Breastfeeding is no joke. It’s hard work! There are many things to consider, an obvious aspect being your diet. The following are a few dietary tips that have been helpful and, especially, not overwhelming to follow. In part II, I will talk about specific foods/herbs that help produce more milk.
1) Make sure YOU are following a healthy, balanced diet for YOU.
Rest assured, your baby will probably be getting the best of what you are eating regardless of your momentary dietary lapses, but if you are not eating enough nutritious calories or eating junk food all the time, your body may pull on your reserves and eventually become depleted.
2) Listen to hunger cues.
Most women who are breastfeeding need about 300-500 more calories daily than moms who are feeding formula.. Counting calories is not the solution. Instead, listen to your hunger cues and eat balanced, whole-food meals rather than nutritionally void foods. If you feel you are eating too much, reduce portion size and have smaller, more frequent meals.
3) Drink enough liquids - especially (you guessed it) water!
A good rule of thumb is to drink about half your weight in pounds in ounces. Meaning, if you weigh 155 pounds, drink 77.7 ounces per day, which translates to almost 10 cups per day (1 cup = 8 ounces).
4) A word on caffeine.
A daily cup or two of coffee is fine, but too much caffeine can interfere with your baby’s sleep or make him/her fussy, cranky, or irritated – making for an unhappy and exhausted mom. Caffeine is harder for babies to break down and therefore lingers in their system for longer. Caffeine is also found in sodas, chocolate, teas, energy drinks, and over-the-counter medicines. Keep caffeine intake to 300mg or less.
5) Limit alcohol.
One drink a day is probably okay for breastfeeding, but no more than that.
6) Rest & relax.
As much as feasible, considering you need to breastfeed every 2-3 hours! Rest and relaxation supports breast milk production.
7) Nurse frequently.
Breastfeeding is definitely a case of “the less you use it, the more you lose it.” Nursing frequently will aid the production of milk through stimulation of the adequate hormones. So, get to it!
8) Do not avoid foods altogether if you don’t need to.
Avoiding certain food groups can cause nutritional imbalances i.e. avoiding dairy leads to calcium deficiency. If you are thinking of limiting your diet in this way, speak to a dietitian or health professional. In the meantime, a few things to keep in mind:
- All babies are different. Even though there are generalities on what babies can tolerate, not all babies react the same way. Therefore, observation is key. If you notice that a food causes discomfort, it’s important to 1) avoid and 2) find an adequate nutritional replacement. Some foods to keep an eye out:
- Chocolate (caffeine, remember?); Spices (garlic, curry, chili pepper); Citrus fruits and their juices, like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit; Gas-producing veggies (onion, cabbage, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, Brussels sprouts) or legumes (beans, lentils); Foods that can cause a laxative effect like prunes, figs, pineapple, raspberries, blackberries; Peppermint tea; Parsley; Alcohol
- Check your family history for allergies and/or top allergens. The “Big 8” food allergies are a good place to start. Look at peanut, tree nuts, milk (especially cow), egg (egg whites), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Again, observation is key.
- Stay clear of added contaminants. Pesticides, insecticides, mercury, artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals are not good for you or the baby. Make sure to:
- Choose produce from the Clean 15 list and/or purchase organic local, and/or seasonal produce when choosing from the Dirty Dozen list, which has the highest amount of pesticide residue.
- Eat from glass not plastic containers.
- Choose fish low in mercury and stay within 12 ounces of quality fish a week. The Monterrey Bay Aquariums Consumer Guide is an awesome tool to help you pick the best fish choice.
- Choose lean meats and/or remove the skin since chemicals are stored in the fat.
Stay tuned for part II!
(Pictured: Theo at 2 weeks old.)
Everyone has an “issue" during pregnancy - that one symptom or side effect that nags at you for ten months. The most common complaints include nausea, unending fatigue, uncomfortable heartburn, or a soul-crushing sluggish colon. As you may have guessed, I experienced the latter….
During pregnancy, digestion slows down, way down. Not only are your intestines being physically displaced, but the increased hormone progesterone acts as a smooth muscle relaxant making regular contracting motions slower and less effective. Thus making it harder to move stool through the colon. Your body does this in order to properly nourish the baby and avoid bypassing his/her needs - pretty cool… for the baby.
My hope is that the tricks I’ve learned will you help you avoid this particular “issue”. If you are already prone to constipation, it is a good idea to brace yourself.
How To Manage Constipation During Pregnancy (or anytime!):
1) Hydration is key. If you are pregnant and constipated, water is your best friend. Water (some believe warm water, specifically) can help kick start a sluggish bowel. If you choose to add fiber to your diet, water becomes even more necessary since you need to increase fluid intake even more with fiber.
2) Two magical words: Stool Softeners. Stool softeners are NOT the same thing as laxatives. They shouldn’t entice your bowels to contract or give you that crampy feeling you get from laxatives. They simply pull water into your colon to help make the stool softer and more efficient as it moves comfortably through your digestive system . I prefer taking the supplement in capsule or tablet form with 1-2 full glasses of water. I recommend 200-300mg per day of the active ingredient - ducosate sodium, look for it on the back label.. Although it is suggested you take it at bedtime, I personally take it around 6 pm. It takes about twelve hours to kick in and you need to drink a lot of water after. Play with timing and you’ll find what works best for you.
3) Eat prunes and other sources of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber particularly helps with constipation. Try to include at least 2-3 sources a day. Some of my favorite sources: blackberries, beans, bran, bulgur, coconut, cashews, fruit with the skin (apples, pears), figs, lentils, prunes, quinoa, spinach, raisins, and raspberries.
