The constant worry that plays on a new mothers mind, ‘is my baby getting enough?’. There is so much information out there, midwives saying one thing, obstetrician saying another. The unfortunate reality is that our medical teams are so poorly trained in nutrition, sometimes they do not even give it a second thought.
Lucky for you though, I am obsessed! I love the ins & outs (literally) of food. The little biochemical pathways that make up the human body, and the teeny tiny nutrients that makes every cell work. They make our hearts beat, our lungs breathe, and our mammary glands produce milk. Insane. We don’t even have to tell our breasts to secrete milk, it just happens (of course you have to of had a baby for this magical process to be kick started).
It starts with the production of colostrum, liquid gold. The first few days after a woman gives birth, this magical substance helps to nourish our baby. The amount actually produced is so small, and it’s because the baby has the tiniest stomach. About the size of a 5cent coin, not very big at all. But boy is it a powerhouse of nutrients. Completely rich with protein, carbohydrates, fat, antibodies, vitamins and minerals, it is yellowish in colour and kick-start a newborns digestive system, providing the baby with life saving properties. It’s usually secreted for the first 72 hours until the ‘milk comes in’. A baby can survive quite nicely on it until the milk is ready.
Then comes the milk. The unfamiliar feeling for a first time mum of your breasts filling up, becoming swollen and feeling quite different. Our bodies know what to do and our babies instinctively know what to do too. It’s mind-blowing that the milk we make in our breasts, grows a small baby. It nurtures development, grows hair and nails, repairs skin, keeps the heart beating and the feet kicking. And it comes from us mums. Unbelievable. The body just does it, in the mammary tissue, without us telling it to. I’ve read some very scientific articles about the process, but it’s really confusing and you really have to know your biology to understand it!
A babies gut is brand new, so brand new it is sterile just before a baby is born. What helps a baby’s gut to get ready for the big wide world is being born vaginally, this way the baby comes into contact with the micro bacteria needed to colonise their gut and jump-start them into a world of ‘good gut bacteria’. This is also helped by skin to skin contact with a newborn, from both the mama and the papa. Mums breast milk also helps to pass beneficial bacteria to help the infants gut.
So I believe what WE eat, is what our baby eats. The food we nourish ourselves with eventually is converted to breast milk, all those nutrients, all those minerals and vitamins we don’t even realise we are consuming. It’s obvious this is what happens as you can see certain outbreaks of intolerance in babies when mum consumes certain foods, for eg eczema on a breastfed baby can be linked to mum having dairy in her diet.
Let’s eat well then! Let’s truly nourish ourselves to nourish our babies, helping them to not just grow, but to thrive.
What helps our milk production?
The key is food! and lots of it. Good, wholesome, nutrient dense food. You want to be consuming enough so that your stores are not depleted to provide your infant with the necessary nutrients. If your intake is inadequate, then the reserves your body stores will be used. Key nutrients to consume are iodine, selenium, folate, omega 3, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B, B5, B6, B and B12, and vitamin K
Also adequate sleep is important (yeah right, I have a newborn!). So the old saying ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’ is gold. It’s true. Nothing is more important than your sanity and your baby’s food. So give your partner the crying baby and catch some shut-eye.
Drink PLENTY of filtered water. Guzzle it! Have a special drink bottle constantly filled, and have it handy to your when you feed. Of course it’s important to get the ok from your midwife that you are able to drink plenty, I had issues with bladder control and had to limit my intake to 1 glass per hour until I could manage my bladder.
Breastfeed often: the more you feed the more you will produce.
Quantities you ask? Well considering you are burning over 600calories a day just producing milk, you are able to eat to your heart’s content. I’m not about numbers and measures, and I don’t find you have to be too sensible when you are EATING WELL and NOURISHING yourself. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t let people tell you what to do. You follow your instinct and you will feel just fine. It is more important that you eat, less important to worry about the scales.
Accept help for cooking! Ask your mother to make you food, say YES to the neighbour offering to feed you!
Food to help nourish YOU & grow your baby:
Oats do the job! Good old-fashioned porridge. Brewers yeast! A funky tasting substance that really enhances our milk production. And some clever person has made yummy cookies that contain some awesome ingredients to help stimulate breast milk production: you can grab a recipe here http://www.bellybelly.com.au/breastfeeding/lactation-cookies#.VLnwUWSUe1Q
There is also a small selection of herbs that are beneficial to milk production, commonly used is fenugreek, chaste tree and fennel seeds. See a qualified naturopath or herbalist to prescribe the correct dose for you.
