Recently, the Weston A. Price Foundation kicked up a fuss with their unusual breastfeeding recommendations. I wrote my response to this last week.
One take away from this situation, though, was that it does matter what you eat. Your breastmilk will be awesome no matter what, but diet does impact quality and nutritional content (not to mention eating well is really important for your health since your body will give your baby what it needs first).
While I can’t claim to have the “perfect” answer — everyone is different — I know what works well for me. I have had the easiest recovery after Nathan’s birth (he’s #4 in 5 years) and he’s grown the most rapidly. I’d say our breastfeeding experience has been very positive, and I have felt well and had a lot of energy. In fact, I felt basically normal by three weeks postpartum.
My goal today is to share with you what works for me. Maybe it will be a starting point for you — maybe not. Hopefully, it helps to read someone else’s successful experience!
Breastfeeding Diet and Postpartum Recovery
I didn’t recover well after Jacob’s birth. It was a really stressful time for our family and my rest/recovery was not a priority, and I did not know that I was seriously deficient in magnesium (and possibly other things). I did “okay” except for feeling very tired, stressed, and having strong chocolate cravings. I also struggled to lose the weight (for the first time) and had some issues with constipation (related to magnesium deficiency).
I decided before I even got pregnant again that recovery would be a serious priority after my next pregnancy. Somehow I’d imagined sitting on the couch, snuggling a baby girl and reading stories and quietly directing homeschool…
(Laugh now. I had another sweet baby boy, and my kids don’t sit quietly. Ever. We spent far more time chasing them outside and trying to keep everything going around the house than anything else.)
Still, I took this recovery business seriously. I barely got out of bed in the first week, and then I got around only sometimes and kept it low-key for another week or so. By three weeks, I was feeling basically back to normal. Baby’s almost a month old now and it’s “life as usual,” minus being a little more tired! (He does great at night. Goes to bed between 10 and 12 and co-sleeps with me, squirming and rooting if he needs to nurse but otherwise sleeping quietly for 4 – 5 hours. Then I have to sit up to change him, and we sleep a bit more. When I had help, we’d sleep like this about 11 – 9 every day. Sadly I have no more help, so now I’m up by 7 with the older kids! That makes for a tired mama until this little one starts going to bed by 8 or 9 like the others.)
But the food. I’m supposed to be talking about diet.
What I’m Eating
The things I crave most:
- Raw milk
- Egg yolks
- Grass-fed butter
- Meat, especially beef
I’m craving nutrient-rich foods with a lot of fat in them. If I eat sugar or white flour, I don’t feel well. It’s like my body’s mad that I’m “wasting” calories on that stuff!
I’ve been making a lot of low-sugar homemade ice cream (I use raw milk) and topping it with crispy walnuts. Many days I have a few soaked English muffins with lots of butter for breakfast. I feel best on the days I eat the most butter. I’ve been buying Kerrygold, and I do notice I feel better with that vs. “regular” butter (that isn’t grass-fed). Normally I love vegetables and I have been eating plenty on the side or in soups (usually covered in more butter if they’re not in soup), but this time that’s not what makes me feel the best. I need the fat to produce all the milk this little one needs!
(In four weeks he’s gained about 2.5 lbs. and 3″ over birth weight. He’s growing fast!)
I’ve made a lot of different kinds of soups: taco soup, lasagna soup, baked potato soup, broccoli cheddar soup, chicken noodle soup, and more. I make big batches and keep them on hand. I eat soup pretty much every day, sometimes more than once. I eat leftover soup if I don’t know what else to eat or I need a snack.
I also salt everything to taste with Real Salt.
Thoughts on a Breastfeeding Diet
These foods contain some important nutrients:
- Saturated fat (breastmilk is 50% fat if we’re talking macronutrients, and about half of that saturated)
- Cholesterol (breastmilk contains a lot of this too, and it’s needed for brain development)
- Omega-3s (needed for brain development)
- Vitamin A (needed for brain, immune, eye, and other development)
- Choline (brain development)
- Probiotics (immune development/gut)
There’s more, but those are some of the highlights. (In fact, you can read more about the importance of various nutrients and good sources of them in my new book, A Practical Guide to Children’s Health.)
For me, I really need these nutrients to create healthy breastmilk. I’d venture to guess I’m not alone in this area.
The WAPF breastfeeding mothers’ diet is actually a very good recommendation (I don’t disagree with them on everything; I think they’ve done a lot of good work and advocacy). I find myself largely following what they recommended, just based on what feels right to me. I don’t eat liver and I don’t eat as much fish (maybe once a week or every other week). But in general, my diet is similar to this.
If you need some help simplifying a healthy diet for pregnancy or breastfeeding, you might be interested in my book Healthy Pregnancy Super Foods. It has only two rules: avoid junk food, and consume superfoods. There are 30 recipes that are each bursting with superfoods to help you do exactly that!
I would encourage any woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding to consume a diet that makes her feel awesome — something nutrient-dense. Whether you focus on greens and coconut oil or beef and butter (like me!), you need the healthy stuff now more than ever.
Next week I’ll be sharing how I’m increasing the nutrient density of my family’s diet and also getting my budget down! It’s possible and I’m happy with my new system so far. 🙂
Did you notice certain cravings while pregnant or breastfeeding? Did a healthy diet help you?