4) Say yes to healthy bacteria! Taking a daily supplement and/or food source containing healthy bacteria will help your digestion and your immune system immensely. As for food sources, include fermented and cultured foods. If you choose to add a supplement, Nutrition Now PB8 (pictured), Jarrow Dophilus EPS, Nature’s Bounty Ultra Probiotic 10, or Ultimate Flora Adult are my go-to recommendations.
5) Don’t just sit there - squat! It’s been proven that squatting on the toilet streamlines defecation (makes it easier for stool to move through your digestive system) and reduces hemorrhoid risk. Check the research for yourself, or better yet, give it a try!
6) Drink hot teas. Gentle teas like peppermint and ginger can be enjoyed on a daily basis, but sometimes laxative teas come in handy. Get Regular by Yogi or Smooth Move by Traditional Medicinals use herbal laxatives that aid in contracting your bowels. Do not use for more than 2-3 days at time.
7) Sometimes you just need a salad. Make sure to buy a variety of dark leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables, and chew well to avoid bloat.
8) Iron Be Gone! Most ,if not all, prenatal vitamins have iron. Unfortunately, iron is constipating, especially in the amount provided during pregnancy, which can be up to three times more than the recommended intake! If you are suffering from constipation, make sure to choose Gentle Iron (usually the active ingredient is Iron Glycinate).
9) Magnesium. This mineral aids in drawing extra water into your bowels stimulating peristalsis (bowel contractions). I didn’t find it very helpful, but some people swear by it. I would suggest starting with 250-300mg.
10) Last resort: avoid grains. Even though some grains have a ton of fiber, they can also be very binding. Avoid grains, breads, and cereals for a bit and only include legumes (beans and lentils) for a few days. Most importantly, listen to your body and how you feel.
When the weather outside rises upwards of 90°F and humidity levels soar above 70%, it becomes crucial to remain hydrated. According to general guidelines, men and women should drink ~13 cups and ~9 cups, respectively, of water a day. This number should increase when you exercise, sweat a lot, or if you are overweight/obese. So make sure to always have water handy or…
Take advantage of seasonal foods that have high water content, such as watermelon. As the name implies, watermelon is almost entirely water – 92% (or higher) with 6% sugar and traces of protein. In season from July to September, watermelon is part of the Cucurbitaceae family, and is related to the cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, and gourd. Despite there being 1,200 known varieties, only about 50 are grown in the US. To find out more about your locally grown varieties, which are naturally low in pesticides and more wallet-friendly, check out What is Fresh.
Delicious and Nutritious!
One cup of cubed red watermelon contains 25% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, 10% vitamin A (from carotenoids), 175 mg of potassium and one gram of fiber – all for only about 45 calories! Watermelon also contains magnesium, vitamin Bs (B1-thiamine and B6-pyridoxine) and has high content of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in the reddish pigment.
The Benefits of Watermelon
- It’s a great low-calorie snack.
- It’s a heart-healthy food according to the American Heart Association because of high potassium, magnesium and vitamin C content.
- It decreases cancer risk due to lycopene content – specifically prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and colorectal cancers.
- It supports healthy eyesight and prevents glaucoma.
- It aids in the maintenance of electrolyte and cellular function.
- It increases levels of arginine, an amino acid researchers believe improves blood flow and consequently high blood pressure. Preliminary evidence also shows that it may aid in preventing excess accumulation of fat in fat cells.
Selecting a Watermelon
- Color: Deep red/pink is better. Recent studies confirmed that fully ripe watermelon has a much higher nutritional content, and is flush with lycopene, beta-carotene and phenolic compounds. If purchasing pre-cut watermelon, look for flesh that is a deep color with as few white streaks as possible. Today, 85% of all watermelons grown in the US are seedless. However, if you select a watermelon with seeds make sure it is deep in color or white. The underside should be creamy yellow, indicating ripeness. Note: seedless watermelons are not the result of genetic engineering but of hybridization.
- Weight in Water: A fully ripe watermelon will feel heavy for its size because water content increases as it ripens. Heavier is better!
How to Store and Prepare
Whole watermelon is best stored below 70°F as room temperature has been shown to increase levels of lycopene and beta-carotene. Once cut, cover and refrigerate. Eat within a few days up to a week. Note: always wash the watermelon before cutting to eliminate any bacteria that may be on the surface, that way the knife won’t contaminate the inner flesh.
Ideas on How to Cook and Serve
Watermelon has a thirst quenching texture but is also delicately crunchy, which makes it unique.
- Cut up into triangles or “melon balls” for an easy snack.
- Make a fruit salad and add yogurt and/or granola.
- Grill watermelon as a side dish or dessert.
- Make ice pops or ice-cubes. Blend watermelon (no added water necessary) with fresh mint, crushed ginger, and black pepper. Freeze and enjoy!
- Try one of many fresh summer salads including a watermelon and jicama salad or a watermelon and tomato salad (pictured above). Recipe: Mix 2 cups of watermelon (cubed) with 1 red tomato (½ inch pieces) and chopped fresh basil. Drizzle balsamic vinegar and sprinkle crumbled feta or queso fresco. So easy, and so tasty!
Did you know about watermelon’s amazing properties?
Written and photographed by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD
Dietary reference intakes for water, potassium, sodium, chloride and sulfate. Institute of Medicine.
Watermelon, Summer’s Antioxidant Splash. Environmental Nutrition. August 2010.
Find Out Why Watermelon is a Nutritional Powerhouse. Natural News.
Edited by Tamara Cabrero
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr