By Amber L'Estrange, Photograph by Travis Rathbone
Do the food and liquids we consume as nursing mamas affect our breast milk and babies' health? If so, what is the best eating plan to be on?
I personally think the little saying, "We are what we eat" is truer than people realize.
The food we consume gets turned into our blood, which feeds our organs and produces our milk.
The food we eat dictates our energy levels, mood, libido, hormones, and quality of mama's milk.
If you are nursing for the first six months, that precious milk is your babe's only food source, they are relying on it to be as nutrient-dense, clean and fatty as possible to support a healthy growing body and brain.
There are two main aspects to consider when looking at establishing the best diet while nursing.
a) What foods are best and worst for MAMA'S unique constitution.
b) What foods are best and worst for BABY'S unique constitution.
There are also some general rules of thumbs that apply to EVERYONE (listed below).
Everyone responds differently to foods, so there is no "one diet that fits all". I based my nursing diet on my individual constitution and the foods that I know make my body feel vital (and avoiding the foods I know my system is sensitive to). I found for my baby's bio individuality, that he did not tolerate certain things that I ate during the first six months of nursing (such as almonds, coffee, chocolate, wheat and dairy). His tiny digestive system was still strengthening and seemed to be sensitive to these things that my system was fine with.
Food intolerance can cause baby to be extra fussy, restless, gassy and just plain unhappy. I also learned that when he had a red rash around his bum (he is going to kill me if he grows up and ever reads this) that it was a sign of a food intolerance and a red flag to start looking for the culprit using an elimination diet.
For all mamas, I would suggest to closely watch your babies physical state/temperament after you eat different foods. If you keep a food diary and pay attention to your little, then you should find out soon enough if anything needs to be cut out of your diet to keep your babe happy during these sensitive first months of life.
Understanding how much food plays a role in our health and quality of milk led me to be super conscious about what I ate during the period he was solely relying on my milk for his meals--just be to sure I was doing all I could do to contribute to the building of a healthy immune system and a smoother ride through infancy (for all of us!)
Some general rules of thumb (and my staple medicines) are:
Some house laws I made for myself were:
Some foods that commonly cause upsets (gas or irritation) to nursing babies include:
Note: Every mother has her own unique constitution, so no one rule applies to all. The only way to work out what to avoid is using your intuition and trial and error.
Once my babe started on solids, I loosened up slightly on my restrictive diet as I knew that his system was taking in more than my milk and in the process of toughening up.
Yes, food plays a huge role in the health of an individual and quality of a nursing mama's milk, but lets not forget about the unseen elements that play just as big of a role in the health and happiness of you and your babe...
YOUR ENERGY!! Young babies are highly sensitive to energies, and there are ways to protect and nourish your baby energetically that will contribute to their health.
1) Try your hardest to be in a calm, stress-free state when you are nursing. Take this time to unwind and enjoy this miraculous connection and ability of your body to feed another human. Babies feed off our energy, so make sure you are giving them good vibes that help with digesting and absorbing all the goodness you are feeding them. You do not want your babe picking up on your stress and subconsciously associating stress with food/eating. Take nursing as a mini break from the world and allow yourself to simply indulge in the miracle before your eyes. These are precious and fleeting moments that can cement a bond that will last a lifetime.
2) Eye gaze and be present. Put that phone away and don't even think about multi-tasking!!
Eye contact and undivided attention has more power to it then many realize. This sends a message to your little that they are safe, loved and seen. Don't miss this chance to build a foundation of respect and presence with your little through simply by staring into their perfectly pure, dreamy eyes while nursing.
3) Send loving thoughts, words and visualizations. This is a gentle but powerful practice you can get into the habit of while nursing. I offered my babe affirming words like, "I love you", "You are safe", "You are heathy and strong, loved and protected". I would also imagine a luminous pink light circulating from my heart, through my milk, to my baby's belly, lighting up his entire body with strength and health. This visualization of love is the ultimate healing nourishment for your babe.
4) Protection bubble. The final of the fun and magical energetic practices I used while nursing, is to cover my babe in a bubble of protective light. This serves as a shield to their very open and sensitive energetic body.
I hope this helps in growing your little toward having a strong, healthy and happy body and heart to carry them through this life toward their mission xxx
What were your roadblocks and triumphs when figuring our your nursing diet? Let us know in the comments!