Breastfeeding — the most beautiful time with your baby.

The bond with your child is never so strong as when you're breastfeeding. That is why we from Humana want every mother to be able to breastfeed. We will share tips on how this can be a time of intimate connection for you both, even during challenging phases.
Bebe durmiendo con su madre

Good for your baby — good for you

Breastfeeding not only reinforces the mother-child bond, but also has some health benefits for you as a mother. For example, the uterus shrinks back quicker to its normal size, you will be sick less often and you feel more even-tempered. In the long term, it also reduces your risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.*

*Sources: Abou-Dakn M (2018). Gesundheitliche Auswirkungen des Stillens auf die Mutter. Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz 61 (8), 986–989. Krol KM et al (2018). Psychological effects of breastfeeding on children and mothers. Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz 61 (8), 977–985.

FAQs about general breastfeeding topics.

  • Why is breastfeeding and breast milk so important?

    It has been scientifically proven that breastfed children suffer from less infections (like diarrhoea and middle ear infections, for example) than non-breastfed children.* This is because breast milk contains lots of antibodies that help build up a newborn's immune system. Moreover, the balance of nutrients in the breast milk adapts to the needs of the infant during their development.

    If you would like to learn more about breast milk, read more here.

    *Source: Rouw E et al (2018). Bedeutung des Stillens für das Kind. Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz 61 (8), 945–951.

  • How often should I breastfeed my baby?

    Your baby will let you know what they need. You will learn to interpret the signs over time. Let your little sunshine drink as often and as much as they want. Especially at the beginning, your baby is led purely by their hunger cues. They will probably need to be breastfed every 2-3 hours. A regular 4-hour rhythm won't begin until around 6-8 weeks.

  • Is my baby getting enough?

    Naturally as a mother you want to ensure that your baby has had enough to drink so they feel full and are healthy. Since the actual amount of milk they have had is hard to estimate, you can watch for the following clues

    • your baby's mouth encloses almost your entire nipple and sucks vigorously so that milk flows
    • they drink about 6-8 times within a 24-hour period, or even more often at the beginning
    • your baby appears content and healthy — when they are awake, they are active and alert
    • your baby is putting on weight daily and has several wet nappies every day

    If you have the impression that your baby is not satisfied and your breast milk is insufficient, speak to your midwife or lactation consultant about how you can meet your baby's needs.

  • How long should my baby drink?

    How long a feed lasts depends on the baby. As long as your baby really is drinking (and not just suckling for comfort), you can continue to feed. Initially, however, it is recommended that you feed from one breast for about 10 minutes, take them off to be burped and then give them the other breast until they are full. 

    In order to prevent blocked milk ducts, you should alternate between starting with the left side and starting with the right side, and make sure that your baby empties both breasts.

  • Can medication permeate the breast milk?

    Generally, the substances that can be found in your own bloodstream can also be passed through to the breast milk (to varying degrees). Therefore, you should always speak to your midwife, gynaecologist or paediatrician before taking any medication.

  • Can I do sport while I'm breastfeeding?

    There is no need to stop doing sport while you are breastfeeding. However, you should complete a postnatal exercise course beforehand to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles first. Always talk to your midwife with regard to when you will be ready to start a postnatal pelvic floor exercise course.

  • Which types of sport should I avoid and which are good?

    When you start doing exercise again after having strengthened your pelvic floors with a postnatal course, keep in mind that breastfeeding hormones keep your body in an open, softened state for milk to flow well. Therefore, it is best to avoid sports like squash or tennis that involve abrupt stopping. Swimming, Nordic walking, yoga and bike riding are better. If you also wear a well-fitted breastfeeding bra, nothing stands in the way of doing sport.

  • When can I start pumping and what do I need to consider?

    Of course breastfeeding moms are allowed to step back from time to time and have help with childcare. But view the first 8 weeks of your child's life as an extra special, protected time after the birth. Many mothers continue to function in everyday life without interruption, putting too much strain on themselves. They forget that giving birth is an unbelievable act of strength, after which you require rest, and time to get to know your child better. After you've had this time, nothing stands in your way of going out and doing a postnatal pelvic floor exercise course or going to the movies if you like. Ask your midwife how to go about pumping, storing and warming up breast milk and how much your baby will need. The baby will be good at feeding from your breast by then and the occasional bottle won't hurt, if it remains the exception.

