Many think that vegetarian breastfeeding mothers will definitely lack nutrition for themselves and their babies. In fact, the nutritional needs of vegetarian mothers can, really, be met with the right food choices. Let's take a look at the following food choices for vegetarian breastfeeding mothers.
A vegetarian is someone who avoids eating all kinds of meat and animal products, so that most of his nutritional intake is limited to plants. Even so, there are some vegetarian groups who still eat eggs or dairy products.
In order for babies to grow up healthy and strong, breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to eat a variety of nutritious foods. Adequate nutritional intake is also important for the mother's energy source during breastfeeding and to help the mother's body recover after giving birth.
These are the nutrients that breastfeeding mothers must fulfill every day
Due to the limited food choices, vegetarians usually lack the intake of several nutrients, such as protein and vitamin B12, which are generally obtained from animals. However, the need for these nutrients must still be met, especially for breastfeeding mothers.
Fortunately, nowadays there are many studies that reveal the nutritional content of foodstuffs, including those from plants. Actually, there are many plant-based foods that can be an option to meet daily nutritional intake, you know.
However, breastfeeding mothers should pay more attention to whether the nutritional intake of the food they eat is sufficient for their needs. If you are a vegetarian who is breastfeeding, here are the various nutrients that you must fulfill every day:
Protein is needed by breastfeeding mothers and babies to build and repair tissues in the body, produce enzymes and hormones, help the growth of healthy hair and nails, help the process of bone and muscle formation, and support the baby's growth and development.
Actually, the protein content of plant origin tends to be lower than that of animal protein. If you are a vegetarian who can still eat some animal-derived products, you can get protein by eating eggs or yogurt.
But if you don't eat meat, eggs, or dairy at all, you can get protein from nuts and seeds, such as soybeans, edamame, almonds, quinoa, and oatmeal. You can turn tofu and tempeh from soybeans into a high-protein menu every day, you know.
2. Iron and zinc
Iron is needed by the body to make hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. Without adequate iron intake, both nursing mothers and babies can develop iron deficiency anemia.
In addition to iron, zinc is also needed to maintain the immune system. Zinc also plays a role in the process of tissue growth, wound healing, the breakdown of carbohydrates into energy, and the absorption of blood sugar into the body's cells.
To get iron and zinc, you can eat nuts, such as soybeans or cashews; whole grains such as pumpkin seeds, sesame, or processed wheat (oatmeal); and vegetables such as spinach, moringa leaves, potatoes, or mushrooms.
Iodine is needed by the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones. This hormone plays a role in controlling the body's metabolic rate, and plays an important role in helping brain growth and development. You can get iodine through the consumption of eggs, seaweed, iodized salt, and iodine-fortified cereals.
Calcium is usually found in milk or yogurt. These nutrients play a role in bone formation and maintaining bone health, and help keep the heart, muscles, and nerves functioning properly.
If you don't drink cow's milk, you can replace it with soy milk that has been fortified with calcium. In addition, you can also get calcium from other plant sources, such as broccoli, cabbage, raisins, dried apricots, or calcium-fortified bread.
5. Vitamin D
The presence of vitamin D is needed by the body to maximize calcium absorption. The body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. However, this alone is sometimes not enough to meet the daily requirement of vitamin D.
Vegetable sources rich in vitamin D are few, but quite a lot of plant-based products, such as soy milk, almond milk, and orange juice, are fortified with vitamin D. This can be an option to meet the vitamin D needs of vegetarians.
If you doubt that you can meet your vitamin D intake from food, you can also take vitamin D supplements. However, make sure the supplement is made specifically for vegetarians, yes.
6. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA and EPA, are essential for the growth and development of the baby's brain. Levels of omega-3 fatty acids can be reduced from breast milk if you do not meet the intake of these nutrients.
The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are usually found in fish. However, don't worry. You can meet the needs of omega-3 fatty acids by eating walnuts and chia seeds, as well as utilizing vegetable oils, such as olive oil and canola oil.
7. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 cannot be made by the body, therefore you must get this vitamin from food. This vitamin is very important for pregnant and lactating women, you know. This is because vitamin B12 plays a role in maintaining healthy nerves, supporting the production of red blood cells, and maintaining brain health.
Unfortunately, this vitamin is mostly contained in animal products, such as chicken liver, beef liver, shellfish, fish, and meat. But don't worry, you can get this vitamin from shiitake mushrooms or vitamin B12 fortified cereals. If you still eat eggs or milk, you can get this vitamin from yogurt, cheese, and eggs
The nutrients above are very important to always be in your daily menu. This is because babies under 6 months rely on nutrients that come from breast milk or formula alone. If you don't pay attention to what you eat, it's not impossible for your baby and you to be malnourished, you know.
Being a vegetarian can provide many health benefits. However, don't forget to prioritize the nutritional needs for yourself and your baby. You need to be more careful in choosing your daily food.
If you are worried that you will not be able to meet your daily nutrition while breastfeeding, you should consult your doctor for information regarding the right food choices for vegetarian breastfeeding mothers.