For the breastfeeding mamas
How to optimise your nutrition
By Rochelle Serna
BSc (Child and Family Development)
Let’s talk food.
Between the lack of sleep, constant nursing, & endless hours spent soothing, eating well (or at all) can easily end up on the bottom of the priority list for postpartum mamas.
Our bodies intuitively understand the demand on time & brainpower that we experience after birth, & do their best to store energy reserves (otherwise known as “baby weight”) during pregnancy. These reserves help primarily sustain us through those rough first weeks (so give those new mama curves some love!)
While it’s wonderful that nature prepares us that way, eating well is extremely important while healing from birth & nourishing an infant. My goal is to give you some nutritious tools to help empower your postpartum experience!
One of my favourite things to do is study breast milk composition (using index finger to push up my nerd glasses). The nutrients in breast milk are a priceless indication of what we need in order to nourish our babies.
Let’s take a look:
Macronutrients (calorie providing nutrients):
- .08-.09% protein (roughly .7% of total calories)
- 3-5% fat (roughly 36% of total calories)
- 7% carbohydrates (roughly 63% of total calories [as lactose sugars])
The remaining 88%*:
- minerals (mostly sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, & chlorine)
- all vitamins-except K
- amino acids (up to 6% of breastmilk is CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, an essential amino acid)
- about 600 different strains of bacteria, which help to build the gut. The high lactose content, which makes the milk sweet, feeds & grows the healthy bacteria
*there are many, many components, these are just a notable few.
When we think about the nutrients needed to build a baby, & those required through our breast milk in order to grow that sweet baby, it’s easy to understand how a deficiency can arise.
For example, the foetus demands high amounts of calcium in the third trimester while he or she experiences dramatic skeletal growth. If mama is not getting enough calcium in her diet, the baby will “borrow” this precious mineral from mothers bone stores. You can also see (above) that calcium is one of the primary minerals found in human milk. Aaaannndd there goes mamas calcium.
Each new mother has different nutritional needs & varying amounts of nutrient stores, but here are some basic tips for boosting your postpartum health:
- eliminate processed foods
- don’t ignore hunger, your body needs the fuel
- choose high quality animal proteins & fats
- eat plenty of leafy greens
- drink lots of water (at least half of your body weight in ounces)
- consider consuming “power foods”
- slow-simmered bone broth: for minerals, collagen, & protein
- liver from pastured animals: for fat soluble vitamins, iron, & many important nutrients (it’s like natures multivitamin!)
- fermented foods like grass fed dairy (kefir & live yogurt) & vegetables (sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, etc.): for improved gut & immune health for you & baby
- avoid grains (wheat, quinoa, oatmeal, rice, corn) unless organic, soaked, & sprouted (try to avoid wheat & gluten all together)
- don’t skimp on the healthy carbohydrates (like sweet potato, squash, & other starchy veggies) remember that roughly 63% of the calories in human milk come from carbohydrates!
The most important thing is to remember to listen to your body. It can be hard to hear over a crying infant, but do your best! Nurturing your body through the postpartum whirlwind (& nursing) can make a world of difference in energy levels, mental health, emotional health, & the health of your infant.
Rochelle is a Certified Nutritionist and Health Coach -You can find more here: rochelleserna.com/start-here/