Becoming a mother has been a transformative experience. I can live on a lot less sleep than I thought, I can be awoken from the deepest of sleep if I hear my baby stirring and I care much less about my needs or wants now that I have this little life depending on me.
Lyla is six weeks old and I finally feel like I’m emerging from the postpartum fog. I expected birthing her to be hard but I was not prepared for the unique and unexpected trials of postpartum life. Of course, I’m so happy to have my sweet daughter but I’m not enjoying the challenges postpartum has brought to me personally. Everyone’s recovery and experiences are different but I want to share my experience in the hope that if you are pregnant or postpartum we can support each other in our journeys.
A few posts back I wrote about Healthy Pregnancy Snacks and some general guidelines of what and how much to eat during pregnancy based on recommendations from Health Canada and Registered Dieticians.
In response to that post, I was asked to create a followup post on what to eat while breastfeeding. Like pregnancy, lactation requires increased calories + nutrients to support milk production. Since I am planning to breastfeed Baby K I thought this would be a great opportunity to share some insight on how I plan to stay nourished while lactating.
How Long Should I Breastfeed?
First, off Dieticians of Canada recommends that breastmilk alone be given until six months of age and then in concert with other foods till at least 12 months of age (although Health Canada and the World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding until age 2). As mom is the primary food source for at least the first six months it is imperative that her diet contains an adequate amount of calcium, healthful fat, fibre, fruits, vegetables, and water. No matter what type of diet one is on, such as vegan it is still possible to fortify the body with these nutrients. If you are having trouble planning an adequate diet be sure to speak to a Registered Dietician. EatRight Ontario is a great place to get started in contacting a dietician or to ask a question by email.
You may not be aware of this but breastfed babies also require a daily vitamin D supplement in order to prevent a deficiency which could lead to rickets. Formula fed babies are exempt from this recommendation because their food is fortified with this vitamin. Vitamin D drops for infants can be found in the vitamin section of the pharmacy.
What Should I Eat While Breastfeeding?
One recommendation for lactating mothers is to consume about 500 more calories per day than pre-pregnancy. Although for some women this may be too much or insufficient. One’s caloric intake depends on how active they are and how much body fat is present.
As more calories are consumed more nutrients are provided to the body. Furthermore as one breastfeeds the metabolism becomes more efficient. Plus the extra pounds on a new mom will also be used to supply nutrients while breastfeeding.
Overall eating a balanced and varied diet is essential to providing one’s body with the proper nutrients.
Balanced diet: eating an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrate + fat, each macronutrient plays a different role in the body, brain, and metabolism.
Protein: meat, fish, eggs
Protein can increase metabolism and is needed for neurotransmitters in the brain
Carbohydrate: fruit + vegetables
Carbohydrates provide quick energy by raising blood sugar levels
Fat: olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds
Fats keep us full, help with brain function and impair carbohydrates from entering the bloodstream too quickly.
Varied diet: eating different types of food or trying a new food each week
Try these easy substitutions to add more variety to your diet:
using quinoa in a casserole instead of rice
making lasagne with zucchini strips instead of pasta
subbing in roasted sweet potato for regular potatoes
making muffins with half whole wheat flour and half regular flour
trying plain yogurt in your smoothie over flavoured
What if I’m not Eating Enough?
The milk produced for baby is made from nutrients within the mother’s body and the food she consumes. If for some reason the mother is not well nourished her body will provide the needed nutrients to produce milk for the infant. In fact in scenarios where mothers were close to malnutrition the milk produced was adequate enough to supply the child and allow proper growth.
Furthermore feeding when baby initially shows signs of hunger (rooting, rapid eye movement, flexing arms or closed fists, sucking on hand) or feeding on cue is imperative to establishing not only an adequate milk supply but to give baby enough food throughout the day. However, each baby is different and as time goes on parents will begin to recognize their own child’s feeding cues.
Crying is a late sign of hunger and could make latching more difficult.
Are There Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding?
Besides the obvious of alcohol and smoking, there are not any specific foods to avoid.
