Whether you decide to breastfeed or bottle feed, nourishing your body with the right foods after labor and delivery is just as important as during pregnancy. Let’s be real for a second, we women have a lot on our minds during those 9-months that we carried our baby– however the months following delivery our minds seem to wander a bit more with everything we have to remember. From nursing, to soothing, to diaper changing, I feel like the cycle is in a constant state of rotation. When will the time come when we can focus on ourselves for even just a minute?
Although it may seem impossible on some days, but focusing on your own nutrition and what you fuel your body with can have direct impact on your baby’s nutrition and growth. Just as with pregnancy, there are foods to include in your diet and foods to leave out of your diet to make sure baby gets enough nutrition in order to grow properly. Breastfeeding moms, I’ve got some exciting news for you! There are certain foods that help promote your milk supply to keep up with baby’s milk demand. These top ten foods have been shown to help promote breastfeeding in women, whether it’s to promote the hormone prolactin, increase your calcium supply, hydration, or fiber content, these foods are all great to add to your postpartum diet. Not only is nutrition important during this time, but hydration is equally important. If you’re breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed make sure you’re drinking enough fluids (mainly water) to ensure adequate milk supply and prevent dehydration.
Prolactin and Breastfeeding Benefits
Prolactin is the hormone that is highly associated with pregnancy and breastfeeding, however it is also associated with metabolism and other biological functions. In a new scientific study, different levels of prolactin in a woman has been shown to affect the incidence of type II Diabetes when comparing higher levels, yet still in the normal range to lower levels still in the normal range. Women who had higher ranges of prolactin hormones were found to have a 27% decreased chance of developing Type II Diabetes. More research is needed for this area, however, breastfeeding has a multitude of other benefits including postpartum weight loss, closer mom-and-baby bond, possible reduced incidences of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, and gives the baby a better established immune system.
Breastfeeding also releases the hormone oxytocin, which signals to the body to begin contracting the uterus to it’s normal size and helps to reduce blood loss after delivery. Breastfeeding can also burn up to 600 kcals (calories) per day, talk about a milk workout! Most women who breastfeed are able to loose their pregnancy weight faster than those who exclusively bottle feed. Overall, breastfeeding provides plenty of benefits both for mom and baby, however, there is never a wrong way to feed a baby as long as baby is happy, healthy, and growing correctly.
Oatmeal is high in fiber and iron. Women who are new moms need to increase iron in their diets to reduce the incidence of postpartum iron deficiency anemia. In general, oatmeal for breakfast is a good idea but it can also be added to muffins, and other baked goods. Try to stay away from prepackaged oatmeal that contains high amounts of sugar. Simply make your own or try some of these recipes.
Almonds are high in calcium, which is a necessary nutrient for women who are breastfeeding. On average, women who are breastfeeding need about 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Almonds are great as a snack food option, added to meals, or consumed via almond milk. Here are a few other ways to include almonds in your diet.
Apricots are high in fiber, vitamin A, C, and potassium. Apricots can also increase prolactin, which is a hormone that can increase your milk supply. Fresh apricots may be hard to find year round but dried apricots are always a great choice as well as canned apricots (just make sure to find a can that is packaged in it’s own juice instead of heavy syrup or sugar). Incorporate apricots in your breakfast, snacks, granola, or dessert. Here’s a great homemade granola recipe to try that is lower in sugar but high in fiber – Crunchy ‘Fig & Apricot Granola’
Salmon is a great food source to include during pregnancy so it comes as no surprise that it’s still a great choice during breastfeeding. Salmon is high in healthy fats and DHA, which helps brain and nervous system development of your little one. Not to mention salmon is great for you too, mom. Salmon can be added to most any dish as a protein source, here are a few recipes to check out.
Just like almonds, yogurt contains plenty of calcium needed to support your bones and baby’s growth as well. Yogurt also contains protein, vitamin D, and probiotics to maintain a healthy and flourishing gut bacterium. Yogurt is a great choice for snacks, breakfast, or even dessert. You could even bulk up your yogurt with some apricots and sliced almonds for a healthy breastfeeding punch.
Beans are rich in fiber as well as iron and protein. Beans are a great way to increase the nutrition value to your meals, not to mention they are cheaper and more sustainable than some other protein options if you’re tight on a budget. I like to recommend canned beans as a great option to keep on hand when you need something to add to your dinners or lunches.
Spinach is filled with iron and calcium, and makes such a versatile addition to most any dish or baked good. I like to add spinach to smoothies, pastas, casseroles, protein bowls, and of course, salads. Here are some ideas for adding spinach to your dishes for an extra nutrition punch.
Much like apricots, they help to increase prolactin, which can lead to increased milk supply. Dates are a great choice for healthy snacking or adding to smoothies and/or baked goods to naturally sweeten and thicken the consistency. Some grab-and-go protein bars use dates as a binder for all the ingredients such as Lara bars.
9. BROWN RICE & BARLEY
Both rich in fiber, these can help increase your milk supply. Brown rice and barley are both great choices to add to a lunch or dinner plate and are very versatile when it comes to combining foods such as lean proteins, healthy fats, and these complex carbs. I like to add brown rice to casseroles and protein bowls. Here are some recipe ideas to swap brown rice or barley in.
High in fiber, antioxidants, digestion aid, and milk supply booster- fennel is full of nutrients. Fennel looks a bit like parsley and celery got together and had an offspring. It’s great to add to salads, pastas, protein bowls, and soups. You can eat it raw, although it has a bit of a bitter licorice taste to it. To lessen the boldness of the flavor you can bake it, grill it, or sauté it.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eatrightpro.org.
Complete Food and Nutrition Guide 4th edition. American Dietetic Association. 2012
Jun Li, Ph.D., post-doctoral research fellow, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston; Joel Zonszein, M.D., director, clinical diabetes center, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; Oct. 11, 2018, Diabetologia
Does Breastfeeding Hormone Protect Against Type 2 Diabetes; Serena Gordon. Healthy Reporter: Oct 12, 2018.
Photos: Fennel (Benjamin Egerland / EyeEm) Dates (Food and Nutrition Magazine)
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