Benefits of Breastfeeding and Tips to Help Your Journey
It’s national breastfeeding month so lets acknowledge and dig a little deeper into this beautiful process.
When you take a step back and look at breastfeeding for what it is...it’s truly amazing. Nourishing a human being from your own body.
First of all- Everyone has a different breastfeeding journey and I recognize that. Some easier than others.
There is no judgement if you chose not to breastfeed or if you chose supplementation or exclusive breastfeeding or exclusive pumping. You know what is best for you and your baby and every option comes with both joys and challenges.
A huge reason I became a dietitian is because I became a mom. I started out trying to learn how to better nourish my baby and my body while I was pregnant and my love of nutrition grew.
With my first child I thought breast-feeding would be easy (first time mom naiveness?). My daughter did well at first but then we started having issues due to lip and tongue ties, gut issues, my undiagnosed thyroid issues, returning to work and my supply decreasing. I sought the help of my midwives, lactation consultants, and chiropractor to help us fulfill this goal. It definitely wasn't easy all the time but we made it 2 years with some help of donor milk and goat milk at times too.
Fast forward to 4.5 years later to my second daughter. I figured it would be a breeze because I was much healthier this time around and I knew how to manage my health. I went back to work at 5 weeks postpartum and felt great, way better than I did when returning 12 weeks PP with my first. But as expected my supply tanked again even though I pumped while at work. Nothing helped. I tried all the teas, supplements, foods, you name it. I spent many nights crying, and even called off work several times because I couldn't keep up with the demand of milk my baby needed. I share this because certain people like myself that do everything right can still have problems producing enough milk. It's nothing we did wrong (someone needs to hear that right now). This time I was easier on myself and my child and once again turned to donor milk and with that help made in just over 2 years with this breastfeeding journey.
I personally had a goal of breastfeeding my children for 2 years because breastfeeding has so many benefits, for both mom and baby. Let's talk about some of those benefits...
Amazing breastfeeding facts:
Baby’s saliva actually communicates to the mother what nutrients he\she needs. The mother’s body responds by adjusting those nutrients in the breast milk. The milk can change as quickly as within the same feeding!
Baby’s can develop a taste for foods that are present in breast milk (and in utero, especially in the third trimester).
Studies showed that babies that were exposed (both in utero and through breastmilk) to specific foods were more likely to accept that food at age 6 months and beyond when whole foods were introduced compared to babies of mothers that did not consume that food. The takeaway? Consume a varied diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding if you want to make sure you don't have a picky eater
Baby receives antibodies from the mom to fight off infections and environmental stimulus
In 2018 it finally became legal to breastfeed in public in ALL 50 states!
Studies show that breastfed babies are less likely to get ear infections, respiratory infections and GI issues.
Nutrition also plays a significant role in supporting your body's ability to produce breast milk and the quality of milk for your baby.
If you are a breastfeeding mom (or soon to be) here are a few tips:
Consume enough calories!
You need to consume an extra 450-500 calories per day.
Example: Additional 2 snacks/day: Apple with nut butter + crackers and hummus
Drink to satisfy thirst. Even without breastfeeding you should be aiming for about 1/2 your body weight in oz each day. (ex. if you weight 150 lbs you should drink 75 oz of water each day)
Include foods that contain beta-glucans which increase prolactin (the breastfeeding hormone)
Include: whole grains, steel cut oats, barley (if not gluten free)
Consume foods that contain natural phytoestrogens which can increase milk production
Include: Whole Fennel, Fenugreek seeds (consult an RD or physician before using a supplement)
Other Foods thought to increase milk production include:
Papaya, Beets, Asparagus, Apricots
Avoid anti-lactogenic foods (foods that inhibit milk production)
Peppermint (in large amounts)
Possibly sage and parsley in larger quantities
Overall, eat a whole foods, nutrient dense diet that is diverse. Avoid foods that can hinder milk production and love up on your baby to create all the feel-good hormones you need to create more milk.
Please note that there are so many facets of breastfeeding and nutrition that I did not address all of them here. So if you have specific questions please comment or email me directly I would be happy to help you.
With Health and Happiness,