Why Is Protein Important For Breastfeeding Moms | Hea Boosters
Proteins are one of the three major groups of macronutrients that make up a wholesome, healthy diet, and are indispensable components of almost every structure and metabolic function in the human body.
For moms who choose to breastfeed their children, their daily dietary intake of protein is even more important since this needs to be significant enough to take care of both, their own requirements, as well as fuel the baby’s growth and development for the first 6-24 months of their life.
Why do breastfeeding moms need extra protein?
Behind every conceivable bodily function, there lies an entire world of hardworking, (and often unappreciated) proteins. Contrary to popular perception, proteins do much more than merely contributing to muscle strength. They critically involved in almost every aspect of a new mom’s life some of which are listed below:
- Growth of new tissues
- Replacement of damaged tissues
- Producing antibodies for the immune system
- Making hormones and enzymes
- Carrying oxygen through their blood
- Tissue development, growth, repair and regeneration: Proteins are the building blocks of our cells, lending them structure and rigidity. They are inextricably involved in the growth and maintenance of the body’s entire tissue system. For babies, the initial increase in body weight is extremely rapid with the normal monthly gain being roughly half a kg per month. By the 5th month of their development, most babies have already doubled their birth weight which implies a corresponding increase in the number of their cells and tissues across organ systems. This makes an increased level of protein absolutely essential for a new moms diet since children that are exclusively breastfed depend entirely on breastmilk for all the nutrients they need to fuel this growth.
- Produces antibodies for the immune system: The antibodies that help fight infections and make up the bulk of our immune response are primarily composed of proteins. These antibodies are also passed on to a baby through breastmilk, conferring upon them a certain level of initial and essential immunity from their mother. An insufficient amount of protein in a breastfeeding mother’s diet therefore not only suppresses her own immunity leaving her susceptible to bacterial, viral and fungal infections, but also puts the baby at risk for the same because these antibodies may not be produced in large enough numbers to prompt a strong immune response.
- Major component of all enzymes and hormones: Enzymes are proteins that aid the thousands of biochemical reactions that are crucial for our body’s metabolic processes. They are necessary for proper digestion, energy production, blood clotting and muscle contraction. Hormones are proteins which function as special messengers and help our cells, tissues and organs communicate with each other so that they can function efficiently. These proteins are particularly relevant for breastfeeding moms because hormones like prolactin prompt and boost milk production while hormones such as insulin control blood sugar levels. Growth hormones are responsible for development and growth, while other hormones are responsible for the efficient metabolism of food, sexual and reproductive health, cognitive function and moods, and maintenance of body temperature and thirst in both the mother, and her baby.
- Transport system for nutrients in the body: Proteins store and carry various substances to and from our cells and transport them around the body. These substances include vitamins, minerals, sugars, cholesterol, and even oxygen. Casein is the primary protein component in breastmilk that makes a baby grow and relies on breastfeeding moms getting an adequate supply of dietary protein for its own production too.
How much protein should moms and pregnant women consume?
Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers need up to 18-20g of extra protein in their diets every day as compared to other women. Expecting mothers should consume ~78 gram of protein per day to maintain a healthy pregnancy. This requirement is marginally lower for lactating moms (74 g per day).
How to reach the daily value?
Poultry products like eggs are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. One egg contains 13 gram of protein, which is equivalent to 16.6% of your daily requirement.
100 gram of chicken contains 27 gram of protein, 34.6% of the daily requirement.
Milk is considered a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for your body to function at an optimal level and is also a great option for vegetarians to get their protein fix. This is one of the main reasons why whey protein is often advised by doctors, nutritionists and health coaches alike to supplement your diet 1 cup (250 ml) of milk contains around 8 gram of protein.
For vegans, getting an adequate amount of protein can certainly be a challenge but there are a few plant-based products that should definitely feature in your diet and can help you reach your protein goals. 100 gram of Tofu has 8 gram of protein. You can also have sprouts and lentils to increase protein intake. Soya chunks are also a high source of protein. 100 grams of soya contains around 52 grams of protein, which fulfils 66% of your daily need.
In summary, breastfeeding moms undertake a double shift as far as nutrition is concerned but can ensure that they have an adequate amount of protein for their own health as well as for that of their baby’s having a healthy source of protein (lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, nuts, tofu, whey protein supplements, beans or legumes) with every meal. This way, they can stay healthy while relishing the joys of watching their babies grow up and hit exciting new developmental milestones every single day.Disclaimer: Taking a test or asking your nutritionist or health care provider doctor before introducing something new to your diet is the best way to go about it.