Breastfeeding and Proper Nutrition

Breastfeeding is a surefire way to give your child the most healthful start in life. It offers so many benefits and yet, not much attention is given to the nutritional needs of a breastfeeding mother.

Unfortunately, so many women get caught up in the idea that they need to lose the baby weight without giving much thought to what they really need to be eating and drinking. Additionally, new mothers are often so tried and overwhelmed that even if they do consider their nutritional needs, they are simply too tired to eat properly.

It is important to note that EVEN with a diet that is not ideal, breast milk is still more nutrient-dense and biologically available than the ingredients in formula, be it commercial or homemade. So please, do not for one second allow yourself to feel overwhelmed by the information in this post. Take the nutrition information presented here and incorporate it as best you can with the resources you have available.

Eating nourishing, wholesome, real foods is vital to the quality of a woman’s breast milk. Ideally, a pregnant woman will be creating a nourishing food supply before her baby arrives which will make eating well a lot less difficult.

What exactly are the best foods for a breastfeeding mother to consume daily? Here are 11 nutrient rich, nourishing foods that every breastfeeding mother should try to incorporate into her diet.

  1. Water. Yes, this is technically not a food but keeping hydrated is vital to successful breastfeeding as well as the health of the mother. Water is far superior to any other beverage out there. Coconut water is a close second due to its electrolytes and low sugar content as compared to fruit juices and other sweetened beverages.
  2. Coconut Oil. Take a moment to read about the many uses of it. Specifically related to breastfeeding, coconut oil promotes healthy lactation. Research has shown that lactating mothers who consume virgin coconut oil and other coconut products have higher levels of lauric and capric acids in their breast milk. This increases its antimicrobial and immune boosting properties, while promoting both brain and bone development in the infant.
  3. Cod Liver Oil. Again, technically not a food but it supplies 20,000 IU vitamin A and 2000 IU vitamin D per day which is critical for breastfeeding moms. No multivitamin can compare.
  4. Eggs, ideally two per day. Forget what you have heard about eggs and cholesterol. Studies have found that the cholesterol in eggs does not contribute to high cholesterol. Eggs are the most nutritionally complete food available with one yolk providing an entire day’s supply of vitamins.
  5. Healthy fats including whole milk, real butter or ghee, organic chicken with the skin on, red meat with fat, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. We have been programmed to think fat is our enemy. Read Let’s Talk About Fats Baby to learn more about fats.
  6. Fresh fruits and vegetables of all kinds, organic when possible. Juicing will provide you with the maximum amount of nutritional benefit.
  7. Lots of wild salmon, shellfish, and fish eggs to supply you with the all-important Omega 3’s.
  8. Homemade bone broth which you can drink as is, use it to make soup, or use it to cook rice and other grains in. Bone broth has so many vital nutrients and minerals in it. It is hugely important to consume as a breastfeeding mother.
  9. Immune boosting foods such as garlic, onions, elderberries, and other antioxidant rich foods.
  10. Fermented foods and pro-biotic foods such as yogurt, kefir, and other cultured dairy. Your baby needs to establish a healthy gut flora and a mother who recently gave birth needs to reestablish hers. There is no better way to do this than by consuming fermented foods and cultured dairy products.
  11. Sea Salt. Everyone needs salt in their cells in order to function. Sea Salt is the only salt that contains the correct balance of minerals which act as a catalyst for healthy cell functioning.

 

With the good comes the bad and while the “what not to eat” list is lengthy, here are 6 foods to avoid like the plague (if you can) as a breastfeeding mother.

  1. Sugar-laden foods, especially heavily processed kinds. It is certainly ok to indulge your sweet tooth but it is best to consume homemade treats. Natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, stevia, or other unrefined sugars are better to bake with than white sugar. You absolutely want to avoid high fructose corn syrup. There is no health benefit for your baby and no nutritional value for you when you eat sugary snacks.
  2. Supermarket breakfast cereals. These cleverly marketed pretend foods are the worst possible way that you could start your day. They often have a glycemic index similar to or higher than pure glucose syrup. Eating these cereals for breakfast is not much better than having a chocolate bar. Additionally, they are heavily processed and stripped of almost all nutritional value despite clever marketing claims.
  3. Low fat and nonfat foods. Your baby and your body need healthy fats! See the above link for more information on fat.
  4. Alcohol and caffeine. Again, technically not a food but important to mention. Some moms feel ok about having these items in moderation. Really, this is a personal choice but bear in mind that you will need to consume additional water to offset the dehydrating effects of alcohol and caffeine. Also, there is no nutritional benefit to you or your baby when you consume either of these beverages.
  5. Soy products unless properly fermented (as in the case of miso or tempeh). Soy is high in estrogen – and it can change the way babies’ brains develop if mom is consuming high levels.
  6. Processed, packaged, convenience foods. These are quick and easy, just what a new mommy needs in her life, but the nutritional value is nonexistent. Homemade using fresh ingredients is always best. If you would like to read more about what is really in our processed foods, check out this post.

 

As a new mother, you can only do the best that you can when it comes to eating well. Try to meet an 80/20 balance where you are eating healthfully 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time gets chalked up to life happening.

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Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their healthcare provider. If you are pregnant, are nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis, or courses of treatment.

About The Author: Jennifer S

HybridRastaMama My NPN Posts

Jennifer blogs about conscious parenting practices, mindful living, holistic health and wellness, natural healing, real foods (with a focus on coconut oil) as well as Waldorf based parenting approaches at Hybrid Rasta Mama.

4 Responses to Breastfeeding and Proper Nutrition

  1. Janine (Alternative Housewife)  

    Overall, I think this is a great, simple nutrition post. I think most people should read it, whether breastfeeding or not! I’m totally guilty of eating sugary breakfast cereals even though I know better. I think it might be dehydration – I wake up after nursing my son overnight and I am actually just craving the MILK that I pour over my cereal. I’ll have to drink a big glass of water before choosing my breakfast from now on!

    The only part I’m giving the side-eye is the bit on caffeine. From what I understand, you don’t actually have to up your water to ‘counteract’ your coffee intake. Caffeinated drinks may not be as hydrating as water, but they aren’t DEhydrating. All of the evidence seems to indicate that coffee is OK during pregnancy and while nursing, up to 2-3 cups a day.

    I do especially like your recommendation for doing 80/20 and allowing for flaws in your diet. It’s a lot harder to stick to any plan when it feels like all or nothing.

  2. Kiersten W.  

    I like the 80/20 idea. A lot of times, we get so overwhelmed that we throw in the towel because we can’t possibly do it 100% of the time. It’s important to give yourself a bit of a break, especially when you have a little person depending on you!

  3. Drea

    Fantastic nutritional advice! Such an improvement from the ‘mainstream’ food pyramid advice that is so unhealthy. I study nutrition, and everything you’ve recommended is right on board with what I’ve learned. Thank you for posting this, I’ll be sure to pass it along to friends and mom clients!

  4. Andrea O  

    This really helps a momma “eat for two” in terms of nutritional quality! It’s that all important brain development phase (well, it’s development in all ways, anyway!) for babies so no surprise that healthy fats are so important. And definitely need to replenish by hydrating well. I can’t say enough of water, water, water. Keeping a bottle of water handy on a bedside table really helps with rehydrating when you’re bleary-eyed at 3am.

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