By Danielle Rose
Originally published in The Suburban Trends
Experts agree that across the board breast milk is the single most nutritious and beneficial food for a newborn baby. The mechanics of it aside, many mothers find that the tricky part to breastfeeding is knowing what they, themselves should eat.
Naturopathic doctor and certified professional midwife Donielle Wilson points out that, “Anything the mom ingests will end up in the breast milk.”
This can be daunting when one is contemplating the best options for not only baby’s health, but mom’s health, too. The good news is that although breastfeeding mothers may want to avoid exposing baby to certain foods like caffeine or alcohol, the nutrients in healthy foods will also pass through into their milk. According to Wilson, this also applies to supplements*, so if baby has a cold, taking Vitamin C will help you both!
In general, however, a breastfeeding mother’s diet should remain similar to her diet during pregnancy. Healthy and nutritious foods are just as important now, and not just for baby’s health, but for mom’s health, too.
According to “Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn” (by Simkin, Whalley, Keppler), the recommended number of calories for a non pregnant woman is 2,200 per day, a pregnant woman is 2,500 per day and a lactating mother is 2,700 calories per day.
Wilson recommends eating small meals or snacks every three hours or less to spread out the additional calories. Including protein when you eat will prevent a drop in blood sugar – good health advice for anyone, but especially for lactating mothers whose blood sugar is more prone to fluctuation.
According to Wilson the most important factor in a lactating diet is water. “Your body needs water to make all that extra liquid.”
When it comes to supplements, Wilson recommends a daily multivitamin, calcium magnesium and fish oil, especially those which contain DHA. She says fish oil is not only good for baby’s brain development but it also helps prevent post partum depression.
Wilson also recommends a daily dose of acidophilus. “Research shows when moms take acidophilus babies have fewer allergies,” she says.
Trickier sometimes than figuring out what foods to eat, are foods to avoid. The best advice is to avoid those things which you would not want to give a young child – caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and unnecessary drugs and medication.
Nursing mothers also want to avoid undercooked and raw foods, unpasteurized cheeses and fish with high levels of mercury.
On the other hand, there are certain foods – some of which are healthy – to which baby might be sensitive.
Colic, rashes and digestive disturbances are indicators that baby might be sensitive to something mom is eating, says Wilson. The biggest offenders are usually dairy, gluten and certain vegetables such as broccoli or garlic.
When baby acts up or is uncomfortable Wilson advises to keep in mind what mom ate. If baby isn’t sleeping well is it because of mom’s evening cup of coffee? Is baby’s digestion of kilter only after mom splurged on a large bowl of ice cream?
Unfortunately, the solution may not be as simple as removing the offending foods. For example, a baby may be sensitive to dairy, but mom’s own need for calcium and magnesium are the highest they’ll ever be. If a mother believes certain foods are affecting baby’s health, Wilson recommends contacting a professional who can create a plan to ensure the best nutrition possible.
Breastfeeding.com, warns that a sudden drop in weight can decrease milk supply and be damaging to mom’s health. In addition, according to www.kellymom.com, any sudden drop in weight results in a rapid release of stored toxins, which will end up in breast milk.
For those who aren’t losing the weight, Wilson recommends that they decrease serving sizes and eat more frequently.
“If you eat big servings,” she says, “then your body will use a quarter to a half of it and store the rest as weight.”
Wilson also advises all of her mothers to get enough exercise. “For a mom to chose to spend a half hour away from the baby and do something for herself is a big decision,” she admits. “Then if you finally have a half hour you are so tired all you want to do is sleep.”
But finding that hour to catch up on sleep and fit in some exercise can really help improve not only mom’s body, but her sense of wellbeing. Using a stroller to walk with baby or doing mom and baby yoga is a good way to include the little one, too. Wilson also recommends abdominal strengthening to tighten the muscles that were weakened during pregnancy and to help build the muscle tone needed to burn calories.
Most importantly, however, Wilson encourages moms to take care of their own wellbeing.
“Nutrition of the soul,” she calls it. “Making sure that mom gets that down time and sleep time. That’s really key. Start with five minutes to yourself. You have to have that food for your soul or you completely lose yourself in baby land.”
Donielle Wilson is president of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians and member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She practices in Manhattan, Stamford, CT and Port Jefferson, NY, but consults with many patients exclusively via telephone. She can be reached at 631.682.9190 or by visiting www.doctordoni.com.
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.