Soy Protein & Breast-feeding

Mother to breastfeed her baby
Mother breastfeeding her baby (Image: alexey05/iStock/Getty Images)

Women who use soy protein when breast-feeding may do so not only to increase their general protein intake, but also to reap the health benefits soy offers. While many women need not worry when including soy in their diets, some babies suffer from soy allergies. When passed into breast milk, soy proteins may cause an allergic reaction. For women using soy protein, this is not common.

Protein Needs for Breastfeeding

Nursing moms need around 71 grams of protein every day, according to Ohio State University. This figure includes not only the protein they need to keep their own body functioning normally, but the extra protein that fuels lactation. In addition, breast-fed babies need proteins from their mother’s milk for development. While getting this much protein is not as challenging as it may sound, some women who are on restricted diets may need a little extra help achieving their daily goal. These include vegetarians, vegans and women who simply don’t have a taste for high-protein foods.

Soy Protein

Soy protein is a type of plant protein that many people use both as an alternative to meat and for its various health benefits. Soy protein comes in the form of soybeans, soy products such as tofu and soy protein powders which can be added to foods or beverages. Per a 2003 review of soy protein in the “Journal of Perinatal Education,” soy protein is the only plant source of all eight essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and the essential types are those that are not produced naturally in our bodies. In addition, soy protein sources are also often high in other beneficial nutrients for nursing mothers, such as calcium, iron and fiber.

Soy and Allergies

Soy has many benefits, but it may not always be appropriate for breast-feeding women. Some infants have soy allergies. According to Kellymom.com, a popular online breast-feeding resource, soy is among the more common infant allergies. For most women who eat soy regularly, however, there is little cause for concern; it is not common for infants to be allergic to anything in their mother’s breast milk. If your baby is allergic to soy, he may be noticeably fussier after you feed him, or he may develop a substantial rash. Vomiting and diarrhea are also common signs of food allergies in breast-fed babies. Women whose babies do show signs of allergic reactions to the soy in their breast milk may have to look elsewhere for their protein until they are done nursing.

Guidelines for Breast-feeding Moms

Most breast-feeding women can benefit from soy protein and need not worry about safety. Per the University of Michigan, while protein supplements are not always necessary, there is little harm in using them if you can burn all of the extra protein you ingest. You can integrate soy protein into your diet, however, without resorting to supplements. Try some edamame as an afternoon snack, or switch your cow’s milk for a glass of the soy variety. In addition to boosting your protein intake, soy is heart-friendly and may even play a role in cancer prevention.

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