Postnatal and breastfeeding mums need to be well nourished – full-stop! This is essential for the long-term health of both mother and bub, yet many mums find themselves in a state of exhaustion and overwhelm. So today, I thought I’d share some guidelines and strategies to make sure you are supporting your own health and that of your precious baby.
Essentials for nourishing breastfeeding mums:
1) Drink plenty of water
Think of how a plant looks if it is not been watered – not much vitality right? You are no different; so you need to drink at least 2 litres of water (more if you are breastfeeding), sipped throughout the day, each and every day. This will help breast milk production and to ensure you feel your best.
2) Choose SLOW food
SLOW or Seasonal, local, organic (if possible) whole foods are your best choice. Seasonal and local foods are the cheapest, freshest and most nutritionally loaded foods. Please avoid all imported fresh produce as it has often been stored for long periods (so lacks nutrients) and is treated with a variety of chemicals before it enters the country. Organic is always optimal if it is available to you (based on reduced chemical loading for you and your baby). Whole – real foods, carefully prepared to retain their nutrition, are the only nourishing choice. Packaged and process foods, even when ‘organic’, have none of the nutrition or life force found in freshly prepared foods.
Check out the clean 15 list to help best direct your grocery budget.
3) Quality protein
Choose to eat pasture raised meats (such as 100% grass-fed and finished beef), organic chicken, fresh locally caught fish or organically farmed (avoid swordfish, shark/flake or anything imported), organic eggs, raw or activated nuts and seeds, quinoa and chia. More on protein here.
4) Good fats and only whole grains
Eat good fats including avocado, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, raw or activated nuts and seeds, chia, pastured meats and fish (as above). Also, choose whole grains over white, processed grains. So brown rice is a better choice than white. Wholegrain bread is more nourishing that white or wholemeal.
5) Balance your blood sugars
Eating regularly is important for breastfeeding mums both mentally (emotionally) and physically. Skipping meals will only hinder your milk supply, energy levels and mood.
Best to limit or avoid:
1) Processed foods which are all grossly lacking nourishment. Fresh is always best.
2) Caffeine including tea, coffee, caffeinated soft drinks and chocolate (even cacao). Babies are very caffeine sensitive, so if your baby doesn’t sleep well and you are ingesting caffeine, then it is best to stop. Caffeine also impedes the absorption of iron and most vitamins and minerals so is counterproductive to good nutrition.
3) Sugary treats are nutritionally ‘empty’ and again can stimulate your baby. They also cause blood sugar and mood disturbances.
4) Overloading on gluten can contribute to digestive disturbances in both mum and bub. As the gut is the foundation for good health (again mentally and physically), it is important to ensure it is as healthy as possible.
5) Parsley and sage are two herbs that can dry up breast milk. So best to avoid whilst you are lactating.
A word about bio-individuality
Each and every person is an individual. So whilst some breastfed babies are sensitive to brassicas (like broccoli and cauliflower), garlic, onions, dairy and other whole foods, I don’t believe these foods should be eliminated unless indicated.
1) Shop at the farmers market once a week and stock up on lots of nourishing, fresh, local and seasonal produce. When I shop at my farmers market weekly, I only need to visit the supermarket once a fortnight (when I stock up on basics like toilet paper, butter, cheese, oils etc). This saves time, money and energy!
2) Double up on everything you cook – one effort for twice the food. Doing this was my saviour in those early, tiresome postpartum months. I generally had the energy to pull together one decent meal, so I doubled it and that did me for subsequent meals (such as lunch the next day) or stocking the freezer for a future pear-shaped day.
3) Get it prepped when you’re feeling up to it – make the most of any time you are feeling energised and motivated to cook. I often prepped for dinner at lunch time, so come dinner time (when I generally started to fade) cooking was way less effort as the prep was done.
4) Keep it simple. Healthy meals don’t need to be complicated or gourmet. When you can’t be bothered, a simple piece of protein with steamed or baked vegetables or a salad is a beautiful, nutritionally balanced meal.