The do's and don'ts of breastfeeding
It can be difficult to get the time to feed ourselves the extra 400-500 calories we need when we’re breastfeeding.
We begin to skip breakfast and lunch, grab a coffee or a sugary snack to give us a much needed ‘energy boost’ which often backfires leaving us ratty and wired.
And then all too often when we do sit down to a hot meal in the evening it often seems as if our babies are designed to begin demanding to be fed just as we’re about to take our first forkful.
To help you have to fight hard not to get into bad habits of snacking on biscuits, cakes and caffeinated drinks and keep each meal and snack protein rich and nutrient dense.
Protein packed meals and snacks give us and our babies more sustained and longer lasting energy, we and they sleep more deeply, we have more stamina and are able to cope with stress more effectively.
Refined sugary and white flour based snacks and meals give us quick energy which raises our blood sugar levels like rocket fuel but then just as quickly they drop off leaving us feeling jittery and anxious - a blood sugar low.
In contrast, high protein meals and snacks – eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, seafood and organic full-fat dairy products – goat’s cheese, cottage cheese, yoghurt; nut butters and protein rich snacks like nut butters, protein bars and protein balls or even protein shakes release glucose into our and our babies blood streams more slowly and give us a longer lasting energy boost.
Better blood glucose control helps balance hormones, energy and reduces stress hormones like cortisol which can disturb sleep and hamper breast milk production.
Protein also gives us the amino acids needed to make more brain-relaxing chemicals, neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, melatonin and tryptophan which helps us and baby stay relaxed, calm and sleeping deeply.
Protein-rich meals don’t have to take a long time to cook. You can cook a large organic chicken and a big batch of quinoa and lentils to last you for several lunchtimes and an evening meal or two – as a curry, a stirfry or with salad. And the carcass of the chicken can be used to make bone broth for soups. Always cook extra in the evenings and store portions in the fridge or freezer for future use. Once cooked it’s easy to grab quickly and add to salads, soups, sandwiches and stir-fries.
You can do the same with eggs – it takes 2 minutes to scramble a couple of eggs for breakfast or hard boil a batch which you can add to a Nicoise salad – egg, green beans, tuna, potato, tomato and salad leaves or make frittata – fry onions, courgette, tomato in a small frying pan and once brown add 6-10 beaten organic eggs, toss in some feta on top, lower the heat and gently cook, then brown the top under the grill for a few minutes if necessary. Frittatas can be eaten hot or cold and kept in the fridge until needed.
Wholefoods are packed to the gills with natural health giving phytochemicals, antioxidants and fibre. Despite their size, they pack a healthy punch way above their body weight. Just think a sunflower seed has the nutritional energy to grow a sunflower. An almond an almond tree. A brazil nut a brazil tree and an avocado an avocado tree.
Anything which is as whole and natural as nature intended qualifies as a whole food - think rice, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, salads and vegetables. If it’s unprocessed and unrefined it is a whole food.
Nuts and seeds and nut butters are rich in protein, minerals and are nutrient dense. In other words for their size, a few sunflower seeds and a handful of almonds give you a lot of nutrition. They are also quick to grab and eat with a piece of fruit or a couple of Medjool dates or dried figs whilst you’re breastfeeding or if you keep a jar of toasted seeds – pumpkin, sesame, sunflower in a jar you can sprinkle them on salads, vegetables, porridge and stir-fries to add nutrition and protein to each meal. Nut butters – cashew, almond, sunflower, pumpkin as well as peanut butter can be enjoyed on a rice or corn cakes or added to smoothies to increase their protein content.
Fish, fish eggs and seafood are rich sources of high quality protein, zinc and iodine for breastfeeding mothers. It’s quick to cook and highly nutritious. Oily fish – salmon, herring, anchovies and trout are high in EPA and DHA, Omega 3 fatty acids essential for children’s brain development. Smoked salmon, mackerel and trout, tinned sardines, rollmops, taramasalata, roe, crab or fish pate are easy to stock up on at the Deli or supermarket ready to eat for lunch when you’re in a rush. Try and have 2-3 portions a week. Only eat tuna once a week as it’s a large fish it can be high in mercury if eaten too often.
Slow cookers are a fabulous way to make a meat or vegetable stew, bone broth, a curry or a big batch of wholesome soup without much effort.They can even keep safely cooking your meal for the next day whilst you’re out or asleep. A rice cooker can equally cook up a big batch of rice which you can feed to the whole family or eat over several sittings.
Avocadoes are another quick and easy to eat highly nutritious food. They can be eaten for breakfast or lunch – mashed with a sprinkle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper, even a smattering of chilli flakes on rye bread or gluten-free nut bread. They are rich in folic acid, as well as vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium and potassium.
Red meat – both lean beef and lamb deliver hefty helpings of protein and iron, plus vitamin B12 for the proper development of the baby’s neurological system plus zinc which helps with bone growth and the immune system. And don’t forget liver – liver pate, chicken liver salad or good old fashioned liver, onions and gravy are good value and extremely high in B12, iron and vitamin A.
All dark green leafy vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower, beans, endives, peas, asparagus and salad leaves – rocket, watercress, kale, spinach as well as nuts and seeds are high in magnesium which nursing mothers need an extra 310-320 milligrams of a day. So be generous with your portions of vegetables at mealtimes – steam 2-3 even 4 different vegetables to have with your evening meal. Go for variety and a rainbow of fruit and vegetables every day. Have a salad every lunchtime and a soup or add spinach, kale or watercress, nuts and seeds to a daily smoothie.
Your body is very clever at balancing the nutrition your baby gets from your meals and as long as you’re getting 2,700 kcals a day you’ll also be getting what you need from a balanced diet – so make the right choices and enjoy your first months and year together without feeling jaded, sleep deprived or low.
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