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Breastfeeding, why is it so hard?

In recent times Australian mothers who choose breast feeding has steadily increased, 96% of mothers will initially begin breastfeeding, a positive result considering in past generations Australia’s breastfeeding rates were amongst the lowest in the developed world. As the benefits that are well documented have helped support breastfeeding mothers, breastfeeding has regained importance and popularity.

However even though most mothers will leave hospital or birthing centre breastfeeding it often starts to develop problems and many will reduce and then abandon breastfeeding. Statistics from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey3 results indicate that 96% of mothers initiate breastfeeding. Thereafter, exclusive breastfeeding rates drop off: 39% of babies are still being exclusively breastfed to 3 months and less than 15% to 5 months. (Australian Breastfeeding Association)

Although some issues with breastfeeding are unavoidable and the wellbeing of the baby and mother must always be the priority there are some simple tips that can be given to mothers who wish to successfully continue breastfeeding. Many of the factors are based around simple adjustments to nutrition. A breastfeeding mother needs an additional 500 calories a day as minimum to produce adequate supplies. A purely breastfeed or demand fed baby will require more energy than an athlete.

  • Increase Protein: a breastfeeding mother needs additional protein to assist in replenishing milk supply and aid in her post-natal recovery. Daily serves of quality proteins including: eggs, meat, poultry and fish. Vegan breastfeeding mothers are advised to supplement Vitamin B12 during breastfeeding, to prevent infant deficiencies. Snacking on nuts and nut butter should be encouraged rather than sugary pickups. Another tip in helping with protein intake is to include a protein shake before bed and mid-afternoon. Choose a natural whey or pea/rice protein such as 180 Nutrition Superfood. It makes an ideal snack midmorning or before bed to help replenish milk stores and manage appetite through the night. Protein powders can be a practical solution for mums who really struggle to get adequate calories and nutrition into their day due to the overwhelming demands of feeding and loss of sleep.

  • Essential Fatty Acids: Breast milk is rich in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which is essential for babies brain and physical development. Enjoy weekly serves of salmon, trout and sardines. Include some chai seeds and flaxseed into breakfast muesli. Snacking on walnuts and tahini on wholegrain crackers is delicious way to get the good fats into your diet. Don’t hold back on dressing your salads with some quality extra-virgin olive oil, its rich in vitamin E. Taking a quality fish oil supplement during breastfeeding is recommended. Vegan mothers can use a flaxseed supplement to substitute.

  • Probiotics and Mastitis: Mastitis is simply and painfully inflammation of the mammary tissue and the main reason why women will abandon breastfeeding. Healthy breastfeeding mothers appear to have two specific probiotic strains contained within their breast milk, which mothers who have mastitis do not. These protective probiotics are known as Lactobacillus gasseri and Lactobacillus salivarius. These two strains have powerful of antimicrobial and immune properties. There is clinical evidence that probiotics can treat mastitis as effectively as antibiotics. In clinic I specifically prescribe breastfeeding probiotics.

  • A good B-complex: choose a good multi that has activated B’s, this will assist in your energy metabolism and replenishing the increase demands for B group vitamins.

  • Vitamin D: many breastfeeding mothers, especially those who have winter babies or those who just can’t get out of the house enough are likely to be deficient in Vitamin D. Baby inherits its vitamin D status from its mother so it makes good sense to supplement vitamin D during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers require additional vitamin D due to the decrease in calcium stores.

Lastly and so simply drink adequate fluids: breastfeeding mothers require at least 2 litres of water a day. Before sitting down to nurse baby take a glass of water with you, keep a bottle of water in your baby bag. It is the easiest advice on my list.

Losing baby weight: we live in a world where image is everything. Celebrities appear to lose the baby weight as soon as they appear on the cover of Vanity Fair. Kanye must have insisted that Kim get it surgically sucked out of her. This is not real, nor should it be seen as normal. Post-natal baby weight should not be rapid, 2 kilos a week is healthy rate. Rapid weight loss can diminish breast milk supply. Try not to stress too soon about losing weight, your body has produced a little miracle and that is something to celebrate.

Breastfeeding and allergies: There are many benefits to both the baby and mother to successfully breastfeed. However prevention of allergies, atopy dermatitis and asthma related to breastfeeding are not clinically supported. Mothers who avoid allergens such as gluten, nuts and dairy during pregnancy and breastfeeding are not protecting their baby’s immune response in fact there is evidence to state that it could do quite the opposite. Not to mention it adds just another layer of stress on the demands of breastfeeding.

Breast feeding smoothie

  • 1 small banana or ½ punnet of berries

  • 1 cup of whole milk, coconut or almond milk

  • 1 scoop of protein powder, I recommend 180 Nutrition

  • 1 tablespoon of flax or coconut oil

  • 1 teaspoon of brewer’s yeast (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon of chia seeds

Place all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Poor into a glass and enjoy. This smoothie is substantial enough for a busy mum’s breakfast or a snack when the days’ feeds have left you ravenous.

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