It is important to have a balanced, varied diet which includes sufficient energy, protein, good fats and vitamins and minerals for the mother, the fetus and the breastfed baby. The aim is to cover the needs from the pregnancy as well as the breastfeeding.
As with any pregnancy, the mother’s diet should be varied and sufficient to meet the needs of the fetus, otherwise its growth may be disrupted. In this particular situation, because the pregnant woman is nursing a child at the same time, her food needs will be even greater. Here are a few tips:
- The Montreal Diet Dispensary encourages mothers to eat 6 times a day, taking 3 meals and 3 snacks during pregnancy. This way, the mother regularly eats, allowing the fetus to be fed directly without having to draw on reserves of the mother. The ideal would be to eat every 3 hours. Because the pregnant woman breastfeeds simultaneously, she can increase her portions from each food group at meals and snacks.
- Eat a variety of foods from the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide including colorful and varied fruits and vegetables, whole grain products (high in fiber), dairy products, meat and alternatives.
- From a practical viewpoint, when the baby eats (is breastfed), the mother should also eat. Have snacks available during breastfeeding times. A good snack should contain a carbohydrate and a protein source. Here are examples of good snacks: peanut butter toast, bowl of cereal with a glass of milk, cheese and whole wheat crackers or vegetable sticks and humus.
- Each meal and snack should contain protein: meat, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs, tofu, legumes, peanut butter. Protein is essential for fetal development, for growth of the breastfed baby and for maintaining the muscles and strength of the mother.
- Favor good fats for the health of the mother and the baby, such as vegetable oils (canola, olive and sunflower), nuts and grains, fatty fish (salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel) and non-hydrogenated margarines.
- The need for vitamin C is increased during pregnancy. Pregnant women should consume rich sources of this vitamin, like citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, clementines), orange juice, kiwi, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, mangoes etc.
- Ensure proper hydration: at least 1.5L of water per day. When the baby is drinking, mom drinks too. Clear urine during the day is a sign of good hydration. However, it is normal that the first morning urine be dark.
- Taking prenatal multivitamin supplements is recommended for intake of essential elements, including iron and folic acid. For more information on prenatal multivitamin, click here.
- The mother must take time to rest.
Note that in certain situations, fetal growth is more at risk:
- Closely spaced pregnancies (a pregnancy occurring within one year after childbirth)
- Low income
- Psychological stress
- Leanness and inadequate weight gain for pregnancy.
A nutritional assessment is strongly recommended to help the mother make good dietary choices.