Me breastfeeding my 17 month old on my wedding day
Go and look at a formula tin. Look at the list of ingredients. There are loads. Your breasts make all these things PLUS way more. Isn't that miraculous. All by itself, without you thinking about it.
So where does it come from? Well it comes from what you eat and drink. Therefore you need to make sure you get all you need.
Really your baby will be okay, even if your diet is pretty 'poor'. But it'll be you that suffers as your reserves will run low if your diet isn't super nutritious. So really, this article is for you mamas.
So what's in your milk?
Well, you have all the fats, proteins, carbs, vitamins & minerals. As standard and you'd expect really. But there is also:
enzymes (aiding digestion & immune function)
prebiotics (aiding digestion)
immunoglobulins (help protect against disease!)
microRNAs (which help regulate how your babies genes are expressed. Which can help against disease later on in their lives!)
What's the first milk? The one that's golden brown?
Ahhh colostrum. The 'first milk'. This stuff is the donkey's doodahs. It is very concentrated as a newborns tummy is very small, the size of a marble, so they don't need a lot. This coats their intestinal lining (which needs coating as when they are born it is not quite sealed and is therefore vulnerable to bad bacteria).
It is also full of antibodies, it's likened to a natural vaccine as it does protect against certain diseases for a certain amount of time. It contains vitamin K, E and A too.
One more AWESOME thing about your milk. It changes DAILY to your babies needs. If they're sick, more antibodies are made. If it is a hot day, the milk has a higher water content. It defies belief (almost!).
So, going back to diet. Sorry, I got carried away with the awesome facts. Your body will do all the above without you thinking. But let's try and make THE BEST milk we can, but eating the best we can. Remember this article is for you mamas. We want you nourished as well as your baby.
Food Tips while breastfeeding:
1. Drink fluids. This one is obvious. Breastfeeding mamas get thirsty. I know, especially in those early weeks I drank near 4L per day. That may be too much for some, but drinking at least 2L of filtered water is a must.
2. Protein. According to the World Health Organisation, it's estimated that breastfeeding mamas need around 15-20g more protein per day. This is quite a lot, like 3 eggs. As a nutritional therapist I can say that most women I see don't eat enough protein anyway. So make sure you are.
Good sources: organic eggs, chicken, fish, lentils, chickpeas, hemp, sunflower seeds, quinoa, organic yogurt
3. Essential Fatty Acids. Now the one I am going to talk about here is omega 3, but specifically the DHA part. Our bodies do convert a LITTLE bit of fats into DHA but not enough. The only way to get this into our bodies is to eat it. The highest sources are from oily fish (wild salmon, sardines). However, there are various reasons why some women don't eat these (taste, veganism, worried about toxicity/heavy metals in fish).
So what I do suggest is taking a DHA supplement. If you are not vegan, I recommend Bare Biology Bump & Gory.
If you are vegan, I recommend Nothing Fishy
Omega 3 and DHA (and EPA) are super important and personally I think everyone should be taking them!
4. A variety of fruit & veg. Yeah we all know it's good for us. But really they are! Variety is key here. Think the rainbow. All the colours of the rainbow. Colours represent high amounts and different types of antioxidants in foods. So the more the better.
5. Snacking. I think having snacks is important while breastfeeding. I remember having to eat a Nakd bar in the middle of the night in those early weeks. But do try to eat high-protein snacks that include nuts, seeds, organic cheese, or yogurt. Rather than grabbing a biscuit which isn't very sustaining. Consuming cinnamon is a good idea too as it can help balance energy.
6. Calcium & iron. Make sure you include calcium and iron-rich foods.
Iron - red meat, spinach, apricots,
Calcium - organic milk and cheese from cows, sheep or goats. Sesame seeds.
7. Be cautious that something you're eating MAY be making your babies tummy sore. It is worth talking to your GP or lactation consultant about this. But I do advise keeping a food diary as some babies can be reactive to dairy, wheat and soy. Also things like caffeine and alcohol can affect some babies, but not all.
If you want some AMAZING pre-made snacks. Please visit The Pregnancy Food Company. My friend Laura started this company in 2016 and has designed some fabulous snacks and treats for breastfeeding mamas, pregnant mamas and busy mamas! There are made with real intent for nourishment, so check them out!
For more info on Breastmilk : https://www.medela.co.uk/breastfeeding/mums-journey/breast-milk-composition#reference
For breastfeeding support: https://www.lcgb.org/find-an-ibclc/
Written by Rosie - Nutritionist and Author of Birth Tear Support and The Bare Mum blog.