Supporting the Breastfeeding Mother

Guest blog by Gina Rose, BHSc Clinical Nutritionist based in Hawke's Bay, NZ. Gina specialises in women's health.

From getting your baby to latch on properly to mastering the football hold, there’s plenty to worry about - one thing that seems to stress a feeding Mum more than anything is keeping up with a good milk supply. 

The World Health Organisation recommends mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the child's first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, they should be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.

However, nearly 2 out of 3 infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6 months—a rate that has not improved in 2 decades. 96% of mothers initiate breastfeeding.  Thereafter, exclusive breastfeeding rates drop off. Less than half (39%) of babies are still being exclusively breastfed to 3 months and less than one quarter (15%) to 5 months. There are lots of reasons why the stats drop off and please know how you feed you baby does not define you as a mother.

Breastfeeding truly is a learnt skill for you and your baby. Knowing some of the incredible benefits often acts as motivation when things get tough. 
Breast milk lowers risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and also decreases baby’s risk of:
- Food allergies
- Eczema
- Childhood obesity
- Diabetes
- Asthma
- Childhood leukaemia. 

For mothers, is also lowers the risk of both breast and ovarian cancers in later life as well as reduces rates of maternal depression. 

Breast milk is Bespoke

That’s right, a mother makes individualised milk for her individual baby which changes over time.
The amount of protein, fats, carbohydrates and total volume of milk changes from feed to feed.

When a baby is fussing or changes their feeding pattern this changes the milk being produced.
When a mother’s body detects that her baby is unwell, her own body up-regulates the amount of antibodies to help the baby fight those pathogens. 

Aren’t we clever! 

So how do we support the feeding Mumma

Breastfeeding is a very high-energy process, even more so than pregnancy, hence your natal multivitamin is of great importance now.  But how much food and calories should a breastfeeding mother eat? 

Nutritional needs when breastfeeding increase compared to consumption before pregnancy. An exclusively breastfeeding mother, on average, needs to take in 300-500 calories per day above what was needed to maintain pre-pregnancy weight. That’s the equivalent of adding 1-2 healthy snacks per day.

How much protein do you need while breastfeeding? 
A sensible macro-nutrient balanced diet is key, that means protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates from whole food sources with each meal and snack. I can’t stress the importance of protein enough for breastfeeding Mums, protein depletion can occur very quickly if there is not adequate dietary intake. A general rule is 1g of protein/kg of body weight but during pregnancy and breastfeeding this will increase to about 1.4g/kg.

These are my Top 10 breastfeeding foods:
1. Avocado
2. Nuts
3. Oats
4. Eggs
5. Beans + Legumes 
6. Chia seeds
7. Salmon
8. Leafy greens
9. Yoghurt
10. Animal protein in meat

These are all nutrient dense, high in omega-3, contain pre + probiotics and galactagogues (ga-lac-ti-gogs) which increase supply. You may have heard of galactogogues, herbs and foods that increase milk supply. Oats, Brewer’s yeast, Fennel, Flaxseed, Almonds, Whole grains, Sesame seeds, Green leafy veggies and Avocados are some of my go to breastfeeding boosters alongside the fabulous Milk Maker supplement which is filled with herbal galactagogues all in a convenient 1-a-day capsule.

A note on Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
I recommend them during pregnancy for fetal central nervous system development and prevention of postnatal depression but equally important to continue with supplementation and dietary sources during lactation. The hind milk is rich in EFA’s and continues to support baby’s brain development. Research has also shown breast milk rich in EFA’s help with baby’s sleep duration – now you’re all saying give me some EFA’s! I recommend practitioner grade DHA and dietary sources from cold-water fish, nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado and cold pressed oils. You can book a mini pregnancy/postpartum consult via

Nutrition by Gina Rose and we can set you up with practitioner grade prenatal supplements.

Hydration
Who orders the closest person in the room to get them water STAT as soon as they start breastfeeding? The instant thirst is next level.

There is a lot of fluid lost by producing and releasing breast milk.  Because of this, breastfeeding can easily dehydrate you. The amount of fluids typically consumed by breastfeeding mothers should be 3 litres (13 cups), give or take depending on your size and climate. Keep a water bottle handy and hydrate all day.

Rest and sleep trumps all
This may seem ridiculous when you have a newborn and maybe even other children to care for, but it is incredibly important. Research has shown that rest and relaxation improves breast milk production.
 
The moral of the story is to nourish yourself Mumma, your baby will get all they need if your needs are met. Nourish, hydrate and rest as much as possible. You’ve done an incredible job bringing a baby into the world, the postpartum stage is really a time to support the mother.

Breastfeeding Nutrition FAQs

How much water should you drink when breastfeeding? 
Breastfeeding mothers should typically consume 3 litres (13 cups) per day, give or take depending on your size and climate

Is cabbage good for breastfeeding Mums?
Some women have said placing cold cabbage leaves on the breasts is helpful for
reducing pain and breast inflammation but consuming cabbage can make your
little one gassy.
 
Can breastfeeding cause vitamin deficiency?
Breastfeeding is a high energy exercise and it requires a lot of nutrients to produce breast milk. The energy, protein and other nutrients in breast milk come from the mother's diet or from her own body stores if the diet is lacking. This is an important time to eat a nutrient dense diet and continue your natal multivitamin.
 
Can you take regular multivitamins while breastfeeding?
I recommend supplementing under the guidance of a qualified natural health practitioner. Not all vitamins are created equal, some multivitamins for example contain herbs and nutrients that increase liver detoxification, this is not something we want to promote during lactation. To work with a qualified natural health practitioner you can book one of our mini pregnancy and postpartum consultations here

Boobie Balls Recipe

I’ve been making delicious ‘boobie balls’ full of nourishment that not only boosts quantity but also quality!
 
Boobie Balls!! Containing loads of galactogogues that promote breast milk production, nourishing fats and protein for nutrient dense breast milk and energy for Mumma bird. 

Ingredients
  • 2 cups organic oats or quinoa flakes
  • ½ cup organic flaxseed
  • 2 tablespoons brewer’s yeast
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 10 dates (soaked in hot water for 10 minutes)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup goji berries
  • pinch of sea salt
Instructions

Add oats and flaxseeds to a blender or food processor and pulse until crumble consistency.
Add all remaining ingredients and pulse until combined. 
Roll mixture into 2-tablespoon sized smooth balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. 
Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or enjoy right away. 

Once the balls have set, transfer them to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.