Definition and Overview
Breastfeeding mothers who have concerns about meeting their's and their newborn's nutritional needs while lactating are encouraged to consult a pediatrician or gynecologist for assistance.
Babies get all their nutritional needs from milk for the first six months following their birth. Although some mothers prefer formula for a number of reasons, including the inability to produce sufficient breast milk, various health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends breastfeeding until two years of age.
Breast milk is considered the best for infants as it contains all the nutrients that babies need to thrive. It contains colostrum, a sticky yellowish substance that offers immunity against infections. Many studies also suggest that breastfeeding offers better health for both the mom and the baby in later life, even if the latter is born preterm. It can also be part of "kangaroo care", which emphasizes skin-to-skin contact for premature babies to increase their chances of survival. Babies who are breastfed also have 50% reduced risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Breastfeeding, however, can be tedious, exhausting, and draining for moms, who may also be concerned about how their food affects breast milk supply and whether there’s a special diet to eat to produce more milk. These concerns are covered during a breastfeeding nutrition checkup.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
This type of checkup is recommended for mothers who wish to breastfeed their babies, are currently breastfeeding, or are concerned about their nutrition, especially its effect on their breast milk supply and quality, as well as the baby’s health.
This checkup is also essential:
- To help the mother cope with the energy demand of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding moms typically burn between 400 and 500 calories each day. Thus, there is a need to increase their calorie intake properly to ensure their health.
- To ascertain the mom’s nutritional needs, which may include additional iron and calcium, are met. These vitamins and minerals can be found in food and thus be incorporated into the diet. However, in cases where they prove to be insufficient, supplementation becomes necessary.
- To determine the types of food to avoid
- To know how much fluid is needed
- To monitor the mother’s weight and diet
- To identify issues that may affect the mother and the baby while breastfeeding
How Does the Procedure Work?
Breastfeeding nutrition is typically discussed even before the woman gives birth. This is usually discussed during the last trimester or between the seventh and ninth month of pregnancy. During this time, the body prepares for the baby’s arrival. The breasts will become much heavier and fuller with the milk supply the baby needs during the first few hours of life.
A more comprehensive discussion on breastfeeding nutrition occurs around two weeks after delivery as part of post-partum care. A baby is evaluated for breastfeeding performance during his first 24 to 48 hours.
During the checkup, the physician is expected to:
Conduct a full breast exam
Perform an interview to determine the nutrition profile of the mother – This may include:
- the kind of diet she maintains before, during, and after pregnancy
- eating habits
- factors that can affect nutrition such as conditions that may limit food choices, allergies, hypertension, heredity, obesity, or diabetes
- access to food
- Provide recommendations such as:
- Food to eat and not to eat
- Recommended dietary allowance for every food group (i.e., how much protein,
- fat, or carbohydrate must be consumed)
- Best sources of different food groups
- Portion control
- Best time to eat or how to combine good diet plan with breastfeeding schedule
- Food substitutes
- Supplementation requirement
If necessary, the breastfeeding specialist then refers the mother to a dietitian or a nutritionist who can develop a more specific meal plan.
Moms should continually see their breastfeeding specialist until they stop expressing breast milk or no longer lactating. Every visit or checkup may take around 30 minutes to complete. Although this is best done in a face-to-face manner, it can also be carried out remotely such as in Skype.
Possible Risks and Complications
A huge part of the breastfeeding nutrition checkup is counseling. It’s therefore necessary that the mother has a strong and good relationship with a breastfeeding specialist so she’s more encouraged and motivated to follow the advice. She’ll also be more open to talk about her concerns.
Dieterich CM, Felice JP, O'Sullivan E, Rasmussen KM. Breastfeeding and health outcomes for the mother-infant dyad. PediatrClin North Am. 2013;60:31-48.
Feldman-Winter L. Evidence-based interventions to support breastfeeding.PediatrClin North Am. 2013;60:169-187.