6 Top Foods For Thriving As A Breastfeeding Mum (or Mumma-to-be)
- Plant-based whole foods: These should make up the majority of your meals. A whole food is a food that’s name is its ingredient list: broccoli contains only broccoli, almonds, eggs etc. Ideally homegrown or organic, if this is not possible for you, wash your produce well. Whole foods are vitamin, mineral and nutrient power houses that provide your body with exactly what it needs to work optimally, fight off disease, recover and heal faster and give you sustained energy with balanced blood sugar levels. A stand out star is the sweet potatoes, enjoy them often. They are full of beta-carotene, fibre and vitamin A, they will support your immune system, support healthy infant development, improve digestion and encourage healthy blood sugar levels. Eat more plants, your body and Bub’s will thank you for it.
- High quality proteins: from animals and plant sources. Remember/; what has been put on and fed to your food is important, it ends up in your body and your baby’s. Aim for free-range animals fed a natural diet, raised without hormones or antibiotics, buy organic where possible. This means wild-caught fish, grass- fed livestock and non- factory farmed chicken. Buy organic nuts and seeds where possible, what has been sprayed on them you will absorb and pass onto bub. The amino acids in proteins are the building blocks of healthy cells and cell replacement (for you and your baby). They also provide you with many nutrients that are in high demand during pregnancy and breast feeding, including iron, B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus and many more important minerals and nutrients. The proteins you eat make antibodies for your baby’s immune system, become hormones and enzymes, help muscles function optimally, support oxygen transport in baby’s blood and support a healthy birth weight. A portion size is 3/4 of your palm and the thickness of it, it is important to eat protein at every meal.
- Healthy fats: Eating these will boost the nutritional content of your breast milk. It can be helpful to get the majority of extra calories required during breastfeeding from good quality fat sources. Omega-3 fats found in chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, wild-caught salmon, tuna, sardines and egg yolks, are necessary to enable complete development of the human brain during pregnancy and the first two years of life. They are essential to fully develop your child’s nervous system and immune system and prevent emotional, learning and immune system disorders. Flax seed oil has been reported to substantially increase milk production too. Good quality fats are vitally important for your health, happiness and feeling sated after meals too, they supply your body with plenty of what it needs to replace fats you provide your baby with during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is especially important to avoid trans fats (mainly found in processed foods and vegetable, seed and nut oils) to ensure you are replacing fats with what your body actually needs. Ideal sources of high quality fats are; avocado, oily fish (EPA and DHA), grass-fed butter and full fat grass-fed dairy products, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, eggs (ideally organic and free-range) and organic spirulina (incredibly high in gamma-linolenic acid, second in concentration only to breast milk). A portion size for healthy fats is at least the size of your thumb, much more if you eat a low carb diet.
- Fermented, live foods and drinks: are an awesome source of probiotics to add in more good bacteria to your gut, strengthening your and Bub’s immune system and improving health, digestion and the body’s ability to balance itself. Think fermented veggies, sauerkraut, kim chi, beet kvass and home-made pickles in brine, natural yoghurt and drink kombucha and kefir. A batch of home-made kombucha may contain over 50 strains of beneficial bacteria in the form of probiotics, enzymes and organic acids, it is so good for you it is called the “elixir of health” by many ancient cultures. If you are new to fermented, live foods and drinks work up slowly, from 1 tablespoon per day, to avoid any adverse gut reactions- such as what I call flip flop stomach- an uneasy feeling to extreme reactions such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, these can happen initially for some people as a reaction to the sudden flood of new bacteria and probiotics, this does not mean it doesn't suit you, just that you had too much the first time. If you'd like to learn how to brew Kombucha I run live workshops.
- Vitamin D: No it's not technically a food, it is in fact a hormone. It has been found to be vital in maternal health and infant health and development, it is also essential for reducing the risk of depression and anxiety in Mums, decreasing the risk of birth complications, reducing the risk of development of childhood allergies, eczema and asthma and improving bub’s immune system. It decreases the risk of impaired language development in your child and supports strong bone development in Bub. It is recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding Mums take 4000IU- 6000IU of Vitamin D3 per day, liquid capsules or liquid drops of Cholecalciferol is the best type. If you are not taking Vitamin D your baby will need to be given 800IU-1000IU per day, liquid drops are easiest, add them to food or drink or give with a spoon or dropper. For more info and links to articles on the abundant research on the benefits of Vitamin D3 check out my page on happywellandfed.com.au/vitamind
- Water: No, I know it’s not a food, but plenty of pure, filtered water is essential for your health, especially when you are breastfeeding. Adequate water intake, an extra litre per day, is usually needed to maintain your hydration and replace what you are losing through feeding. As a rule 1 litre of water is recommended per 20 kg of body weight, extra with sweating, exercise, warm weather and of course breastfeeding. Carrying a water bottle can be an efficient way to keep track of how much you’re drinking, you can even do this when at home. You can also get your water intake up with herbal teas, smoothies, juices and coconut water. Ensure your smoothies and juices are mostly vegetables so you aren’t hydrating yourself with pure fruit sugars with no fibre to slow their energy release. Being well hydrated will also encourage sufficient milk production, relieve headaches and improve your digestion. Drink up!
Written by Sophie Davidson, Occupational Therapist, Health and Wellness Coach for Borne Too Maternity Australia. If you would like more information, guidance or support to up-level your life and reach the awesome state of holistic health and happiness contact me firstname.lastname@example.org