common type of calcium. Besides being inexpensive and conveniently available, it is also contains higher elemental calcium than calcium citrate (40% vs. 21%).

When getting calcium supplements, these tips might come in handy:

• The amount of calcium you will need from a supplement depends on how much calcium you obtain from food sources. For instance, if you are getting 500mg of calcium from food sources, you may need to supplement additional 500mg of calcium (RDA for calcium: 1000mg/day for breastfeeding mum)

• Calcium supplements are better absorbed in small doses (500 mg or less) for each consumption. Thus, if you are taking high doses of calcium, it is recommended you consume smaller dosages each time but take it several times throughout the day.

• Calcium supplements are better absorbed when taken with food.

• The tolerable upper intake levels for calcium is 2500mg per day. Taking larger doses may cause side effects such as abdominal and muscle cramping, constipation and nausea.

• For those who have abdominal disorders conditions, calcium citrate is generally better tolerated than calcium carbonate.

• Calcium works synergistically with Vitamin D and Magnesium for better absorption

• Avoid foods and beverages containing caffeine (such as coffee and tea) when taking calcium supplements as caffeine will increase the amount of calcium excreted from the urine thus reducing the body’s absorption level of Calcium.

*Source: National Institutes of Health

healthy cereal and fruit for breastfeeding mum diet

Breastfeeding mums can choose healthy snacks for the extra calories that she needs.

Many have commented about my weight loss, but my appetite is still crazy! What food can I load up on to address that – although weight gain is not something most women want?

If your doctor has advised you that you are underweight (BMI ˂ 18.5) or malnourished, you can consider the following:

In theory, weight gain and weight loss follows a simple mathematical formula. In the case of gaining weight, you would be looking at:
Energy In (Calories consumed) > Energy Expenditure (Calories Burned)

To gain an average of 0.5 kg per week, you would need to consume 500 more calories than what your body requires based on your basal metabolic rate (BMR) – coupled with the fact that 100% breastfeeding burns averagely 500 calories a day; so you would need to consume 1000 more calories than you are currently consuming in order to gain the 0.5 kg per week.

The principle of gaining weight is similar to losing weight, you should do it gradually. Healthy weight gain should be between 1-2 kilos per month.

You may consider the following tips:

  • Ensure at least 500 -700 calories intake for each main meal (3 times per day)
  • Go for high calorie, nutrient-dense (calorie-dense) foods such as starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, yam, corn, potatoes and pumpkin
  • Increase healthy fats for example Olive oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil
  • Increase healthy snack in-between meals
  • Snack every 2-3 hours, up to 3 times daily (150-200 calories for each snack).

Good choices of snacks includes:

  • yogurt and cottage cheese
  • crackers or cookies with chocolate milk, fruit smoothies
  • hot cereals with nuts
  • tuna sandwich with cheese
  • whole meal bread with peanut or almond butter
  • ¼ cup of nuts & seeds: cashews, almonds, walnut, pistachio, macadamia
  • ¼ cup of dried fruits: raisins, dates, prunes
  • 1 piece of energy bar
  • 1 cup of milk shake

What are the key nutrients an Asian baby needs during the first three years?

Well-balanced nutrition is vital for healthy growth and development in infants and toddlers (the first 3 years). The key nutrients for Asian babies include essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6 fatty acids- particularly DHA), vitamin A, iron, probiotic and fiber.

Our Paediatrician advised to offer Vitamin C syrup to our one year old, but he’s rejecting the orange flavour. Is Vitamin C really necessary? He’s fully breastfed, and is a small eater when it comes to solids.

Health supplements are not necessary for children under two years of age unless the Paediatrician diagnoses the baby with a nutritional deficiency condition that requires attention or specific supplementation.

In your case, if your child if fully breastfed and well-nourished, it is not necessary to supplement his or her diet with Vitamin C supplements. However, if you do notice that he/she falls ill easily and fairly frequently, you can consider giving our child a Vitamin C supplement where necessary.

For young children who are prone to bugs at school, what should we offer them to help improve their immunity through nutrition?

In addition to offering healthy, balanced diets, you may consider the following to boost your child’s overall immunity to make them less susceptible to common flu/cough bugs:

  1. Antioxidants (Fruit and veggie based products, Pycnogenol®, Vitamin C & Zinc)
  2. Probiotic
  3. Kids Multivitamins & Minerals

Pills and syrup – is there any difference in terms of efficacy or how they are absorbed by our bodies?

Syrups (liquid form supplements) are generally more easily absorbed by the body as compared to pills, capsules and soft-gels as the latter usually comes with a binder or coating (outer layer) which requires to be broken down/digested by the body before the nutrient contents within can be accessed and released into the bloodstream. Thus liquid type supplements are more readily absorbed.

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We are what we eat, mums! Breastfeeding mums need to remember to eat well for our own overall wellbeing too. If our diets are not offering the requirement nutrients, it’s probably time to look out for suitable breastfeeding-friendly supplements to support your daily needs.

Breastfeeding mums, are you on a healthy diet, or taking any supplements to support your health and diet? Let us know!

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