We did an antenatal course before my son was born and when it came to the breastfeeding sessions, I was there pen-in hand, ready to soak up as much information as possible to get my breastfeeding journey off to a good start. The session was great at outlining all of the benefits of breastfeeding, but it offered no advice about looking after myself as I did so.
If you are a subscriber of this blog, you will already know that I passed out from exhaustion (& what I later discovered was a potassium deficiency) when my son was 9 months old. What is heartbreaking is that my experience is not an isolated one and since sharing my stories, hundreds of mothers across the globe have shared similar experiences. Society is terrible at taking care of new mothers and even worse at looking after breastfeeding ones. With that in mind, this weekly blog is dedicated to you, mama. Here's to your health and wellness without me ever telling you that you have to stop breastfeeding in order to be happy and healthy. Here are five nutrient-dense foods which you can incorporate into your diet. These choices are all highly nutritious without being labour intensive of difficult to prepare. Happy eating, mama!
These seriously underrated little nuggets pack a nutritional punch and are rich in many of the vitamins and minerals that you need as a lactating mother. They are one of the most magnesium-rich foods available, as well as being a great source of potassium, protein and iron too (1). Cheap, easy to prepare and delicious, beans are my number one staple for breastfeeding mothers everywhere. Have them on toast or a bagel for breakfast, with eggs and avocado for brunch and in a stew for dinner. And yes, tinned are are a great option! These famously musical fruit are renowned for making us gassy - this is even more true if you do not usually eat many and then suddenly increase your intake. If this sounds like you, start with 2-3 servings a week and build up from there to avoid too much 'music!'
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are nature's gift to breastfeeding mamas. Flavorful and full of good fats, magnesium and protein, nuts are a fantastic addition to your diet. The fact that they don't require any preparation or cooking makes them a wonderful, simple yet nutritious snack to munch as you nurse your babe. Try to eat a range of different nuts throughout your week for maximum benefit. Peanuts and peacans are rich in B vitamins, whilst almonds are a great source of calcium and vitamin E and walnuts contain omega 3 (2). Keep some in your bag and at your favourite nursing spots for an easy to reach boost whilst you are feeding your babe.
Similar to nuts, seeds are full of healthy fats, fiber and protein. Flaxseeds and chia seeds are rich in omega 3 too (2). Pumpkin seeds are jam-packed with magnesium (2), so they are worth having on your breakfast every day - particularly when your period is due and your magnesium levels plummet. Extra calcium and magnesium in your diet can help to mitigate any temporary dip in your supply caused by menstruation (3). Sprinkle them on oats and yoghurts, add them to smoothies and blend them into pancake mixes too.
If I could recommend just one food to lactating mothers, Greek yoghurt (AKA strained yoghurt) would be it. High in protein and a source of calcium (3), it requires zero preparation and makes a great breakfast, side dish or snack. Calcium is an essential component of a lactating mothers' diet, as breast milk draws upon our bodies' reserves to fortify our milk. Not consuming enough calcium could leave you with a deficiency whilst breastfeeding. For this reason, Greek yoghurt has a regular spot in my fridge. Serve it with berries, nuts and a drizzle of honey for a sweet treat any time of the day (or night!).
Notoriously high in potassium, bananas may be the ultimate, transportable, healthy snack. They are also a source of:
Vitamin C (4)
Did you know that breastfeeding mothers actually need even more vitamin C each day then even pregnant mothers (5)? This is just one reasons to include one or two bananas a day in your diet to keep your vitamin levels topped up for as long as you are breastfeeding. Wherever possible, pair bananas with protein or good fats like avocado or nut butters to prevent a spike in your blood sugar levels.
King of the cruciferous vegetables, kale is rich a source of:
Like other cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower), regular consumption of kale has positive effects on your gut and cardiovascular health (6). Blanche or steam it to serve with dinner once or twice a week for a quick but nutritionally-dense side dish. Alternatively, kale makes a great addition to a smoothie which you can share with little one too (once they are over 6 months old).
Taking care of yourself as a breastfeeding mama can be hard, there's no doubt about it. However, including these five foods in your diet can make a real difference to your wellness in the short and long term. Share them with your partner and loved ones so that they can help you stay healthy too. Subscribe to the blog to for a new breastfeeding wellness post each week, here.