It's so easy in the excitement and busyness of having a new baby to forget to eat, let alone make sure you are getting enough calories and nutrients. We all know that we need to up our water intake, (approximately 8 glasses, less if you eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies), but little attention is paid to the nutritional toll making milk has on our bodies. It's always a good idea to eat small meals with healthy snacks in between to keep blood sugar levels even, your energy up and qualm hunger pains. Most women who are breastfeeding need an extra 500 calories per day, that's a total of around 2000 or 2500 calories per day. However, do yourself a Cavour and don't count calories, rather listen to your body and follow your hunger as a guide. Your body is amazing, and knows exactly how much you need to eat to keep your milk supply up, so start listening. First, lets take a quick look at what you should avoid:
- Caffeine - there are many myths surrounding how much caffeine is OK, I don't ingest caffeine at all as I am very sensitive to it, but, if you are particularly fond of your morning cuppa, it may be a good idea to do some research on the topic.
- Alcohol - alcohol makes its ways into your milk, and as little as one glass may interfere with your letdown reflex.
- Avoid saturated fat found in meat products and dairy products - these oils are bad for your health, and can change the fat composition of your milk, compromising baby's health.
- Avoid contaminants in your food and environment - eat organic, drink filtered or spring water and stop using chemical cleaners in your home.
- Absolutely no smoking or drugs other than those prescribed by your doctor, presuming they are safe for breastfeeding mothers.
Fish is a good source of protein, Omega 3 fats, DHA and EPA, but you need to choose fish wisely to avoid ingesting mercury. Omega 3 is used in the development of baby's brain and eyes, which continues after they are born, and DHA can help you avoid postpartum depression.
Minimize your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar, which causes a myriad of problems from upsetting your blood sugar levels to upsetting your hormone balance. Rather opt for wholewheat and unrefined versions of carbohydrates.
Get your calcium intake by avoiding dairy and upping your consumption of calcium rich foods such as broccoli, kale, parsley, watercress, pak choi and dandelion leaf. tahini, almonds, figs, nori, kelp and quinoa are also great sources of calcium. If we listen to the media, those of us omitting dairy from our diet are suffering from osteoporosis and bone fractures. But this simply isn't true. In fact, the opposite is true. Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. Like all animal protein, milk acidifies the bodies pH, and calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer. The body literally pulls calcium from your bones to neutralize the acidification from consuming dairy, it leaves your body via your urine.
Eat plenty of healthy fats such as avocados, chia seeds, extra-virgin cold pressed olive oil, nuts and seeds and everything coconut (coconut oil, meat and milk).
Eat iron-rich foods: Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in our society. However, iron toxicity can be serious, so you need to be careful about supplementing. Rather try to meet all your iron needs by eating iron rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, quinoa, pine nuts and flax seeds. Dark green leafy vegetables (preferably raw), broccoli (raw), wheatgrass juice, pistachios, goji berries and avocado are also great sources of iron.
Try to make your daily food intake 75% raw fruit and veg. The heat in cooking foods destroys most of its nutritional value, turns protein to an unusable and unhealthy form and robs food of most of its natural fluids. The body actually creates an immune response to cooked food called leukocytosis. Aim to eat nutrient-dense foods (fruits & veggies) rather than energy-dense foods such as bread and pasta which contains little nutritional value.
Make your diet as rainbow colored as possible! To make sure you are getting an array of vitamins and minerals, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables with come in an assortment of delightful colors, try to eat at least one of each color every day.
Get plenty of sun for your Vitamin D requirements and drink nettle infusions or tea.
Keep in mind, that there is no need to panic if you are already breastfeeding and haven't been following these guidelines, one of the wonders of breastmilk is that it can meet your baby's nutritional needs even when your diet isn't perfect. That being said, eating correctly and avoiding harmful substances will make 'the good stuff' even better! And, to meet the nutritional requirements of your baby, your body has been robbing your nutrient stores, so now is the time to start eating properly and take a good multivitamin and multimineral.