New moms wonder how to best adjust their eating habits while breastfeeding in order to optimize their baby’s nutrition, maintain a healthy weight, and navigate the new demands on their bodies. While you don’t have to drastically change the menu of healthy foods that you already enjoy, here are some of the adjustments you’ll likely need to make as a breastfeeding mother.
Managing a big appetite: Breastfeeding women will often notice a significant increase in hunger as the result of their increased metabolic rate. It’s important that you nourish and listen to your body. If you fail to give yourself enough nutrients from your diet, your body will draw upon reserves you can’t afford to lose. Eat balanced meals and healthy, portion-controlled snacks to find balance between maintaining a healthy postpartum weight and keeping your energy up.
Changing your perspective on postpartum weight loss: While your pregnancy weight may fall away quickly, it’s important to have a realistic idea about returning to your pre-pregnancy shape, size and fitness levels. Plan for gradual weight loss, and only diet and exercise with approval from your physician. Instead of being preoccupied with a short-term weight or size goal, focus on eating healthily and keeping your energy high- not only for physical exercise, but also for the demands of new parenting.
Thinking about fat: You’ll want to focus on healthy fats contained in olive oil, avocados, olives, nuts, and fatty fish. While this is always an important dietary concern, you should be particularly mindful to avoid saturated and trans fats while breastfeeding. These can change the composition of your breast milk and have potentially adverse effects on your infant’s health.
Being critical of contaminants: In addition to unhealthy fats, many environmental and food contaminants can find their way into breast milk and negatively affect your baby. Have an understanding of which fruit and vegetables harbour the most pesticides, or choose organic options. Consider buying locally and in-season, in addition to choosing lean meat and filtered water.
Watching for baby’s reaction: While many nursing mothers eat a wide variety of foods and flavours, it’s important to keep an eye out for any patterns between your eating habits and unwanted symptoms your baby experiences. If you notice changes in your infant’s stool or mucous, look for cues in your eating. Sometimes babies have sensitivities to certain components of their breastfeeding mother’s diet.
For more tips about breastfeeding nutrition, check out this neat “A to Z guide to physical and nutritional needs while breastfeeding.”
Deciding when it’s time to start weaning is certainly a subjective and personal decision. Some of the factors that help you choose when the time is right include:
> your lifestyle
> your child’s needs
> the demands of breastfeeding on your body
> indications that your baby is ready to wean
> the emotional connection you have to breastfeeding
Remember that weaning is a gradual process and one that should be undertaken with confidence and patience. Some mothers find that when it’s time to begin weaning, the resistance from their babies is an early and significant obstacle to the process. Here’s some general advice that you might find helpful if you’re struggling to start this transition.
Your baby may not be ready. If you believe in child-led weaning, then your cues for the right time to stop breastfeeding will come from your baby. Carefully assess the situation as you try to wean. Is your baby simply used to feedings and fussing out of habit? There is an expected transitional phase where you’ll need to introduce your baby to whatever new feeding routine you’re moving towards in the early stages of weaning. Since this will be an adjustment, some confusion, fussing or resistance is normal. If, after an initial attempt, your baby truly doesn’t seem ready to skip a feeding at the breast however, you might consider waiting.
Find new ways of nurturing. Breastfeeding is an emotionally rich experience for mothers, and an opportunity to bond with your child in a unique way. This is an experience that is difficult to let go of. But the special relationship you share with your baby doesn’t have to diminish at all when you stop breastfeeding. During the process of weaning, find new ways to nurture your child, whether it’s by rocking, napping together, singing, soothing or reading.
Timing is important. Since weaning is an emotional and physical transition that takes some adjusting, avoid beginning the process during other major changes in your family’s life. If you’ve just returned to work, for example, your child may still be getting used to new structures and routines. Adding in weaning may overwhelm both of you, and might be met with more resistance if too much else is changing simultaneously. You will also want to time weaning based on your own health. Your nutritional needs and metabolic rate will be changing, so begin weaning at a time when you’re ready to adjust your habits, exercise and diet accordingly.
