Hey, momma! I’m focusing on you today with this handy list of nutrients for postpartum and breastfeeding. The items on this list can help maximize your nutrition during this sweet and sometimes scary time.
•Fish Oil — Fish oil provides the essential omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are essential for brain development. Cold water fatty fish are one of the best sources of these, so if you’re able to eat 2-3 servings of these fishes per week, you should have your needs and baby’s needs met. If that isn’t feasible, you can supplement with a fish oil. Remember to select a GMP compliant supplement and double check the recommended dosage of DHA and EPA for lactating women so that you get enough for you and baby.
•Vitamin D — Studies have shown that most breastfed babies are not getting enough Vitamin D. This means that any of mom’s vitamin D is going straight to baby. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to things like fatigue and depression, which new moms are already at risk for due to other causes. It also means that your immune system is not functioning optimally, which means that the immune system that you’re helping your babe to develop won’t be as awesome as it could be. This is one micronutrient that you may need to rely on supplementation to get enough of, especially if you live in a cloudy or northern location. Remember to select a GMP compliant supplement and double check the recommended dosage of Vitamin D for lactating women so that you get enough for you and baby. If you’re concerned about over-supplementing, you can ask your doctor to check your levels or you can order a home test kit from True Health Labs, ZRT Laboratories, or the Vitamin D Council to go over with your healthcare practitioner.
•Liver — The ultimate breastfeeding superfood! Liver is a great source of healthy protein and micronutrients (B Vitamins, Vitamin A, Choline, Iron, and Copper). Choline in particular is incredibly important for brain and neurological development. Lactating mommas typically need 550 mg of choline per day, which can be tough to get through a diet that doesn’t included liver (unless you want to eat eggs all day). Most prenatals include no or inadequate levels of choline. My recommendation is to eat 1-2 servings of liver per week. If you can’t make that work, you can do encapsulated liver supplements or supplement with frozen liver. Chop fresh, raw liver into capsule sized pieces and freeze for a least 2 weeks to kill any pathogens. You can take one frozen piece per day just like you’d take a capsule. Liver does contain a high amount of Vitamin A so it’s a good idea to double check with your healthcare practitioner to make sure that you’re able to process Vitamin A appropriately.
•Continue That Prenatal — Prenatal is the ultimate misnomer. Prenatal vitamins should ideally be take from preconception through postpartum, even if you aren’t breastfeeding. Pregnancy and lactation are beautifully designed by the evolutionary process to give babies the best start to life. This means that these processes will strip momma of nutrients to give them to baby. In addition, a growing baby (in the womb and breastfeeding) may require some nutrients that mom herself doesn’t require. This is why prenatals were designed. Most high quality prenatal capsules require taking a high number of capsules which can be hard for some women. There are some awesome prenatal powders that you can consider instead because these can be snuck into smoothies, freshly juiced produce, or bone broth.
•Consider Micronutrient Testing — Because we know that pregnancy and lactation deplete mom’s nutrient stores, I recommend that moms I work with consider micronutrient testing between 3-6 months postpartum for a status check. This helps us to optimize mom’s diet and/or supplements to make sure that she and baby are equipped to be in the best place possible. You can ask your doctor to check this for you, or you can order a home test kit from True Health Labs or Spectracell to review with your healthcare practitioner.
•Don’t Be Afraid of Carbs — Carbs are not inherently bad, and especially while mom is establishing her milk supply, you’ll find that you may need to consume more carbs than normal. Nursing is like performing rigorous exercise, which is why recommendations are generally that lactating women consume 500 extra calories per day. Based on this, a lactating woman can eat about 62.5 extra grams of carbs per day if she needs them for energy and milk production. For reference, a small apple or pear contains about 15 grams of carbs. A couple of important notes here…this does not mean that you need to eat 62.5 grams of white sugar or bleached flour products. Eat fruits and veggies whose fiber content prevents blood sugar issues, and pair your carbs with healthy fats and/proteins. Base these “extra” carbs on your “normal” baseline.
•Add in Galactagogues As Needed — If you’re having supply issues, and the usual recommendation of increasing the frequency of nursing or pumping isn’t helping, you may wish to add in some natural galactagogues to help with milk production. Some favorites are Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, Goat’s Rue, and Alfalfa. These can be taken as a tea, tablet/capsule, or tincture. There are a lot of combination product options available, but I typically recommend starting out with one galactagogue at a time and not adding another for at least 72 hours. Most of these herbs are very potent and some have adaptogenic properties, so it’s important to get a feel for how the herb makes you feel, how baby reacts, and how your milk supply reacts. Work with a healthcare practitioner so that you do not overdo galactagogue use which may prevent your baby from getting enough of the fattier milk that comes towards the end of a feed.
•Take Care of Yourself — You can do all the “right” things and still have issues with supply. Fed is always best, and there are so many beautiful formula options and supplement options for infants. In addition, solids can help to meet your little’s nutritional needs starting around 6 months. If you are dealing with a postpartum mood disorder, your body may product less milk as a protective mechanism; this is biologically normal and okay. Talk to your partner or your tribe about what they can help you with if needed. Consider working with a postpartum doula, maternal mental health practitioner, or lactation consultant. If you’re getting your micronutrient levels or Vitamin D levels checked already, it may not be a bad idea to get a thyroid panel and salivary cortisol test done. Postpartum thyroiditis can compound postpartum mood issues, and using adaptogenic galactogogues that are butting heads with your adrenals can potentially worsen the body’s stress response.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to ask any questions below. Be sure to check back frequently for more updates or subscribe so you never miss an update!
The views expressed in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition and should not be substituted for medical or nutritional advice.