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Nutrition while breastfeeding is a topic that concerns many mothers: What foods are beneficial to you after giving birth? Are there foods that increase milk production? What foods should you avoid? Last week we published initial instructions regarding the recommended diet for breastfeeding mothers post-birth and information about lactogenic foods (improve milk supply). What Does Lactogenic Food Actually Do?
Last week we published initial instructions regarding the recommended diet for breastfeeding mothers post-birth and information about lactogenic foods (improve milk supply).
Foods that promote breastmilk production also assist in a variety of other ways. A healthy diet with the correct number of daily calories is the most important. A woman who eats a well-balanced diet will be strong and energized when breastfeeding. The components of a well-balanced diet also work together to promote the biochemistry of milk production.
These components include phytoestrogen (which act like the estrogen found naturally in the body), soothing elements found in some plants, and essential substances for the body including sterols and amino acids. A lactogenic diet that is rich in minerals, with a balanced intake of fats, ensures that the body of the breastfeeding mother is operating optimally.
Fennel – This can be eaten fresh or cooked. Place the fennel in pan with a little butter over a small flame, and then cool it in cold water. This helps maintain the fennel’s moisture, texture, and taste. Fennel seeds in particular are known for their milk-boosting properties, but the rest of the plant also has some of the same properties.
Carrots, Beets, & Sweet Potatoes – These vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, which the body requires a lot of during lactation. Carrot seeds and carrots themselves are both known to have valuable milk-promoting properties. Fresh beets are wonderful sources of iron and other minerals and can be very helpful in cases of iron deficiency. These vegetables are also naturally sweet, so they taste delicious, and all promote healthy liver function.
Vegetables with Dark Green Leaves (Spinach, Nettle, Dandelions) – These vegetables are great sources of iron, vitamins, and enzymes such as phytoestrogens which help with breastmilk production. Dandelions and nettles are diuretic plants and can assist in cases of edema, a familiar phenomenon in pregnant and postnatal women. Purchase fresh, preferably organic, leaves and eat them whole, chopped in a salad, or prepared as a tea. Nettle is known to provide a wide range of nutrients in just one plant, and you can even add it to spice your soup. Other plants in this group are arugula, beet leaves, cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, endives, and more.
Grains & Legumes – Grains and legumes have been on record for a long time as boosters to milk supply. The most common grains with these helpful properties are oats, millet, barley, and rice; recommended legumes are chickpeas, lentils, and beans (mung and others).
Nuts & Seeds – Almonds, cashews, and macadamia nuts all promote breastmilk production. You should try to eat these nuts as raw and simple as possible. The flavor of raw, unsalted nuts is not as delicious, but it’s enough if you can accustom yourself to eating small amounts each day.
One good idea is to place a jar of nuts in your favorite breastfeeding spot (if you have other children under the age of 5, make sure the jar is securely closed). It’s natural to become hungry while breastfeeding at night, so this is a great way to have a healthy snack at hand. Staying hungry, or eating less nutritious foods like bread is not recommended. Don’t forget to also have a bottle of water nearby – eating nuts while breastfeeding is a recipe for thirst.
Oils & Fats – This food group plays a critical role in building cells and the operation of your nervous system’s metabolism. It’s important to know that certain types of oils can affect breastmilk’s composition and fat content. Mary J. Henning, a world-renowned expert on nutrition and fats, recommends equal and consistent amounts of a variety of fats in one meal: a thin strip of butter, and 1/4 teaspoon each of cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil (a rich source of omega-3), and sesame oil on a salad. Coconut oil is also a good choice. Avoid processed and trans fats, as they are passed to your baby through breastmilk.
Beverages – To increase your breastmilk supply, first and foremost you need to drink enough water. You can also drink tea that boosts breastmilk production and small quantities of non-alcoholic root beer, but appropriate amounts of water is obviously best. It is important to avoid, as much as possible, drinking coffee or caffeinated beverages.
Next week we will continue spices and specialty foods, and a few recommended recipes. Do you have some recommendations of your own? Share them in the comments section.
If you missed Part A, click here