What Should Breastfeeding Moms Eat? 3 Mindful Eating Tips from The Breastfeeding Chef
Mindful Eating For Breastfeeding Moms
Most people in the childbirth and breastfeeding advocacy field say nursing women can, in the words of KellyMom.com, “eat whatever [they] like, whenever [they] like, in the amounts that [they] like…” I, however, have a different message. I don’t believe nursing mothers should eat whatever they want, especially if whatever they want includes copious amounts of soda, candy, junk food, coffee and alcohol. Plus, I learned through my experience with my daughter that what breastfeeding moms eat impacts our breast milk and the health of our babies. With this in mind I want breastfeeding mothers to create a diet based on the idea that every molecule in our bodies, including breast milk, is fueled by what we eat. Understanding this, I encourage nursing moms to energize and nourish their bodies and their breast milk with the best possible ingredients. I call this way of eating Mindful Eating for Breastfeeding.
Often when I say this, folks worry that I will eliminate their favorite foods from their repertoire or ask them to eat foods they don’t enjoy. The truth is I became a chef and food educator because I LOVE food and I love to eat. My intention is to celebrate the delicious foods breastfeeding moms can eat that are as good tasting as they are good-for-you and to teach moms how to turn them into tasty meals for themselves and their family. I hope that if moms pass along their favorite healthy recipes and eating habits to their kids, we can greatly decrease the illness epidemic our children currently face. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s explore 3 guiding principles of Mindful Eating for Breastfeeding.
- Nutritiously Delicious
As a nursing mom it is important to make every bite count towards getting the nutrition that we need because we are providing the nutrients not only for ourselves but for our baby’s milk. If we don’t get the nutrients we need from our diet, our bodies will steal from our reserves to fill the gap. The most nutrient-rich ingredients are plants consumed in their whole form, in the least processed ways possible and close to the way Mother Nature intended. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, our best source of nutrients are low in calories, high in nutrition, high in fiber and loaded with phytonutrients that protect us against disease. Plants can provide the protein we need while being low in saturated fat and cholesterol compared to animal products. The calcium in green leafy vegetables like kale and mustard greens is better absorbed than that found in milk and dairy products. And, perhaps most importantly these colorful, flavorful plants are delicious. I used to eat much more meat than I do now. And, I have to say I find the naturally occurring sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter flavors of plants so exciting that I rarely crave meat. When I do, I eat a 3-ounce portion with LOTs of vegetables in a stir fry or soup and I’m satisfied, satiated and, most importantly, nourished.
- Low allergen
Nursing mothers are offered two schools of thought on how to deal with allergies. One is to introduce allergen foods in small amounts in order to build up a tolerance to them. The other is to avoid high allergen foods completely. I prefer to avoid high allergen foods when possible. My daughter had rashes and itchy skin due to sensitivities to some of the foods I was eating. When I eliminated the foods that were bothering her, her skin cleared up. The same has been true for mothers I’ve worked with. When allergen foods were removed from the diets of babies suffering from eczema and colic, these conditions greatly improved; over time the distress often dissipated completely. The top 8 allergens are peanuts, nuts, soy, corn, dairy, wheat, eggs and shellfish. Before you panic, know that I’m not suggesting you eliminate these foods from your diet just because you are currently or are planning to nurse. But knowing what foods are most likely to cause an allergic reaction can be helpful when trying to evaluate what might be causing negative responses in your child.
If it turns out that you need to eliminate allergens, you’ll be happy to know that it’s easier than ever to find tasty substitutes. Spelt crackers, pasta and bread, a good substitute for traditional wheat products, can be found in most health food stores. There are even egg replacers that can be used in your favorite home baked goods. Hemp, oat and coconut milk are available commercially to replace cow’s milk. But I often prepare fresh milks at home. You can too; all you need is good quality blender. The general recipe for homemade milk is 4 parts water to 1 part rolled oats, hemp seeds or coconut flakes. You can even mix and match ingredients to get interesting flavors. I like to add a splash of vanilla and sweeten with pitted dates instead of refined sugars. DELICIOUS, and great over cereal or as a cool refreshing drink.
- Milk Boosting
Lactogenic is the more scientific name for what I call milk boosting. Lactogenic foods are those that support your body’s production of the hormone prolactin, which works to produce breast milk and encourage your let-down reflex. Throughout the world, nursing women are fed a variety of foods that help them produce quality milk. They include grains, legumes, root vegetables, leafy greens, and raw unsalted nuts and seeds.
There are several factors that make a food lactogenic. Of special importance are foods high in calcium which have been shown in studies to increase the milk supply of women who experienced a decrease. When I couldn’t pump more than an ounce of milk—from BOTH breasts combined—I didn’t know what I would do when it came time for me to go back to work. Increasing my calcium intake with calcium-rich plant foods like greens, tahini and figs allowed me to start pumping 4 ounces from each breast.
Over the next few days I’ll be posting recipes that will make it deliciously easy to eat mindfully during your Breastfeeding Season. I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as I do.
 Hillary Jacobson. Mother Food Rosalind Press 153