After hours of shopping for the best crib, car seat, high chair, and diapers, it’s almost unbelievable that the most beneficial thing for your baby develops right within your own body. From your baby’s first moments and for many months to come, breastmilk is custom-made, its composition is always changing to match your baby’s size and health needs.
It’s not just the makeup of breast milk that exactly matches what your baby needs— it’s also unique as no two mothers have the same milk. One mother’s milk can even vary within a few hours.
Although it’s absolutely a liquid miracle, breast milk pulls vitamins and nutrients from the mama’s diet. In other words, the more nutrition your body takes in, the more that will pass onto your little one through your milk.
But how can you optimize your milk to give your fresh little newborn the healthiest jump start possible? Here are a few steps to keep in mind as you increase the nutrition in your milk.
Since breastmilk is almost 87% water, it’s crucial to ensure you’re getting plenty of H2O. Make sure you drink extra water when you begin breastfeeding, since staying hydrated increases your milk supply, helping you keep up with your hungry baby. Drinking water also prevents dehydration now that your little one is chugging down most of the water you drink and not leaving much for your own body. To figure out exactly how much water you should be drinking, simply divide your weight by two: if you weigh 120 pounds, you should try to drink just over 60 ounces of water daily. Bring a water bottle with you while running errands and remember to drink before you get thirsty!
Eat for two!
Remember when you were pregnant and everyone reminded you that you were “eating for two?” Although the phrase was probably a little irritating by the end of your pregnancy, it’s absolutely still true! Even though your little one may be in your arms, as long as you are breastfeeding, they are still consuming whatever you foods you pick, for better or worse. This is why it’s important to have variety and balance in your meals and snacks. Salmon is an example of a healthy meal, since it is loaded with DHA, a brain-boosting fat crucial to the development of your baby’s nervous system. However, remember to limit your salmon intake to two servings per week to avoid overexposure to mercury in your baby. Consume the following daily nutrition to pack your breastmilk with the vitamins your little one needs:
- 2-3 servings of protein: antibiotic-free meats, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts and seeds
- 3 servings of dark leafy green and yellow vegetables: spinach, kale, squash and sweet potato
- 2 servings of whole grains: oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, whole grain bread
- 2 servings of fruit: mangoes, grapes and berries pack the most punch
- Good fats: nuts, seeds, and avocado.
Take prenatal vitamins.
Even though you’re technically “postnatal,” it’s still crucial to continue taking prenatal vitamins. Just like during pregnancy, prenatal vitamins provide vitamins and minerals that are essential for both you and your baby. Check the ingredients in your bottle of vitamins to make sure they include vitamin D (grows strong teeth and bones), iron (oxygenates the blood), folate or folic acid (helps make new cells and synthesize DNA), calcium (keeps bones healthy as they grow) and omega 3 fatty acids (increases intellectual development). If you have a hard time remembering your vitamin, then try taking them at the same time everyday, or try centering them around your daily routine, for example after you brush your teeth, or before breakfast.
Drink bone broth.
You may have never heard of this solution, but using bone broth from organic, free-range, hormone-free animal bones and making a hot drink, soup, or base for gravies and sauces will fortify your breast milk with nutrients. From nine months of pregnancy until the moment of childbirth, bringing a baby into the world is hard work, and bone broth can help restore your body to good health. Strengthening your bones, tendons, and joints during postpartum recovery, bone broth also restores the blood and fluids that you lost during childbirth. It is easily assimilated into the body, meaning it can serve your body its benefits and nutrients quickly and effectively. Adding apple cider vinegar to the cooking process pulls out even more minerals, sending the nutrients from bone broth into your system at turbo speed.
During the first few days with your baby, you will find yourself crying with joy, then crying with frustration only five minutes later. Having a newborn is an absolute miracle, but it definitely brings stress as you are pushed outside of your comfort zone. As you juggle distant relatives clamoring into your home to get a look at your little one, a mountainous pile of laundry, and a hungry baby who is still learning how to eat, all while feeling exhausted because you literally just brought a human into this world, it’s understandable to feel worn down. However, it’s important to control these stressful moments as breast milk may contain messages that your baby can pick up on. As your stress levels rise, your cortisone, or the stress hormone, also rises, causing your newborn to sense the stress signal through your breastmilk as they are eating (isn’t breastfeeding just incredible?). While it can be difficult, try to take deep breaths, relax to some calming music, and help your baby feel at ease, even during the craziest moments. The laundry will eventually be clean, so just enjoy the time with your newborn, while infusing them with confidence and peace as you feed them your miracle milk.
Love your gut.
On the day your baby is born, they celebrate their first birthday showered in newborn clothes and plenty of kisses. But one of the most important gifts they can receive isn’t wrapped in ribbon or paper, but wrapped in their tiny gut and called a microbiome. As a collection of beneficial bacteria that will become the foundation of his or her immune system, the microbiome is essential to lifelong health for your little one. As the microbes transfer from mother to child during childbirth and the initial hours of skin-to-skin contact, they continue entering your baby’s gut throughout breastfeeding. On the contrary, a mom with an out-of-balance gut passes on her lack of microbes to her little one through her breast milk.
Daily probiotics replenish your system with essential flora, arming you and your baby’s immune systems with good bacteria. In addition to countless health benefits to your baby, studies show that probiotics may also increase your odds of successful breastfeeding, help you shed the baby weight more quickly and decrease your chances of experiencing the baby blues. We recommend Hyperbiotics PRO-Moms, the first probiotics formulated specifically for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. In addition to taking probiotics, studies show that eating a healthy, high fiber diet can quickly affect the microorganisms in our gut.
Breastfeeding is incredibly beneficial, and living a healthy lifestyle to increase nutrients in breast milk is even more helpful to your baby. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) released some pretty astounding information about the importance of breastfeeding. According to research gathered by WHO, if every child was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years, approximately 800,000 children’s lives would be saved every year. Of course, breastfeeding also provides a myriad of other benefits and a bright, healthy future for many children. It really is one of nature’s most amazing miracles.