Make your own schedule. Figure out a weaning process that works for you. Are there certain feedings that feel more intuitive to cut out? That’s the place to start. Consider the duration, convenience and time of day of each feeding. Check out this insightful and personal blog post from breastfeeding consultant Taya Griffin as an example. She shares her experience with night-weaning. She knew that she could benefit from more sleep, and that eliminating nighttime feedings was a good place to start the weaning process. We appreciate her reminder that her successful experience with night-weaning doesn’t mean that she’s ready to eliminate breastfeeding altogether. Remember, as she does, that starting your own weaning process doesn’t have to put you on a fast track to solely solids. Go at your own pace.
Talk to someone! As with many aspects of mothering and baby care, talking about your feelings, experiences and struggles can be enormously helpful. Talk to another mother, a breastfeeding consultant or keep an eye out for workshops and support groups. We host many! You can also chat with Dr. Heins about how to ensure you meet your growing toddler’s nutritional needs. Whatever path you choose, knowledge, patience and support will make this an exciting transition in your baby’s life.
If you’re a new mother or a soon-to-be mom, you might already realize that breastfeeding can be an unpredictable journey. Many mothers and newborns face challenges with latching and effective feeding, and while these are perfectly normal, they can require the help of a counselor who has plenty of experience with breastfeeding.
When you’re tired, hormonal and experiencing more physical and emotional changes than you know what to do with, the challenges presented by breastfeeding can feel overwhelming. Sometimes mothers will have a very emotional response to breastfeeding, and the inability to get your baby to latch can feel like a personal failure.
Nothing could be further from the truth -and with the help of the right lactation consultant, you’ll have no problem remembering that.
Why consult on breastfeeding? Shouldn’t it be intuitive?
Breastfeeding feels wonderful and natural in many ways. It’s a time for a new mother to bond with her baby, to experience her femininity and maternal instincts fully, and to connect with her new identity as a mother. However, the most important outcome of breastfeeding is a healthy baby that is being nourished and gaining weight at a normal rate.
Sometimes –often in fact- some extra support is necessary to ensure that you’re optimizing feeding time for your baby. A breastfeeding consultant is not only highly helpful and instructive, but she’s also a major source of comfort if you’ve been finding the experience frustrating or disheartening. Your consultant can help you regroup and strategize effectively, while consulting on any of the following issues:
1. My baby won’t latch: If your baby doesn’t seem interested in feeding, can’t latch effectively, or doesn’t seem to be swallowing much milk, a consultant can help by introducing you to alternative breastfeeding techniques and tools.
2. Ow! Is it supposed to be this painful? While breastfeeding can initially cause some discomfort, one of your breastfeeding goals will be to eliminate pain. Your lactation consultant can offer you different latching techniques and natural remedies to help make breastfeeding more comfortable. She will also carefully analyze and help optimize your baby’s positioning and suckling.
3. I’m worried about my milk production: If you’re worried about low milk production, your consultant can advise you on how to effectively boost your supply with techniques like pumping between feedings and compressing your breasts to fully drain them of milk. Often the problem isn’t supply at all. It may be that you are producing plenty of milk- it just isn’t being effectively delivered to your baby. Getting a second opinion will better enable you to understand your supply, particularly weighed against your baby’s needs and feeding behaviours.
4. My baby isn’t gaining weight: If your baby is having trouble regaining newborn weight or is falling into a low percentile for his or her age group, it’s time to analyze and adjust feeding habits. Your lactation consultant will determine your baby’s suckling and swallowing patterns and help you to make any necessary modifications to your feeding technique and position. Sometimes babies need to be stimulated during breastfeeding, so your consultant might recommend that you alternate sides, re-position, or play with your baby’s hands or feet. This can help to keep the baby alert and suckling actively.
Building a relationship with your lactation consultant
Since your lactation consultant is meant to be a helpful and comforting presence to you, you’ll want to choose someone whose company and guidance you genuinely enjoy. Consulting on breastfeeding is an important postpartum process, and directly connected to your baby’s health and growth. Accordingly, we take breastfeeding seriously and sensitively. We’re thrilled to welcome Maria Lameiro of DoulaNatur Holistic Family Services to our team at Thrive Health as our on-site lactation consultant! Maria is a doula, lactation consultant, childbirth educator, and mother of three. She is passionate about holistic family health and loves to empower others to reach their parenting, birth, breastfeeding and lifestyle goals. She’d love to assist and support you on your breastfeeding journey.