Which nutrients are important for breastfeeding mothers?

A lot of your energy and nutrients go to your baby through your milk. Therefore, a balanced diet remains very important now while breastfeeding so that you and your baby get all the important nutrients you need.

Tap on Spots To find out more

Protein

Your baby needs a whole lot of protein for the development of a broad variety of body and organ tissues. It is the most important building block of our cells.

A mixture of animal and vegetable protein is ideal. Good sources of animal protein include milk, yoghurt, curd, cheese, eggs, fish and lean meat. Vegetable sources of protein are potatoes, nuts and whole-grain products (amongst other foods). A balanced vegetarian diet is not usually a problem, especially if dairy products and eggs are consumed (i.e. an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet). It is best to consult a professional nutritionist if you are on a vegan diet.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, which influence your blood sugar levels along with the hormones insulin and glucagon, are an important source of energy.

If you don't get enough fuel, you will feel weak pretty quickly. The important thing to consider when you are choosing an energy source is the quality. Complex carbohydrates from whole-grain products, vegetables, potatoes and fruit slowly release energy to the body because most also contain fibre and keep you full for longer. In comparison, sugary foods are quick to trigger hunger and the desire for more.

Fats

Fats are important for your growing baby because they stimulate growth.

The daily intake of fat (up to 80g)* supports the baby's supply and also the function of certain vitamins that can only be absorbed into the body by binding to fat molecules. Ideal fats are high-quality vegetable fats (e.g. rapeseed and olive oils) and also some nuts (e.g. walnuts). But be more cautious when it comes to foods with a very high fat content such as some cold cuts, hot chips, mayonnaise, sauces and cakes, etc.

*Source: DGE, DACH-Referenzwerte für die Nährstoffzufuhr, 2. Auflage, 5. aktualisierte Ausgabe 2019

Vitamins

Many important processes within the body are driven by vitamins. With a balanced diet you usually won't have any deficiencies even while breastfeeding.

The most important sources of vitamins are fruit, vegetables and dairy products. For full vitamin strength we recommend that you buy fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, mostly eat them raw or steam them in a little water. Leafy green vegetables contain (among other vitamins) the all-important folic acid.

Minerals and micronutrients

You only need micronutrients in very small quantities. With a few exceptions, you will get enough through your daily meals if you eat a balanced diet. The following substances play an important role:

CALCIUM & PHOSPHORUS

These are important minerals in the development and maintenance of teeth and bones — as much for you as for your baby. Good sources for these are milk and dairy products.

POTASSIUM

This mineral regulates the balance of water, or more specifically, the excretion of water from tissues. Bananas and apricots (fresh or dried) are ideal suppliers of potassium. If you have noticeable swelling in your arms and legs, it is vital that you talk to your doctor.

IRON

Without iron, your blood would have a serious deficit. Iron is responsible for making haemoglobin (Hb), the red pigment in the blood cells. Its job is to transport oxygen from the lungs, through the arteries, to all the cells in the body. The best sources are meat, nuts, whole-grain bread, kale, oats and millet. Vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron from plant-based sources. This combination is particularly important in a vegetarian diet.

IODINE

Your child requires the nutrient iodine for their mental development. During breastfeeding, the iodine that leaves through the breast milk has to be replaced. In addition to the use of iodised salt, it is recommended — after consulting your doctor — that you supplement with iodine tablets (100µg iodine per day).*

* Source: DGE, DACH-Referenzwerte für die Nährstoffzufuhr, 2. Auflage, 5. aktualisierte Ausgabe 2019.

FAQ's about nutrition while breastfeeding.

  • Eating for two! How much more should I eat during breastfeeding?

