Breastfeeding Nutrition: How I Eat to Feed

by Lauren on January 22, 2017

So I kind of forgot how intense breastfeeding hunger really is.  It far supersedes pregnancy hunger by a landslide.

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(this is how I feel most days…give me ALL the food!)

Before I dive into this topic, I wanted to share that this in no way is intended to be a tout on the importance of breastfeeding babies or why I think breast is best.  Of course I think there are many benefits of breastfeeding, but I also think loving your baby and caring for them the best you can is what matters. So whether you feed your baby from the boob or bottle, keep on keep on mamas!

Even if you aren’t or haven’t breastfed, postpartum nutrition is equally important so this may apply to you or it may not.  Read if you wish. 🙂

When Isaiah was born, I got to see him all of 15 seconds before he was whisked away to the NICU.  I didn’t get to hold him for a full 24 hours after I gave birth, which was heartbreaking. I knew he was getting the care he needed, but my mama heart broke knowing I couldn’t be the one caring for him in those first few weeks of his life, so I vowed to do the only thing I could to provide him with the nourishment he needed….I began pumping my heart out.

I will never forgot the day my milk came in.  It was Christmas Eve and it was our last full day in the hospital before I was discharged.  I woke up in the middle of the night and my boobs were killing me.  I immediately shot up in bed and yelled, “John, my milk came in!!”  Ha, in hindsight, I think he pretended to care at 3am, but I’m sure his halfhearted celebration was more just to appease me and that’s OK.

I started pumping every 2 hours, sometimes more, to ensure I was getting Isaiah exactly the amount of food the doctor told me he needed.  It became my sole purpose for those two weeks he was in the NICU. I should also mention, babies in the NICU are given a milk fortifier added to their mom’s breast milk to boost the calories and help them gain weight.  I knew soon that Isaiah wasn’t tolerating it and asked them to stop giving it to him after a few days of him spitting up and becoming visibly uncomfortable after every feed.  They fought me on it a bit, but in the end, I wasn’t giving in and they listened.  Immediately, he started eating better, stopped spitting, and continued to gain weight. I’m not sure if there is any logic to my thinking, but the doctor’s assured me he needed extra calories to gain weight, that my breast milk wasn’t enough.  But I kept thinking with the amount of fats that I consume and nutrients I try to push daily, I trusted my body knew exactly what to do in order to help this baby thrive.

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So let’s talk about that nutrition…..

I can’t say I changed my diet all that much after having Isaiah.  I do try to avoid dairy and limit gluten but I’ve always done so.  But I focus more on what I am consuming rather than what I’m not.  Here are my top foods that enter my diet daily, especially when breastfeeding.

Fats –  I think essential fatty acids are crucial for breastfeeding.  My preferred fats are grass-fed butter, coconut oil, nut or seed butters, ghee, full-fat coconut milk and nuts.  Some simple ways I incorporate fats into my diet are by adding full-fat canned coconut milk to my coffee every morning, snack on handfuls of almonds in between meals, and cook with grass-fed butter or ghee.

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Oats – It has been suggested that oats boost your milk supply and I swear I notice a difference every time I eat them.  I usually skip the packaged oats with any added sugar and make my own gluten free rolled or steel cut style. If I don’t have them for breakfast, I may whip up a quick bowl in the microwave as a snack.  They keep me full and keep my milk flowing.

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Vegetables – I know I don’t have to sell you on the copious amount of benefits of adding plants to your diet, but when I’m nourishing my babe, I’m pushing the veggies like it’s my job.  Dark leafy greens are rich in Vitamin D, which is a key vitamin for an infants and sweet potatoes, squash, and broccoli are rich in Vitamin A and C. The more nutrients I get, the more he gets.  I know some women say that some vegetables can cause gas for their little ones so just keep an eye on what you’re eating and how it affects your baby.

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Protein – Protein aids in a healthy immune system and helps make essential hormones.  I am not a big meat eater, but I do incorporate some lean meats and other plant-based proteins into my diet daily.  I’ve never really tolerated protein powders or protein isolates very well, so most of the protein I eat comes from whole foods.  Some of my favorites are eggs, chia seeds, nuts, avocados, tempeh, organic ground turkey and organic chicken sausage.

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Wine – Okay, so this is more for my sanity, but I do believe that a nice glass of wine helps relax the body and offers a better letdown.  Maybe I’m making that up, but I’m going with it.

 

If ever there was a time to focus on your nutrition, it is after having a baby.  Eating a nutrient rich diet will only help you bounce back quicker, give you sustained energy (SO NEEDED), and help balance out those crazy hormones. Plus, these little loves are benefiting from a healthy mama in so many ways.

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9 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Nutrition: How I Eat to Feed”

  1. Tori says:

    Hi, glad to hear that you and baby are doing well. I have to chime in on (one) piece of this post so that other Moms reading can benefit from the correct information. I’m a paediatric Registered Dietitian and I work in a large scale Childrens Hospital with infants, children and families on a daily basis. You mentioned dark leafy greens… Unfortunately they are not rich in vitamin D (but do contain some calcium and additional nutrition!) Here is a link to foods high in vitamin D..http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-D.aspx. However, with that being said I strongly recommend that both Moms and babies supplement with daily Vitamin D. There has been lots of research around deficiencies and the benefits and we aren’t able to convert enough from the inactive to active form in the winter. Hope this helps 🙂

    1. Lauren says:

      Thanks for your insight Tori!

  2. This is such an interesting post! I’m about 3 months from due date and planning to breastfeed, and I’ve starting thinking about what my diet will need to look like when the time comes. Sounds like I’m on the right track already!

    1. Lauren says:

      That’s awesome Katy! And congratulations!!

  3. Sarah Foote says:

    I am so glad to hear baby Isaiah is doing good. You are right, nutrition is so important when you are feeding an infant. My daughter is 8 mo and my son is 2 1/2 and one thing I dealt with both of them is eczema and spitup, only it was worse with my daughter those first few months. I learned fast that my eating raw veggies made her spit-up, and her poor digestive system couldn’t handle too much dairy or soy (I’m still nervous she will have a full on soy allergy). So I was very limited in what I could eat and it took awhile to figure out how to eat. I ate lots of beans, roasted veggies (thank goodness she could handle these), I found a protein powder that didn’t make her sick (thank goodness my body handles these ok!). Unfortunately my son has a peanut allergy so I’m nervous about having any nuts or unsafe nut butters in the house, although those are great fats to have. I craved food so much worse with my second baby than with my first, I don’t know if it was the stress of having two littles or if it is because she is just a bigger and faster growing child than my son is/was, but I have felt like a bottomless pit for 8 months…. sounds like you are doing awesome though! congrats on baby #2!!

  4. jamie says:

    Breastfeeding hunger AND thirst is so intense. I always remember yelling at my husband for my water mug about 30 seconds after latching when they are newborns.

  5. ErikaMC says:

    You aren’t completely making it up with the wine. From the research I’ve done is that Brewers Yeast helps with lactation and milk production. The yeast is used in beer making. Sipping on a beer while nursing can relax you which then helps with your let down. I’ve been making lactation cookies and bars with brewers yeast and flax in addition to oats, chia seeds and peanut butter.

    1. Lauren says:

      Is that why some women say to drink a Guinness?

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