Recently a new study published in The Lancet Global Health has indicated that prolonged breastfeeding may be linked to “higher intelligence, longer schooling, and greater earnings” as an adult. This study was done in Pelotas, Brazil and measured participants for an average time span of 30 years.
Dr. Bernando Lessa Horta, the lead author of this study, had this to say of the research: "The effect of breastfeeding on brain development and child intelligence is well established, but whether these effects persist into adulthood is less clear. Our study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence until at least the age of 30 years but also has an impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability."
According to the Mayo Clinic, breastfeeding is the “gold-standard” in infant nutrition for the first year of life, with exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months. This is because breast milk contains the right balance of nutrients for the baby, in addition to boosting the immune system.
Some women find it hard to breastfeed their babies for any length of time, let alone the one-year mark for various reasons. Sometimes that is due to issues with the baby’s latch, maternal health problems like mastitis, a decreased milk supply, or premature babies with extended stays in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Below you’ll find some nutritional tips during the time you choose to breastfeed your baby.
General Nutritional Tips:
• Make your calories count. Limit those foods high in hydrogenated fats, sugar, and “empty calories.” Examples include desserts, fried foods, and soda.
• Eat a variety of colors of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. This is true for people of all ages and genders, but especially for breastfeeding mothers. It is now recommended that we eat fully HALF our plate at each meal in fresh, raw fruits and vegetables.
• Eat 8-12 ounces of seafood each week. Fish has nutrients that help develop your baby’s brain and eyesight. Eat a variety of healthy choices such as Salmon, Cod, White (Albacore) Tuna (no more than 6 ounces each week), and Tilapia.
• Drink plenty of fluids. Your body needs increased fluids to meet the demands of breastfeeding. Good choices include water, milk, and very low processed fruit juices that have little or no artificial sugar/sweeteners.
Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding:
• Alcohol-there is no amount of alcohol in breast milk that is considered safe for your baby. If you are going to drink while breastfeeding some tips to remember include: (1) wait until baby is 3 months old and has an established pattern, (2) drink no more than ONE drink per day, (3) wait at least four hours after having a drink to breastfeed your baby, (4) plan ahead for how to feed your baby if they become hungry
• Caffeine-this could agitate your baby or cause issues with sleep. If you choose to drink caffeine while breastfeeding, limit it to 24-ounces or less per day and avoid drinks high in sugar content.
• Seafood with high mercury content-this could inhibit the development of your baby’s brain. These fish include King Mackerel, Tilefish, Swordfish, and Shark.
If you are having trouble breastfeeding, see a certified lactation consultant. If you need help with your own diet, consider visiting a registered dietician.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN