Breastfeeding. Just the word alone can gives us chills. Something so natural, something that women have been doing for a million years, can give a grown woman nightmares. There is so much information available, not to mention women who love to share their stories (successful or not) that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and focus on the negative.
We’ll be tacking breastfeeding basics on a later post but today, we’ll focus on nutrition while breastfeeding. We know you burn a ton of calories breastfeeding which we can mistake to mean, “I can eat more of everything!” In reality, nutrition and breastfeeding go hand in hand.
We sat down to discuss this topic with Mandy Levy who, with her sister Carly, runs Nutritional Wisdom Kids. She breaks down everything we need to know about maintaining a healthy diet while breastfeeding. Photo by Alysha Rainwaters
Nursing Mom’s Nourishment Q&A
OK- so you’re not a human incubator anymore, congrats! Those last couple of weeks totally sucked. Let’s take a tally; you have regained the ability to sleep on your back, but you will probably never sleep through the night soundly again. Hmm. You no longer have a giant creature inhabiting your insides, but your body is now a hard working dairy farm. Well, I’d say it’s a draw.
Now I’m not going to get on my breast feeding soap box. We all know the deal.
Fact: It is literally the one and only free thing about having a child.
Fact: No other liquid can come close to it’s amazingness.
Fact: Your nipples are freakin killing you. (That goes away eventually I promise.)
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
What types of foods should we be eating to support breastfeeding?
No matter if you’re preggo, nursing, trying to lose weight, gain weight or just plain ol’ maintain sanity, I urge you to eat consciously. This means eating whole, unadulterated foods from the earth, only when you are hungry. There is no such thing as the perfect breast feeding “diet”. Eat the food that makes you feel good! Listen to your stomach, and make sure you are getting ENOUGH calories. Milk production is like a cardio kick boxing class, in terms of calorie burn. That means that if you don’t have much fuel, you wont make much milk. This is not the time to start calorie cutting to fit back into those skinny jeans. You once had a waist, then it disappeared for a while, soon it will be back, don’t sweat it. Also, what other time in your life can you hook your leaky boobs up to a pump and sit on your ass while burning calories? Pump up the jam pump it up! And if you don’t get that reference Im officially old.
Ok fine, then what foods should we avoid while breastfeeding?
Again, just eat normally. If you have an especially gassy kiddo, (aka crying all day till you want to pull each hair out of your scalp individually) try avoiding gas-producing things such as cruciferous veggies, garlic, onions, and spicy foods.
How much water should we be drinking?
Same as always! (Anyone sensing a theme here?) Take your (current ACTUAL) body weight- no sense lying to ourselves ladies. Cut that number in half. Drink that amount of ounces daily. More, if you feel thirsty. And yes, you will have to pee ALL DAMN DAY.
Is it safe to drink coffee while breastfeeding?
I truly wish I didn’t have to tell you this, but NO. Especially considering that it is the most mind meltingly- tired time of your life, but the cold (ooh cold brew so yummy) hard facts don’t lie.
“Caffeine is an addictive, stimulant drug that passes easily through the placenta to your developing baby. It is also transferred through breast milk. In babies (newborns and unborn), the half-life of caffeine is extended. It stays in your baby longer, and a developing infant has no ability to detoxify caffeine.” -Dr. Mercola (who knows everything)
We’ve also read that babies can have intolerances to foods their moms eat while breastfeeding. Is this something to consider when you start breastfeeding or should you wait and see how the baby reacts? How will we know if the baby is having an intolerance?
Ok slow your roll here. The truth is that all babies are born with immature digestive systems. I mean they were nourished through a tube to the belly button untill now for f*@#s sake. How would you feel?! My advice is to be patient (possibly ignore your pediatrician and then be even more patient!). My first kid chugged milk like a frat boy doing a keg stand, and then immediately barfed it up all over himself (me) everyday for the better part of a year. All of the clothes I owned had a yack stain on the left shoulder. It wasn’t pretty.
According to the experts; A very few babies (two to three in 100) are actually allergic to foods in their moms’ diets. The most common offender is cow’s milk; others are soy, nuts, wheat and peanuts. In addition to extreme fussiness and crying, babies who have a real food allergy will display other symptoms, including:
- Occasional to frequent vomiting
- Loose, watery (or mucousy) stools (possibly tinged with blood)
- Lack of weight gain
- Eczema, hives, wheezing and/or nasal discharge or stuffiness
If think your child might have a food allergy, and especially if you have a family history of allergies, talk to your doctor. He or she will likely recommend eliminating a potential problem food for two to three weeks to check if it’s truly the culprit.
What can we consume to increase breast milk production?
Every nursing Mom goes through peaks and valleys with their production. Number one, don’t stress! It’s so hard to believe this, (especially as a first time mom) but you have the ability to make the exact amount of milk your baby needs at any given stage of development. PLEASE don’t supplement with formula!!! Seriously! The absolute best thing you can do to make more milk, is nurse more!Or pump in between feedings. Its not fun but what part of parenting is? Ok there are some parts. A few.
To increase production through supplementation look for Organic Mother’s milk tea, or supplements containing; fenugreek, fennel and red raspberry leaf.
I have personally had luck with drinking one (small) dark, stout, type of beer. I don’t love beer, or alcohol in general, but I gotta say it did work. That leads me to the next question…..
Can we drink alcohol in moderation while breastfeeding?
Well the experts don’t all agree on this one. So let’s talk science. Does alcohol pass into breast milk? Yes. And it peaks around 30-90 minutes after consumption. Now, is one glass of wine going to kill your new born, or is it just going to make them sleep for an extra hour? You’re pediatrician may say one thing, while your Italian grandma has a whole other opinion. Here’s what I think. You haven’t had a drink in almost a year, one glass of wine, or beer will get you shwasted! No need to go beyond that. If you feel unsure, but need a head buzz before you go ape shit, try this. Nurse your final feeding before bed time and then tuck that stinker in. Have your glass of pure, adult freedom and savor every sip! An hour later, pump it out. If you want, dump it. If you want to experiment on your little guinea pig, mark it with a red dot and freeze it. When your partner gives it to Jr. in a bottle, (what? YOU fed it to em not me!) watch closely to see if mini-you looks extra happy, is slurring their coos, or seems to find you more attractive than usual. There, now you know.
If we absolutely, positively must find an alternative to breast feeding, what are the options?
When it comes to motherhood in general, you just can’t plan for everything. Shit happens (and sometimes it happens on your arm). When extenuating circumstances inhibit you from the natural method of breastfeeding, your options may seem grim. And they are, because formula is the pits!! I have researched every single brand on the market and I have been horrified 97% of the time. If you currently have some of that conventional brand stuff, I beg to drop your phone and go read the ingredients label. NOW! If you see the words corn syrup, soy, palm oil or ANYTHING unpronounceable, throw that junk in the trash! Yes, it is expensive as hell but it is still trash. I wish that I could give you a shining glimmer of hope with the concept of breast milk banks. Sadly, by law they are mandated to pasteurize the milk which essentially kills all of the nutrients in it. So unless you have a neighbor with a kid close in age to yours, with explosive milk boobies who wants to pump her little heart out for you, or maybe your local hippie doctor knows someone? UGH forget it. I did manage to find ONE brand of formula that doesn’t contain anything offensive in it. Here it is my lovelies:
Where and how can I find more reliable (and oh so witty) info?
With a topic this important, its hard to feel satiated by one blog alone. Please check out our recommended sources for further reading.
This book: Nourishing Traditions
This know-it-all: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/breastfeeding
Motherhood is a long and exhausting journey. Whenever you are in a state of overwhelm, I beg you to take a pause. Recognize yourself for being a bad ass B with the ability to create life! Pretty crazy. Now breathe deeply and know, you will have triumphs and pitfalls, and it will all happen before 6am. Once you become a Mom, life begins to pass by at the speed of lightening! So slow down, enjoy the belly laughs and just keep reading baby.
Find more information on Mandy and Nutritional Wisdom Kids visit the website here