(NaturalNews) Congratulations! You did it! You've made it through pregnancy and childbirth, two marathons to be proud of, for sure. Now you may be wondering about what adjustments to make to your diet while you breastfeed.
The short answer is: eat a well-balanced diet for your health. Healthy mom = healthy baby. If you ate well over the last year, and had a fairly easy pregnancy, you are in great shape. One of the many wonders of breast milk is that it can meet your baby's nutritional needs even if your diet isn't perfect every day. And chances are, you will feel the deficiency first, should one arise. Here are some tips:
Eat a variety of healthy foods. Balance and variety are the key to insuring your body gets the nutrients it needs for you and baby. Fruits and vegetables, complex carbs, protein, good fats - you need them all, everyday. A wide and varied diet also increases chances that baby will be a good eater when its time for solids, as he'll be used to different flavors. Make sure you get a lot of greens, protein, and probiotics.
Avoid contaminants. If toxic ingredients in your food become "body pollution" for you, think how much more polluting it will be for baby - he is so much smaller! You are saving a ton not buying formula - put that money toward organic food. Shop locally, for what's in season, check out the "dirty dozen" list of produce highest in pesticides. Cut fat from meat (chemicals are stored in fat) unless you go grass-fed (then its good fat); be picky about what fish to eat or go with flaxseeds, chia seeds, or walnuts for your omega 3s; make sure your water is pure.
Don't count calories. This is not the time to worry about losing weight. Give yourself a year to get back to pre-pregnancy weight. Your body is working on it, starting with things more important than weight: re-strengthening your bones, shrinking your uterus, adjusting fluid levels (like all the extra blood you made while pregnant). Just breastfeeding will help with these things. Many women feel their uterus contracting (shrinking) in the first days and weeks of breastfeeding. Eat when you're hungry - and you will be hungry, burning up to 500 extra calories/day.
Drink plenty of water. Every time you sit down, have a glass of purified water in your hand. Milk out - water in. Dehydration can happen quickly giving up all that liquid gold, and wreck havoc on your milk supply. Studies say you can also indulge in one caffeinated drink per day, but it does end up in the milk, so don't do it before bedtime. It's best to avoid alcohol; it does enter the milk and may affect your letdown reflex. The babycenter.com website (below) has a great chart to see how much caffeine is in other popular drinks.
If you encounter problems, keep a food journal. Sometimes what you eat may be difficult for baby to digest, resulting in gassy, colicky, irritable baby. If you see a skin reaction, wheezing or congestion, or green, mucousy stools, you may have an allergic reaction on your hands. It is very common for things like milk intolerance to be passed down, and it may manifest in different, hard to identify ways. Food journaling can help you recognize patterns. If all else fails, go on the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apples, toast) for two weeks to clean out yours and baby's systems. Then slowly start adding things back in, keeping track. Most veggies are a safe place to start, if organic.
When diet isn't enough
Sometimes, diet may not be enough.
Keep taking your vitamins. Baby will have several growth spurts where he will sap your energy and reserves without a lot of notice. It's best to hedge your bets with a good whole-food prenatal vitamin from a health food store (don't take synthetics from doctors). There are several critical nutrients you won't get enough of from your diet as well:
• Calcium/Magnesium/Vitamin D • Chromium • DHA • Iron • Vitamin C
Useful for troubleshooting:
Insufficient milk supply - often related to inadequate nutrition, stress, lack of rest. Try herbal tea blends for Nursing Women, there's an oatmeal cookie recipe (available online) with supply-boosting ingredients. Consider herbal supplements that encourage lactation: borage, fenugreek, among others. Other herbs support hormones (and liver) such as dandelion, alfalfa, and kelp.
Avoid foods that dry up your milk: sage, parsley, thyme, among others.
You were made for this. It is a loving gift to your child that will never be taken away or undone. For support, consider joining the La Leche League - they have tons of resources. Good Luck!
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