The Breastfeeding Nutrition Basics
Ideally, all of our diets should include a variety of foods that are packed with the nutrients that our bodies thrive on. Most of us survive just fine on less-than-ideal foods when we are only nourishing our own bodies. When your body is a milk factory, your nutrient stores are affected, especially if you are breastfeeding exclusively. However, it is not necessary to adhere to a strict regimented diet to produce breast milk. In fact, a mom’s nutrition does not affect the ability to breastfeed or the quality of her breast milk.
Breast milk is produced by your mammary glands, not the food that you eat. The hormone prolactin triggers the alveoli within your breasts to draw in sugars, nutrients, and fat from your blood stream (originating from your nutritional intake and body stores) to make breast milk. When you are breastfeeding, you are giving the gift of nutrients and antibodies through your milk regardless of your diet if you are listening to your body (eating when your body is hungry and drinking fluids when it’s thirsty). Nature is a wondrous thing. When the alveoli are drawing from sources within your body (nutritional intake and body stores) to make milk, the result is a nutrient-rich diet for your baby. The breast milk has first dibs on your nutrient stores. As a result, you have in essence transferred your nutrition to your baby.
Your baby is thriving on your goodies, but this leaves you at a nutritional deficit. Your child is sucking you dry, leaving your body to live on the leftovers. Breastfeeding exclusively taps your nutritional stores. You can replace what you have lost without a complicated or expensive diet. Optimal breastfeeding nutrition can be achieved by paying attention to your body’s signals of hunger. If you’re looking for a list of rules and regiments here, I am going to disappoint you. Rules and I have never really gotten along and they aren’t valuable here. What can be valuable are some guidelines and breastfeeding recipes.
Eating an extra 400-500 calories per day will help with energy lags. It is not necessary to count calories. If you listen to your body, it will tell you when it’s hungry. You may have noticed that your appetite is slightly higher than it was prior to pregnancy. This is due to your body burning calories to make your milk factory operate.
Most people are deficient in Vitamin D due to our culture and diets. If your body is already Vitamin D deprived, your baby is getting what you do have first. This can leave you susceptible to infections such as mastitis. Your body can receive a boost from an organic Vitamin D(3) supplement. Even if your Vitamin D intake is adequate, this special vitamin cannot be activated without exposure to sunlight. Make it a point to spend some time outdoors each day.
Breastfeeding Exclusively= Greater Nutritional Demands
If you are breastfeeding exclusively, supplements can fill in the gaps of your diet, but what you may not know is that the combination and timing of these suppplements effects absorption. (Links below are organic supplements)
- Calcium: 1,000 mg (take alone with no other supplements)
- Vitamin D(3): 4000-8000 IU (take with the most fatty meal of the day)
- Iron: 60-120 mg (Make sure that your supplement has vitamin C for absorption
Constipation can be an unwelcome companion after your baby arrives due to affected muscle tone after childbirth, fluid loss or dehydration, and the fact that most of our diets do not come close to the recommended 25 grams of fiber per day. Calcium and iron supplements can worsen constipation. Taking an organic fiber supplement can help, along with drinking water while your baby nurses and getting regular exercise.
Cooking food that contains the breastfeeding nutrition that moms need can be something that the whole family benefits from. I have found some cookbooks that have great recipes to nourish the nursing mom: