I remember that as a first time mother I had zero knowledge of real food nutrition. I stocked up on store brand, artificially thickened and colored, sugar laden yogurts as my go-to nursing snack. Boy did I regret that decision!
It took us MONTHS to figure out why our son wouldn’t nurse properly. Why he would scream and cry almost every night, until he passed out from exhaustion. I felt like a horrible failure.
What I didn’t know was that my son had a severe dairy allergy. And those yogurts were the culprit.
It wasn’t just the yogurt though. We lived off of prepackaged foods like hamburger helper, hot dogs and boxed cereal.
Knowing what I know now, I’ll be doing things completely different with our next baby.
What You Eat, Baby Eats
We all want to be the best mothers we can be and nourish our little ones as they develop. I’ve found the Weston A. Price Foundation’s (WAPF) nutrition guidelines for pregnant and nursing mothers to be a great resource in helping learn how to have a healthy pregnancy and how to boost the nutrition of breastmilk.
This real food lifestyle encourages nutrient dense foods, especially animal foods which are rich in fat soluble vitamins. Instead of eating chicken breast every night and “healthy” whole grain cereal for breakfast every morning, you’re eating nutritionally complete foods.
It’s very important that these come from grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free animals. Pastured products contain vitamin K2, which is vital for proper calcium absorption in the body. You can see the complete nutritional guidelines here, but below is a small example of WAPF recommended food and supplements.
- Cod liver oil
- Egg yolks
- Butter, cream and raw milk
- Fresh liver
- Fermented beverages like milk or water kefir and kombucha.
- Soaked whole grains. Especially sourdough because it’s fermented!
As a nursing mother, it’s very important to especially increase your iron and protein intake. Breastfeeding burns about 200-600 calories a day, so make sure you not only have enough calories, but that they’re nutritious ones.
Even though I don’t agree with all of their food suggestions, the Mayo Clinic offers nutritional guidelines based off of the reasoning that mother’s milk can be naturally enriched.
Herbs To Boost Breastmilk Nutrition
Besides diet, herbs are a great way to make sure breastmilk is packed full of nutrition for your little one. Herbs are full of vitamins and minerals that not only help you meet your nutritional needs, but in turn enrich breastmilk for your baby.
NUTRITIVE HERBS FOR ENRICHING MOTHER’S MILK
- Raspberry leaf – “is a richly nutritive uterine tonic herb high in minerals that are helpful for good milk production and useful to strengthen postpartum and breastfeeding women.”- EMAB. High in iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium and niacin among others. 9gm dried leaf in 45ml water
- Rose hips – High in vitamins A and C, which breastmilk is typically low in. Our bodies don’t store vitamin C, so it’s one we need to take every day. 9gm fruit in 8 oz water
- Oatgrass – Rich source of minerals and used to balance the menstrual cycle. very high in chromium, magnesium, silicon and organic sodium. One of the best sources of magnesium. 2.5 gm in 8 oz water
- Stevia – high in chromium manganese, magnesium selenium silicone and vitamin A. 1 tsp is 8 tsp sugar
- Hibiscus flowers – Very high in selenium, one of the best sources of chromium silicon and manganese Very tasty. 1 gm dried flowers in 8 oz water
- Alfalfa – very high in vitamins and minerals, especially fiber, niacin, protein, riboflavin, potassium and vitamins A and C
- Nettle – contains iron calcium vitamin a. Enriches and increases milk. 4.5 gm in 23 ml water
- Take vitamin C and iron together for better iron absorption
HERBS TO AVOID WHEN BREASTFEEDING
Certain herbs should be avoided while nursing, as they can affect the baby. For example, some sources report that St. John’s Wort can cause colic and lethargy. Any herb that will cause your body to detox should also be avoided, since the toxins can be released through the milk. There are also some herbs that should be avoided during nursing as they can diminish breast milk supply. An example of an herb that can decrease breast milk is large, frequent doses of sage.
This free Earth Mama Angel Baby ebook contains a good list of herbs to avoid while nursing. It’s a must-have for nursing mamas everywhere!
Other Factors That Affect The Quality Of Breastmilk
GET OUT IN THE SUN
We all know how important it is to get our daily dose of vitamin D. It’s hard to get enough sunlight sometimes, especially in the winter months so it’s helpful to supplement. I like using Green Pasture’s fermented cod liver oil because it’s recommended by the WAPF as a quality, real food source of the vitamin.
Modern breastmilk is deficient in vitamin D, so many doctors recommend giving supplemental drops to the infant or using a fortified formula. However, this article from Creighton University states;
“If we give nursing mothers enough vitamin D to bring their blood levels up to the likely ancestral levels, then they automatically put all of the vitamin D their baby needs into their own milk.”
So how much do nursing mamas need? Even though 400 IU/d is recommended for the average person, 5,000 to 6,000 IU/d will supply enough for both mama and baby.
Being a new mama can be tough, but it’s still important to look after your health. Your little one is depending on you for their nutrition!
Be sure to rest, do things you love and keep a positive attitude to decrease anxiety. I know it’s easier said than done. Believe me, I’ve been there. But this will help keep you and your baby emotionally and physically healthy.
This is a great way to get brief periods of time alone to relax with the help of aromatherapy no matter how many children you have in your house!
Can You Really Make Breastmilk Better?
Some people claim that breastmilk is the perfect food and that no matter what the mother eats the baby will be fine. The study above though clearly shows that adequate amounts of vitamin D in the mother will enrich the milk supply and provide what baby needs. It’s also been shown that strong foods like garlic will flavor the milk and foods like cabbage can make baby gassy. Logically it can be concluded that what a mama eats will come through in her milk.