    You pass a lot of your energy and nutrients on to your baby through your breast milk. Thus, you require more calories during breastfeeding than the average woman. Breastfeeding is namely hard work for your body. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you will need an extra 500kcal per day in order to produce enough milk. A balanced diet is particularly important during this time. However, it is not necessary to change your diet. It is enough to consider the following basic rules that were also important during pregnancy:

    • have plenty of plant-based foods and unsweetened drinks
    • consume moderate amounts of animal products
    • only eat small amounts of fat and sugar

    Five or six small meals a day is better than three large ones. You should eat protein several times a day — and of course, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole-grain products and potatoes are just as important.

  • How can I cover my additional needs? Which meals are particularly suitable?

    While you are exclusively breastfeeding, you require an extra 500kcal of calories per day. Your body covers part of your energy requirements by accessing fat deposits built up during pregnancy. The rest comes from additional food. However, make sure you particularly focus on foods rich in nutrients even if they are low in energy. This is because while you are breastfeeding your need for nutrients increases much more than your requirement for energy.

    A special diet during breastfeeding is not necessary. You can eat anything you like. However, alcohol should definitely be avoided.

    We have put together four examples of healthy, nutrient-filled meals of about 500-600kcal each:*

    • fish roll: 1 rye roll + 100g of salmon + 1 small mixed salad + 1 glass of apple spritzer
    • cheese sandwich with soup: 1 slice of whole-grain bread + 1 tsp of margarine or butter + 1 small slice of cheese + 1 bowl of vegetable noodle soup
    • filled roll: 2 slices of whole-grain bread + 2 slices of cheese + 2 tsp of margarine + 1 yoghurt + 1 tsp of chopped nuts + 1 piece of fruit
    • warm meal: 1 portion (100g) of fish + 1 tbsp of rapeseed oil + 2 big potatoes + 6 tbsp of vegetables + 1 bowl of fruit salad

    * Source: "Die beste Ernährung für Baby und Kleinkind" von Ute Alexy und Anette Hilbig, S.52.

  • How can I nourish myself adequately during breastfeeding?

    It is important to eat a good, healthy diet so that your body can recover as fast as possible from the exertion of pregnancy and childbirth. It also helps you manage the physically draining breastfeeding period. The following are a few tips on how to optimise your diet for breastfeeding:

    • make sure you eat a varied, balanced diet and eat regularly
    • plenty of fruit and vegetables should be on the menu daily
    • enjoy lean meat, cold cuts and eggs in moderation
    • ideally, eat fish twice a week; once being of the fatty variety like salmon, mackerel or herring
    • have approx. 300-450g milk and dairy products a day
    • watch your iodine intake; in addition to using iodised salt, it is recommended — after consulting your doctor — to supplement with iodine tablets of 100µg iodine per day*

    if your baby is prone to bloating, it is not necessarily because of your diet. However, you can always test it out by avoiding bloating foods such as cabbage, onions and garlic and see if it reduces your baby's discomfort — nevertheless, it is not necessary to avoid these foods as a precautionary measure.

    We recommend that you speak to your midwife and design a suitable diet for breastfeeding together. In addition, they can provide you with valuable tips about what foods promote breastfeeding.

    * Source: DGE DACH-Referenzwerte für Nährstoffzufuhr, 2. Auflage, 1. Ausgabe 2015.

  • What should my optimised daily nutrition plan look like?

    A wholesome, healthy diet is also important during breastfeeding. The nutrition pyramid provides practical help for the optimal composition and daily planning of your meals:

     

    • have plenty of unsweetened drinks, vegetables, fruit, potatoes, pasta and rice
    • have moderate amounts of milk, dairy products, eggs, lean meat, low-fat cold cuts and fish
    • have only a little margarine, oil, butter, cake, sweets, jam and sugar etc.
  • How much should I drink each day while breastfeeding?

    Through breastfeeding, your need for fluids increases. Before you breastfeed your baby each time, set out a glass of water and juice spritzer or a cup of unsweetened tea and simply let your thirst guide you.

  • What should I absolutely avoid while breastfeeding?

    Do not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol while you are breastfeeding. Also avoid going on weight-loss diets. Your body needs all your energy for milk production. In terms of medication, you must always consult your doctor. Preventative avoidance of things like cruciferous vegetables and fish is not necessary. In fact, consuming fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring or tuna supplies valuable long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

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