It is great to have resources like the book The First Forty Days which has led to more awareness of just how vital nourishment is during postpartum and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and parenting are hugely demanding on your healing body's energy levels and reserves; therefore, eating nutrient-dense foods and choosing foods for hormonal balance will support more well-being for you and your baby. Breastfeeding mothers are advised to consume an additional 300-500 calories per 24 hours to support breastmilk production, which equates to around three large snacks. However, it's not just about how
much you eat; it's about what and when too.
I always recommend a protein-rich breakfast as soon as possible after waking and that all main meals have protein, fibre, healthy fats, plus slow carbohydrates (ideally consumed in that order). Focusing on your protein intake at regular intervals will help to support a stable blood sugar which means more consistent energy throughout the day and overall greater hormonal balance. Protein-rich foods such as eggs, salmon, beef, chicken and vegan protein powders are all great options to get your 25 grams of protein per meal or 1.4 grams per kilo
Hydration is also essential, as breastmilk is over 80% water, so a lot of your water intake is being diverted to your milk supply. Producing breastmilk also required water. Aim for 3+litres per day and more during and after exercise and if you live in a warm climate. I recommend having a water bottle at each breastfeeding station in your home. Sipping on a bone broth or a nourishing herbal tea (I love nettle and chamomile) during breastfeeding will
also help to keep you nourished and hydrated. If you struggle to drink water regularly, flavour your water with an electrolyte powder, I love Hydramama and LMNT. It’s also helpful to know that watery fruits, vegetables and soups also count towards your daily water intake.
I often support mothers with low breast milk supply that can typically drop towards the afternoon and early evening. I always look back to how they are starting their day, are they skipping breakfast and finally having a bite at lunch? Or relying on caffeine or other stimulants like sugar and refined carbohydrates to keep them going throughout the day? We chat about their nutrition priorities and find ways to create more consistency, meeting their nutritional and caloric needs. This always starts with a protein-rich breakfast. Feelings of increased energy and well-being are noted fairly quickly, and these changes are often reflected in the milk supply increasing too.
Having a meal train set up before your baby arrives, switching typical baby shower gifts for meal services vouchers and investing in some quality multivitamins and protein powders will go a long way to nourishing you and your baby during this special time.
Joelleen Winduss Paye, IBCLC Lactation Consultant, Midwife & Naturopath