Let food be thy medicine, and medicine, thy food.
When it comes to finding an appropriate application for this quote by Hippocrates, I believe feeding our children may be one of the best. I am referring here specifically to preventive medicine.
What more do we want as moms than keep our babies and children healthy and free of disease, decreasing the chances for medical attention or interventions of any kind?
The important question here is not whether you feed your baby formula or breastmilk, it is that if you make the choice to breastfeed, how can you ensure the highest quality milk for your baby?
When it comes to nutrition information specific to breastfeeding however, there are so many places to go for info, a simple Google search can result in over 8 million hits and will have you more confused and exhausted than your lack of sleep will.
Here are some basics to get you started and feeling confident that you are in fact making incredible milk that will keep your baby growing healthy, strong and happy for the months and years to come. In addition to being good for your milk, I believe in eating foods good for you also. To help you naturally and moderately return to a healthy post-pregnancy weight that you feel good about. Weight loss is not the goal of breastfeeding, but it does have the side benefit of burning 400-500 extra calories per day, which means you will need to fuel it, but it can still work on your behalf.
I could write a blog post on each of these points below, but I will keep them brief here to start.
1. Drink lots of water. Water will help with milk quality and quantity and will ensure that you and baby are both hydrated. Aim for 3-4 litres per day as a minimum.
2. Eat real, whole foods. Avoid packaged and processed foods. Eat foods without food labels as a majority (if not all) of your intake and make this a real priority.
3. Eat as many leafy greens, vegetables and salads as you can. Watch for some cruciferous vegetables that may cause baby gas and discomfort, such as brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale. They may very well not though, I never had any issues.
4. Eat foods that contain healthy fats, such as raw, unsalted nuts (eg. walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds), seeds (eg. sesame, pumpkin, chia, hemp), extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, avocados and salmon.
5. Focus on proteins from high quality sources. Especially if you eat animal foods, be sure to avoid ones which may have come from factory farms (land or water). Look for wild, free range, organic, grass fed and those free from antibiotics and growth hormones.
6. Choose unrefined whole grains like rolled oats and pseudo-grains like quinoa and wild rice. Avoid gluten grains such as wheat or spelt if you have bloating or indigestion after eating them.
7. Avoid added refined sugars. Eating whole fruits or diluted fresh squeezed/pressed fruit/vegetable juices is ideal. Baking with maple syrup, ripe bananas or date sugar is a great way to get actual nutrients along with natural sweetness.
8. Choose foods high in fibre. These will help keep you fuller longer and help with your intestinal health. If you feel hungry all the time, increase your intake of fibre foods and water, just do it slowly over a number of days to avoid digestive distress.
8. Continue taking a high quality whole foods sourced prenatal multivitamin with DHA is ideal.
9. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol is always recommended. Even small amounts of either may have effects on your baby’s brain and nervous system development, not to mention their sleep (quality and quantity).
Additionally, last but not least, choose organic as often as possible. The less chemicals you are ingesting, the less your baby will be ingesting. Due to costs or availability, this may not be possible, but always aim to eat locally sourced, ripe, in-season foods. Be choosy as to where you go out to eat or order your food from, where are they getting their food?
Again, this is a basic starter list, but will be very valuable in choosing foods that are going to ensure healthy milk and healthy you. Watch for signs that your baby is disagreeing with your food choices, such as wincing in pain or chronic discomfort, rashes on their face or body, excessive crying or colic. Avoid dairy or other common allergenic foods such as eggs, soy, peanuts and wheat for a few days or weeks if you see these signs. Introducing them back in one by one and looking for reactions is then recommended.
Putting baby to breast or pumping often are the best way to increase milk supply, as well as consuming adequate amounts of food. Restricting your food intake in the hopes of losing weight is a recipe for disaster. Drink lots of water and eat well.
As for foods or supplements that will further enhance milk supply, I will save that for another post.
What foods have you found that made great milk for your baby and made you feel great at the same time?
I welcome your comments, questions and feedback!
PS. If you want the recipe to my delicious baked oatmeal pictured above, find me on Facebook. If you are not already a member of the Private FitMama Facebook Community where we share lots of healthy recipes, information and tools to keep you a FitMama, simply post a request on the wall. See you there!