It’s a well known fact that breastfeeding offers the perfect bonding opportunity between mother and baby. However, it is also a crucial opportunity to nourish your newborn with the perfect nutrients for their growing brain and body, and protect them from infections and diseases now and in the future.
With that in mind, our expert naturopath and nutritionist Sara Jackson has put together 5 top tips on how to keep you and your baby in good health whilst breastfeeding:
Eat Healthy Fats
Did you know that a healthy mother’s breast milk is made up of 60% fat? The good kind of course. Therefore, when breastfeeding, you need to make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats to keep you and your baby going.
Try eating plenty of grass-fed beef and chicken and lots of wild SMASH fish (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon and herring). For vegetarians, eggs are a great quick way to boost your nutrients and if you are a vegan, you should include a daily handful of nuts and seeds and half an avocado into your diet.
These foods are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 oils which are crucial for brain development – so aim for oily fish (or an appropriate supplement) 2 or 3 times a week to help your baby along to becoming the next Einstein!
Breakfasting For Energy (& Getting Back Into Shape!)
When you have been up all night tending to your newborn, it's hard to think about having a nutritious breakfast. So, why not try adding a teaspoon of coconut or flaxseed oil into a smoothie? This is a super quick and nutritious breakfast or snack option which will boost your energy levels instantly!
And don’t worry – consuming good fats like the ones mentioned above will actually help you get back in your pre-baby jeans faster. This is because eating the right fats (especially fish or identical supplements) increases your body’s sensitivity to leptin, the main hormone for telling your brain how hungry you are, which in turn helps you feel fuller for longer.
To keep you and your baby in good health whilst breastfeeding, it's essential to optimize milk flow and support both body systems by staying well hydrated. It isn’t necessary to practically drown yourself in gallons of water, but you should aim for at least 1-1.5 litres of filtered water a day.
Why not try keeping a bottle of water around you are all times? New mums are often so busy and on a such a weird time-clock that they forget to eat and drink, so having a bottle of water around at all times should help remind you.
For religious tea drinkers, note that herbal teas count towards water intake, but not normal teas or coffees, as numerous studies have proven they can decrease the hydration levels in your body!
Get Your Vitamin D
A 2011 study from Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research in Australia showed that Vitamin D insufficiency can negatively affect fetal brain development. Vitamin D is not very easily absorbed from foods, and not all of us are lucky enough to live in countries where the sun is a regular visitor!
Particularly during winter, it may be a good idea to take Vitamin D supplements if you are not regularly seeing sunlight; the UK Department of Health recommends that all breastfeeding mothers take a daily Vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms.
If you do see sun, make the most of it! Just 20 minutes a day of exposing your bare arms, neck and face to moderate sunshine (with no sun cream on) is enough to top up your Vitamin D stores. Hop outside with your baby too, but stick to short bursts of skin-friendly early morning or afternoon indirect sun to be safe.
If you have trouble producing enough milk, a few tried and tested known galactagogues (foods which increase milk production) to try are fenugreek seeds which are widely available in health shops, and fennel, which you can take as a tea, keeping your hydration up at the same time!
Black strap molasses are also a great nutrient-dense natural sweetener full of essential iron and calcium that new mothers often lack. You can add it to your tea or porridge or even bake with it, and it is also widely available in a supplement form.
We hope these tips to keep you and your baby in good health whilst breastfeeding help you relax and enjoy your precious time with your newborn, all the while knowing that you are taking the right steps to staying happy and healthy for you both!