Caffeine intake may or may not affect the baby. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding notes that “the amount of caffeine in five or fewer five-ounce cups of coffee (less than 750 ml) will not cause a problem for most mothers and babies.” One must also consider the size of their mug (8oz or 12 oz) and all sources of caffeine such as carbonated drinks, some pain medication, some cold medication and other medications.
A baby that is alert, wide-eyed or fussy may be overstimulated by caffeine. However, in about one cup of coffee, the amount of caffeine transferred to the breastmilk is about 1%. Although it is important to note caffeine does accumulate in the baby.
Breastfeeding moms shouldn’t feel pressure to eat certain foods for their nutrient content. Other foods will also contain the same nutrients.
Additionally, milk consumption in the mother is not essential to producing milk. In fact, calcium can be received from many other sources. Such as chicken broth, where the chicken is cooked for an extended time to soften the bones. Other sources include canned fish (salmon or mackerel) that contain the softened bones due to processing, whole grains, green leafy vegetable, tahini, almonds.
How Much Fluid Should I Consume?
According to La Leche Leauge drinking till thirst is a good guideline to follow. Most new moms find it helpful to have a water bottle nearby while feeding. As long as one’s urine is light coloured fluid intake is sufficient.
Furthermore drinking more than needed or drinking herbs does not help increase milk supply. Only the baby fully emptying the breast regularly and on cue will tell the body to produce more milk.
I’m Vegetarian or Vegan is My Baby Still Getting Enough Nutrients?
A vegetarian diet containing some animal products like eggs or dairy is usually adequate. although when these foods are eliminated as in the case of a vegan diet vitamin B12 must be incorporated somehow, usually through a supplement.
One benefit of eating a vegetarian diet is lower levels of PCB’s (environmental contaminants) within the body as these are stored in the fatty tissue. Vegetarians tend to consume less fatty foods than an animal product based diet.
What About Losing Weight, Is it Safe to Diet?
Generally, it can take up to a year to lose the extra weight accumulated during pregnancy. Part of the weight gained during pregnancy is used to meet the nutrient and calorie needs of breastfeeding. Therefore it is recommended to wait at least 2 months before trying to lose weight. During these first few months, the milk supply is established and the mom’s body is healing from birth. Finally, weight loss should be gradual, about 1-2 pounds per week.
For more information on breastfeeding in general and tips and advice on breastfeeding be sure to check out the La Leche League Website or the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (I found this to be really helpful in preparing to breastfeed).
Breast-Feeding Success. (2017). Todaysdietitian.com. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/100112p52.shtml
Canada, P. (2014). Breastfeeding & Infant Nutrition – Canada.ca. Canada.ca. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/childhood-adolescence/stages-childhood/infancy-birth-two-years/breastfeeding-infant-nutrition.html
LLLI | NB Maternal Nutrition during Breastfeeding. (2016). Llli.org. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from http://www.llli.org/nb/nbmarapr04p44.html
LLLI | What effect does the mother’s consumption of caffeine have on the breastfeeding infant?. (2016). Llli.org. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from http://www.llli.org/faq/caffeine.html
PFC Balanced Eating Part 1: What is PFC? – Dietitian Cassie. (2014). Dietitian Cassie. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from https://www.dietitiancassie.com/pfc-balanced-eating-part-1-what-is-pfc/
To read more pregnancy updates check out the following posts:
In lieu of being 37 weeks tomorrow (third trimester) and officially early term over preterm, I thought it was time to give one last pregnancy update.
I was thinking about my third trimester experiences compared to previous trimesters and I think this trimester just may be my favourite. Although at times I feel really uncomfortable, hot, tired and don’t sleep through the night because I’m up to pee around five times a night, I am sort of loving third trimester.
A few reasons why the third trimester has been my favourite are:
I finally look pregnant.
At my last appointment, the midwife noted I have a long torso and therefore I carry pretty small. Yet I’m still within the normal range of measurements at each appointment so there is nothing to worry about. Nonetheless, people have only started recently commenting that I’m finally showing in an obvious way. While I appreciate their comments I’m not bothered that I tend to carry small. As long as my midwife is not worried and I’m continuing to gain weight I’m happy with my bump.
