Breastfeeding Mama's Nutrition

Did you know that breast milk is amazing? It is entirely filled with the perfect nutrients needed for your baby, complete with antibodies to protect your baby from bacteria and viruses. These antibodies coat their entire lining and give them this protective shield. Breastfeeding babies tend to get sick less, and if they do get sick, it doesn't tend to last as long (Chantry, Cushing). However, all of that being said, what should the diet of Mama be?

Breast milk will always have the right nutrients for your baby. Every mother around the world has a different diet, and even in causes such as famines, breastmilk still had the proper nutrition needed for baby to thrive. So there is no particular diet Mama needs to be on to support the nutrients in her milk, the nutrients needed to make breast milk will go to the milk. As a result, having a healthy diet helps mom be healthy, helps her feel better, and replenish her stores. 

The nice thing about breastfeeding, is that Mama doesn't have to avoid any foods. She can enjoy the foods that she likes, and can drink coffee and alcohol (if you can drive, you can breastfeed) in moderation as well (without having to pump and dump). Eat as much food as you need to to be full, and drink as much as you need to stay hydrated. You may notice you are hungry, want to snack, or drink water more often, and that is because making milk takes energy and water. Adding fish oils is also helpful for Mama and baby, because as said before, baby will get all the omega-3s they need from your breastmilk - leaving you with whatever is left. This can be fine if you are regularly eating fish and taking omega-3 supplements; however, if you are not, it isn't good, and may be part of the reason for mommy brain, and postpartum depression (Hsu, Guesnet). When selecting a fish oil, find one that has more DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), because this is the one that is utilized for developing nervous systems and eye health (Echeverria, Guesnet). Vitamin D is often another consideration; vitamin D can be taken by Mama (6400 IU/day), and not have to supplement baby, or baby can be supplemented with vitamin D, if they aren't able to have adequate sun exposure (Hollis). 

Other than those last 2 recommendations, Mama's diet can be whatever she wants it to be. Having a healthier diet will benefit Mama more than baby, so I would encourage Mama's diet to be healthier (Foundations of Health - Diet), with other foods thrown in moderation. 

You've got this!

~ Dr. Charmagne

Breastfeeding Series - Self Expression

Self expression is a useful tool to have especially before going into labour. It allows you to collect some colostrum before your baby comes into this world, allowing you to start a stockpile of breastmilk for when you want to go out, or let your partner feed your baby. As an added bonus, if for any reason - doctors or nurses are worried about baby's blood sugar, or baby has jaundice, for example - you can give your baby expressed colostrum instead of formula. 

Colostrum is what your breasts produce before they start making breastmilk. It is yellowish in colour, and has a very viscous and sticky consistency. Some liken it to honey. Colostrum is absolutely amazing and perfect for your baby, especially the first few days of breastfeeding, when your baby's stomach is the size of a grape, and their intestines have not been exposed to any bacteria. Colostrum is rich in antibodies, as your baby drinks it, it coats their stomach and gut - protecting your baby from bacteria. As a result, colostrum is high in protein, and lower in fat than in breastmilk. That being said, it is the perfect transitional food to the outside world because your baby has not had to use their digestive tracts in utero, so they get a few days to practice before breastmilk comes in. 

When you start self expression, you may not collect anything the first few times. Don't be discouraged if you don't collect anything the first few attempts, or if you only collect drops. Collecting drops is amazing, and it will build up! You can collect the expressed milk into a cup or spoon, then use a syringe to collect all of it. Make sure you label it with the date before putting them into the freezer. Let your care providers know you have expressed milk to use instead of formula, so they can let you know when you need to use it. 

Stanford Medicine made an instructional video that shows you the steps of how to hand expression. This is one way you can self express. There are other ways as well - including compressing the breast, pulling back towards the ribs, and pushing forward towards the nipples (instead of compressing more there), among others. Try different ways, some might work better than others, and which ever one works for you is the perfect one for you and your body. 

~Dr. Charmagne