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Quality over quantity: What to eat when breastfeeding


When I gave birth, I had a lot of fights with my mom and my aunties about my food choices. They thought I was trying to starve myself and I thought they were deliberately trying to make me even fatter than I already was. Statements like “Hawa wa mama wa siku hizi, wanataka umissi wakati ndio kwanza wametoka kuzaa!” and “Kula mama uweze kunyonyesha!” were statements that I heard every time I said no to a delicious-looking bowl of mtori or a hot cup of uji. 

Of course, they were right. I needed to eat. But I needed to eat right and eating and eating right are two different things. And I think that is what most of us struggle with. We think that eating a lot of mtori, uji and soups is eating right because that is what our mothers did and our mothers’ mothers did. And of course, sometimes agreeing with them is much easier for you than disagreeing with them, trust me, those lectures they put you through are not easy to handle. But at the end of the day, it will be up to you to deal with the extra weight you gained from taking in empty calories. 

Now, I am not saying that mtori, uji and the chicken or fish soups are full of empty calories. They are in fact very healthy. However, two or three servings of mtori in a day, in addition to your main meals is a bit much, don’t you think? 

So what can you do differently to eat right? The answer is simple; consider quality over quantity. Basically, you need good nutrients more than bigger portions. 
Picture from http://bonduelle.org

As a breast feeding mom, you need the following:

1. Nutrients

a. Complex carbohydrates which you can get from brown rice, brown bread, whole wheat oats, quinoa. These will keep you full for longer. 
  You can also eat cassavas, in case you are struggling with milk production in the first few days.

b. Proteins which you can get from milk, eggs, fish, chicken and beef;

c.Vegetables and fruits which you can get from kale, spinach, amaranth, kisamvu (cassava leaves-it helps with milk production) lettuce, pineapples, apples, mangoes, grapes, oranges etc.

d. Calcium and Iron which you can get from proteins and vegetables like yoghurt and kaleor broccoli or you can take multi- vitamins. 

2. Liquids

You also need to take  a lot of liquids like water, fresh fruit juices and tea especially after breastfeeding. Maybe something to note is that you should try to avoid adding processed sugar into your fruit juices and tea or use 0 calorie sugars like Strevia. 
Click here for a sample meal plan to try out. I used this meal plan when I was about 3 weeks postpartum up until I was 8 weeks postpartum. Feel free to remove and add items according to their availability in your area.

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