3/4 cup oats
1 cup almond milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mesquite powder
1/2 cup of frozen berries
Mix the oats with the almond milk and heat in a saucepan on stove top. Should thicken up, you can always add more milk and keep stirring until its thick and creamy. Add cinnamon, mesquite and frozen berries. Once mixed well take off heat. I always add some more almond milk and a sprinkle of coconut sugar! This is totally optional! If you want more, then add more oats and almond milk. I usually have a massive bowl to keep me going all morning.
It’s also a good time to add a smoothie to your breakfast, and you can power pack that with green leafy veggies to boost nutrient intake, and let YOUR body benefit from the endless health bonuses greens give us.
My basic Green Smoothie Recipe:
1 handful of spinach (sometimes i slightly steam it, otherwise it can be hard on our thyroid)
1 Cup of filtered water.
Throw it all in the blender, and presto! yum yum!
You can add anything to this base…berries, powders, coconut, avocado, cucumber, lemon…tailor it to your taste!
Lunch and Dinner ideas?
Salads, slow cooked casseroles, meat loaf, potatoes, soups, sourdough, pate, bone broths, sauerkraut (add that baby to every meal), eggs (finally you can enjoy them runny again!),
Stock up on food in the house so you have plenty to grab. Breastfeeding takes time, having a newborn takes time. You really don’t want to be fussing around making fancy meals for yourself!
I can sing a rainbow…eat a rainbow of food to maximise your nutrients and get the benefits from coloured foods (antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients)
Ramp up the Red: Strawberries, tomatoes, capsicums, beetroot, raspberries,
Go Green: lettuce (cos, iceberg), rocket, spinach, kale, avocado, cucumber, capsicum,
Mellow Yellow: capsicum, lemons, corn, mango
Mix and match your food, throw in mango on a chicken salad. Make the salad huge! Sprinkle with nuts and seeds and always always always dress a salad with good quality olive oil…some of those nutrients need fat to be absorbed!
A great way to get prepared is to start freezing meals in the weeks that lead up to birth. Then they are there, ready to eat
EAT FAT! and lots of it. Your baby needs the benefits from fats to grow their brains. Fish oil, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil. Don’t be shy. Fat is the new skinny, and there is plenty of research out there showing us that we needn’t be scared of fat anymore, that is WHAT OUR BODIES NEED!
MEAT: I love grass feed, organic meat, but I know it’s pricey. You can get around this by buying it on special, freeze it! The reason is what the animals eat, becomes what we eat, and what we eat our babies eat. Try organ meats for truly boosting your B vitamin intake, and the awesome iron content.
BONE BROTH: my all time favourite ingredient. Ok I love sauerkraut equally. But you can cook everything in bone broth (Stock) to boost the micronutrient content of anyfood…think rice, chicken, quinoa. Here Bubbayumyum gives us any easy home-made broth recipe: if anyone asks you if you need anything..tell them YES make me this! http://www.bubbayumyum.com/?offset=1398682345809
SAUERKRAUT: The guts friend. Eat it to boost your healthy gut bacteria, and improve your immune system on the way! Good gut health is just the be all and end all of a healthy body. http://nourishedkitchen.com/homemade-sauerkraut/
Processed foods. Ever heard the rule about shopping around the perimeter of a supermarket? This is a good rule! It’s because it’s where all the real food, and we like real food. The aisles are full of boxes of so-called food. Sure you can grab your dried herbs and rice, but the nutrient dense goodies aren’t in the aisles. I’m sure I don’t need to harp on how full of sugar, salt and ingredients we can’t even pronounce the aisles are. Just AVOID. For your baby’s sake.
Keep track of your baby’s body, and if anything seems to be amiss, track it back to the food you are eating. Keep a symptom and food diary to pin point any culprits.
Excessive levels of alcohol (I’m all for the well-timed cheeky glass of vino)
So hopefully this gets you started, this makes you excited and this makes you think about nourishment.
Extra Green Fritata: http://www.drlibby.com/recipe/extra-green-frittata/
Something Sweet, something easy: http://www.drlibby.com/recipe/brain-balls/
Quick & easy: https://www.thehealthychef.com/2012/04/chilli-con-carne/
Make your own milk: https://www.thehealthychef.com/2011/07/almond-milk/
Good health and nourishment
(please feel free to contact me for nutrient specific queries)
Hechtman. L (2012) Clinical naturopathic medicine. Elsevier, Australia.