Happy world breastfeeding week!
I want to honor all mothers. Weather you breastfed or not, you are a wonderful mother and I appreciate your support! Know you have mine, no matter what decision you make.
Breastfeeding Nutritional Support
Pregnancy and breastfeeding take a lot from a woman. Our bodies basically are nutritionally supporting two people for a minimum of two years. Most Americans tend to be nutritionally deficient in the beginning because of the “modern” diet lacking in a lot of key nutrients, causing a lot of health issues to show them selves during and after pregnancy like hyperemisis, anxiety, depression, anemia, nutrient deficiencies, eczema, and food allergies. It seems like when women are supporting another life a switch is flipped and our bodies become much more sensitive to everything.
When I was pregnant with my daughter I was eating a “healthy” diet of mostly whole foods. I was still eating gluten and fast food more often than I like to admit, but most of my meals met the “normal” definition of “healthy” according to the FDA. Lots of grains, low fat meat, etc. I had the most horrible hyperemisis, headaches, high blood pressure, weight gain (over 60 lbs!), and was on partial bed rest for the last few months. You can read about her birth here. We breastfed for 17 months, about two weeks before her brother was born when I decided to stop.
In that time between her birth and her brothers I made a lot of very drastic lifestyle changes. I switched from the FDA eating guidelines to more of a Weston A. Price eating plan. Christmas of 2012 I was so sick and sick of being sick! Although a lot of my health issues had improved after switching to WAPF eating, I still had horrible stomach issues and was verging on needing anti-depressants to handle my life. I decided to give up gluten and see what happened. Within two weeks my stomach issues were gone, my depression was gone, I felt amazing. I had energy and life force I don’t remember ever having.
I switched to a more paleo style eating when my son was about 3 weeks old and have not looked back since. I am still breastfeeding him after 16 months, and plan to continue until he is ready to be done. I am focusing right now on building up my nutrient stores that have been severely depleted my whole life because of my un-diagnosed gluten issues, and back to back pregnancies and breastfeeding.
I know a lot of women suffer low supply. I am convinced a part of this is caused by nutrient deficiency. If your body is lacking in the proper nutrients, it may be reserving what it can to keep you alive.
I always ask a few simple questions:
- Are you eating enough calories? You expend an average of 500 extra calories a day producing milk. YAY! What a great diet plan right? Many women are eating way too few calories after having their babies. Be sure you are eating the calories you need, and add an extra 500 for your baby. Is your baby having a growth spurt? Don’t feel guilty for eating some extra lactation cookies. You both need the extra calories.
- Are the calories you are eating nutrient dense real food? Calories are important, but where they come from is also important. Are you eating real nutrient dense food? Coconut oil, eggs, omega-3’s, nuts, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats from healthy animals are important to keep your body nourished and healthy. Instead of eating that bowl of fruit loops, cook up two pasture raised eggs in some nice grass fed butter, and have a cup of tea with a nice dollop of coconut oil, with a side of some delicious veggies or fruit.
- Are you drinking enough water? Getting dehydrated is easy when all you do is nurse, sleep, change diapers and repeat. I always had a very large cup of water with me when I sat down to nurse my new born. When they sat down to nurse, I made it a goal to drink at least half of my cup of water. Stay hydrated so baby can too! Check out my list of the 20 health benefits of drinking water.
- Are you nursing the baby as soon as it fusses? Do you nurse before supplementing? Putting the baby to breast and allowing it to suckle, even if you need to supplement afterward, creates a supply and demand relationship. The body will try to make more milk and fulfill the demand of your child. Putting the baby to breast as soon as it starts to fuss will create a good supply and demand ratio.
Here are some great posts about breastfeeding, diet and nutrition. Hopefully they are able to help with some idea of how to nourish your self and your little one.
- Intoxicated on Life wrote a great post about breastfeeding and nutrition: what your doctor won’t tell you. She discusses the importance of eating good fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables, and more! Read more here.
- Super Mommy created this great list of super-foods that help boost breast milk production. Read more here.
- The Examiner also has a great detailed post about super breast milk boosting foods. Read more here.
- Are you suffering from postpartum depression? Try adding turmeric to your diet or supplement regime daily. Read more about turmeric here. You can also follow these great food recommendations by Hybrid Rasta Mama. Read more here.
- The Weston A. Price foundation sets a hefty nutritional goal for mothers to meet, and even people with the best intentions and support system would find it very difficult to meet them. There are some great recommendations, and meeting any of them would be helpful. Read the WAPF guidelines here, and then read all about why its ok if we can’t meet them all here.
- You can also look to the paleo side of things. I have been paleo most of my son’s life. I found that if my supply did take a dip, a nice baked sweet potato with lots of grass fed butter and some nice real salt would bring my supply right back up. I did eat oats occasionally, but my body doesn’t love them. Mark Sisson wrote a great article about paleo and breastfeeding that you can read here. The Nap Clan wrote about her experience with paleo and breastfeeding as well. You can see that here.
- If you need a quick snack make up a batch of these lactation cookies. You can even replace the wheat flour with a GF substitute with no issues.
Hopefully some of these guidelines will be able to help you. I will post later about what happens if a mother who wants to breast feed just can’t, and some help to common breast feeding health issues like mastitis. Keep an eye out for more posts this week!
What nutritional goodness have you found that helps nourish you and your baby?
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