Breast milk is the ultimate baby super food, designed specifically to give your baby the very best start in life. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends women breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond, for as long as mother and baby feel comfortable. Even if it’s only for a short time, breastfeeding will provide you and your baby with so many wonderful health benefits. It provides health, nutritional and emotional benefits to mother's and their babies.
BREASTFEEDING IS ALSO BETTER FOR THE PLANET
The theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is 'Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet'. One of the other great benefits of breastfeeding is that it's a sustainable way to feed your baby. Breast milk is a natural and renewable super food that’s on-tap and delivered straight to your baby without any packaging, or plastic pollution waste. By supporting mums and encouraging women to breastfeed we help to reduce the impact on our earth and help protect the health of our children and future generations. (Australian Breastfeeding Association)
ALTHOUGH ITS NATURAL BREASTFEEDING DOESN'T COME EASILY TO ALL WOMEN
Some women find it extremely painful or too hard to breastfeed. Indeed, it is normal for breastfeeding to take some weeks for mums and their baby to establish a good ‘working’ relationship. Many women feel they can’t produce enough milk or suffer from sore nipples and mastitis. However, with the right support and guidance from midwives or lactation consultants, and having a supportive partner, you can get through these breastfeeding difficulties and start actually enjoying the experience with your baby. Australian Breastfeeding Association is an excellent organisation that provides breastfeeding mothers with practical support to continue breastfeeding.
Placement, attachment and positioning are extremely important for successful and pain-free breastfeeding. There are also some extremely effective, natural medicines such as homeopathic remedies and herbal teas that naturopaths can prescribe to help treat common breastfeeding conditions.
NUTRITIONAL TIPS FOR BREASTFEEDING MUMS
Keeping well hydrated is important for breastfeeding mums, as dehydration can slow down milk production. Try increasing your water intake to around 2 ½ - 3 Litres a day. You will find that you are thirstier anyway, particularly while feeding, so listen to your body and drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day. The best way to remember to do this is to keep a big BPA-free water bottle (glass or stainless steel), with you at all times, and use breastfeeding as a cue for you to have a drink too.
Just like in pregnancy, while breastfeeding it is best to eat a variety of fresh, wholesome foods, which are free from toxins and added chemicals. Choose natural and unprocessed foods, that are preferably organic, including fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, oily fish, organic eggs, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, and fermented foods (yoghurt, fermented veggies, kefir, miso). Consume fish a couple of times a week which are high in beneficial omega-3 fats, and low in mercury, such as salmon, trout, cod, mackerel and sardines.
INCREASE GOOD QUALITY PROTEIN
A women’s need for protein is higher while pregnant and breastfeeding. Protein is important for milk production and for your babies growth and development, along with helping keep mums blood sugar levels stable and sugar cravings at bay. To meet this extra demand, you should include healthy protein-rich foods with meals and snacks. Healthy choices include nuts, seeds, legumes, wild fish, organic eggs, organic tofu or tempeh, organic yoghurt, and avocado.
HERBS FOR BETTER MILK PRODUCTION
One of the best ways to naturally increase milk supply is to drink a breastfeeding herbal tea three to four times a day. Look for teas that are made with galactogogue herbs, which are believe to enhance milk production. Fenugreek has been used for centuries to increase breast milk production in nursing mothers. Similarly, fennel, raspberry leaf, alfalfa, and nettle are also extremely beneficial milk-boosting herbs that are highly nourishing, can help improve digestion and ease intestinal gas for both mother and baby. Try Bodhi Organic Mother’s Milk TEA.
LIMIT CAFFEINE INTAKE
Drinking too much caffeine can over-stimulate breastfed babies, which can lead to irritability and sleep problems. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration and poor milk production. If you love your morning cup of coffee, limit yourself to only one and have it straight after your morning breastfeed. Remember black tea also contains caffeine so try to stick to 1 or 2 a day. The rest of the day you can enjoy caffeine-free herbal teas like chamomile and lemon balm (which are lovely and calming, this can help calm baby too), ginger (good for digestion), and rosehip (rich in vitamin C and antioxidants).
FOODS TO REDUCE WHILE BREASTFEEDING
If your little one is suffering from digestive complaints like colic try reducing foods that can cause wind and discomfort in some breastfeed babies. These include too much dairy foods (if your baby is lactose intolerant), brassica vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts), lentils and other legumes, and hot spices.
To make sure you have an enjoyable, successful breastfeeding experience you need to take good care of your breasts. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that you don’t get sore, cracked nipples or conditions such as mastitis.
- If your nipples hurt, check the positioning and attachment of your baby during a feed.
- Wear a comfortable, well-fitted maternity bra. Don’t wear clothes that will restrict your breasts and stop milk draining properly from that part of your breast. Watch out for pressure from seat belts and handbag straps too.
- Use cotton nursing pads if your breasts leak, as they won’t stick to your nipples, which could pull skin off. Change breast pads regularly to prevent a yeast infection.
- Don’t wash your nipples with soap, it will dry them out and increase chances of cracks and sores.
- To help prevent and treat cracked nipples apply natural oils like rose hip, or calendula oil between feeds, but make sure you wash nipple well before each feed.
- Leave your bra off and let your nipples air as much as possible after a feed. Leave breast milk on your nipples when you’re airing your breasts, it has a natural healing effect.
- Applying frozen cabbage leaves to the breasts is a good natural remedy for mastitis and breast engorgement. Bruise the leaves with a rolling pin, or lightly steam the leaves, then put them in the freezer for 10-20 min. Place the leaves on the breast and hold them in place with a soft bra. Leave them on until they go warm and smelly. Do this 3-4 times a day, until symptoms subside.
There are of course situations where mothers just aren’t able to breastfeed, for a number of reasons, this is when an organic infant formula is the next best thing to nourish their babies.
Written by Lisa Guy
Naturopath and Founder of Bodhi Organic Tea