You are superwoman. Hear us out. You’ve spent ~40 weeks of your life growing a human being, ladies! This means you’ve been gifted with the strength to survive sleepless nights, morning sickness, violent 3am food cravings and, oh yeah, bringing said human being into this world. And now you’re inducted into the world of breastfeeding, providing life-sustaining nourishment for those first crucial months of your newborn’s life.
Even with your pregnancy behind you, you’ve probably noticed persisting cravings. No, you’re not crazy. What you’re probably experiencing are appetites related to breastfeeding, and the hunger is real. But it’s also an area that can often go overlooked by new moms who choose to nurse and pump. While breastfeeding brings a litany of it’s own unique complications, one foundational guideline to remember as a newly nursing mother is simple: a well-nourished mom makes for a well-nourished baby.
So how to define ‘nourished?’ The good news is that your milk will probably be just right for your baby regardless of what you eat because your body knows exactly what nutrition your baby needs at each stage of development. We believe that keeping nutrition simple is best: maintaining balance and perspective in your approach to your postpartum nutrition will insure that your cravings get satisfied, and that your developing baby gets everything he or she needs.
As a suggested starting point, here are a list of superfoods for all you *superwoman *moms; food to provide you the energy and nourishment you need to help boost your milk supply along with a few items it may be helpful to avoid.
Drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day has shown to help milk supply volume while increasing energy. Make it easy for yourself by having a container of water within reach to sip throughout the day, especially during breastfeeding/pumping. But over 8 glasses of water a day can feel mundane. So, try infusing water with fruit or other natural flavors! And don’t forget, brothy soups as well as most fruits and vegetables can count toward your water intake. The key is to make hydration an integral part of your entire day.
Oats are a completely natural whole grain. Because oats are high in fiber, a bowl of oatmeal will keep you fuller longer and may help increase your milk supply. Oats are also high in iron which can help fight against deficiency-induced anemia, common to new moms and linked to issues with milk volumes. Oatmeal has many other properties that help hydrate and strengthen sensitive skin and even promote healthy and regular digestion for both you and baby.
Whether wild or farm-raised, this tasty fish might be the perfect meat for breastfeeding moms. An excellent source of protein, salmon is rich in vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show may help reduce symptoms of postpartum depression. Salmon is also one of the few naturally occurring sources of vitamin D, a common deficiency among women. This fatty fish also contains generous amounts of DHA, an important fat that plays a leading role in the development of a newborn’s nervous system.
In the land of superfoods, dark green and leafy vegetables are king. Not only are they rich in minerals and vitamins A, C, E, and K, they’re powerful agents of fiber and antioxidants. Balanced properly, you can even achieve your daily calcium needs. This can be especially helpful for mothers weary of animal products. When you get right down to it, there isn’t much these superfoods *can’t *do. Chopped in a fresh salad? Blended with fruit into a smoothie? Expertly hidden in lasagna or an omelette or a plate of brownies (it’s a thing)? The sky’s the limit. And the reward is just as reaching.
These fiber-rich little morsels (kidney, black, pinto, fava, etc.) boost your digestive system and provides excellent sources of iron, protein, minerals and phytochemicals. So throw a lentil chili in the slow cooker for dinner or add chickpeas to your salad and see the wonders they behold. Beans. The magical fruit.
Looking for a sweeter alternative for dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium? We may have found the perfect fit. Apricots. Eating apricots gives you all that goodness and can also increase prolactin (the milk-promoting hormone your body produces), which can be very helpful during bouts of “low-flow” milk production. Fresh, whole apricots are obviously the best option, although canned apricots can be just as beneficial (granted they’re canned in water or natural juices and not sugary syrup). And as a mom on the go, dried apricots provides a healthy and yummy snack that’s both mobile and convenient.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, peanuts, cashews, and walnuts are all packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. And the protein and fiber they also pack means you’re able to feel fuller longer, stave off harsh cravings, and nourish your body and milk supply all at once. Didn’t think it could get better than that? Nuts and seeds also protect you from heart disease and promotes healthy, age-defying skin.
One thing to note: If your family history suggests a likelihood of nut allergies, talk to your pediatrician with any concerns.
Basil, fennel, blessed thistle, fenugreek and essential oils have been shown to increase milk supply. While many herbs can sound more like potions than natural supplements, your neighborhood drugstore or pharmacy should carry most breastfeeding herbs. But tread with open eyes in regards to any non-pharmaceutical method and/or home remedies for increasing milk supply. You should consult your pediatrician or family physician before beginning any herbal regimen. It’s also important to note that everyone responds differently to these supplements and can wait days or even weeks before recognizing their medicinal effect.
Any medical professional or experienced mom will tell you that breastfeeding comes with a period of adjustment, for both you and baby. However, if your baby displays persistent fussiness or discomfort beyond what is reasonably normal, she may be displaying symptoms related to sensitivities or even allergies toward the food you’re eating.
Symptoms to watch for include inconsolable crying, wheezing, cold-like symptoms, rashes, constipation, diarrhea, or blood in her poop. It’s also important to monitor the symptoms’ proximity to feeding times. If you recognize a correlation, consult with your pediatrician.
Now, there’s no need to panic at every hint of your baby’s changing mood, sound, or color. Only about 3 in 100 newborns have food allergies and even less display noticeable, harmful symptoms. But you’re a supermom, so you’re well informed to alert yours and your baby’s doctor if you suspect an allergy, especially if similar allergies exist in your family history.
What to avoid
There are foods that can cause nutritional deficiencies or bodily inefficiencies for you, which could lead to lowered milk production and quality for baby. These items include excessive caffeine, mercury-rich fish, highly acidic fruits and juices, and overly-processed, chemical-dense foods. And due to alcohol’s dehydrating effect on the body (and its threat of harming your milk supply), moms should limit alcohol intake while breastfeeding.
Again, the general rule should be nothing more than, “a well-nourished mom makes for a well-nourished baby.” Understandably, the term “well-nourished” cannot be globally defined, there’s no golden rule that applies to everyone. Just as your nutritional goal should be to maintain balance and perspective, so should your overall approach to breastfeeding and pumping be. Balance should be applied to how you use your time as well as how you build your diet. Perspective should keep your daily goals focused on the big picture, even if all that means is simply getting out of bed before noon or shaving your legs *above *the knee this time. Just don’t be too hard on yourself. After all, you alone grew a perfect little human and are now that perfect little human’s main lifesource.
You are superwoman.