On the plus side, I can still wear most of my pre-pregnancy clothes and don’t have too much trouble maneuvering around. Although sometimes when I lean forward to grab something my stomach hits the spacebar on my laptop and pauses Netflix :p
We’re almost ready for Baby K to come
In the last few weeks, we’ve set up our crib, stroller and installed the car seat. Plus we’re all registered at the hospital and I completed my breastfeeding class (which I highly recommend, it was so helpful having proper breastfeeding techniques explained and being able to ask questions of the public health nurse). Seeing all these visible reminders that soon there is going to be a baby here with us is a bit surreal!
I still have to wash all of her clothes, we need blankets and newborn diapers but other than that we have lots of wipes, diaper cream, her bath, baby soap, and lotion among other essentials. I’m feeling mostly ready but I’m waiting till after our shower to see if there are any last minute things we might need.
I can feel big movements from Baby K
In previous trimesters I felt little kicks, jabs, and somersaults from Baby K. Now I can feel her pushing against my stomach. Sometimes I can feel her little foot poking my right side. At other times she makes my whole stomach move almost in waves. It’s so cool knowing she’s growing bigger each day and is almost ready to come out.
Overall this third trimester has gone fairly well, especially considered to the first trimester, I really am feeling pretty good.
I’m getting really excited to finally meet Baby K but at the same time, I’m anticipating some big changes. At times life feels a little daunting and overwhelming. I know that all these changes are good and definitely things to be thankful for.
Nonetheless having a baby for the first time is daunting because I’ve never done this before. However, I’m thankful to have a lot of support from family and friends.
If you have any tips for being a new mom please leave me a comment below. I am very open to any advice people want to give me, because I am very new at this and want to be prepared as best I can.
For more on my pregnancy and postpartum journey read:
Can anyone else relate to feeling nervous about the sex talk? With the Whole Story, there is no need to fear.
I know I’m a long way off from having to answer any awkward questions about sex just yet. Still, the thought of navigating this tricky subject makes me nervous!
As I’ve gone through pregnancy and the closer I get to having my baby the reality of parenting sets in more each day: I am actually going to have to teach this child about life. Right now I’m super focused on preparing to keep her alive. However, I know the infant stage is short and beyond that, I’ll have to learn other practical parenting skills. Like knowing how to teach her about her body and answering the tough questions like “where do babies come from?” and “what’s a period?”.
As an avid learner and a lover of research, I’m always on the lookout for resources from more experienced parents and especially moms on the best approach to teach Baby K about subjects that I’m not sure how to best approach. For me, the sex talk, puberty and growing up are all subjects that seem just a little bit more intimidating than helping with a math problem or teaching manners.
Puberty Was the Worst
To be honest as a child puberty was the worst part of growing up. I couldn’t even say the word “bra” without cringing. Being the oldest girl in my family I had to go through all those awkward changes first. While my younger sister who had no reserve would bluntly ask me the most awkward and personal questions about what I was going through. I found the whole process embarrassing, unpleasant and not something I openly wanted to talk about (even with my mom).
Although I had a few conversations with my mom about puberty, I was also given a book on the changes my body would go through and of course I learned a few things at school. Other than that I kind of just figured things out on my own. I know I wasn’t the only one!
Often times our own parents didn’t receive adequate information, so how are they supposed to know what to tell us?
I’m sure you can relate to not loving puberty and dreading having the “talk” with your own children. It’s not a subject that everyone feels super comfortable broaching.
The Whole Story Can Help
Thankfully things can be different! Plus they don’t have to be awkward either. What if you could approach talking about sex, puberty and growing up with your daughter in a way that is fun and low stress?
Perhaps you’ve heard of popular marriage blogger and speaker Sheila Wray Gregoire from to Love, Honour and Vacuum? I’m excited to share that she has launched a course led by her two daughters (who are the same age as me and my sister) all about puberty, sex and growing up. It’s called the Whole Story: Not-so-scary talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up and it’s an online video course for moms and daughters to learn about puberty, sex and growing up. As followup moms can use the discussion questions to keep the conversation going.
My favourite part of this course is that it doesn’t replace the mom’s role. Instead, it starts the conversation you may be fearing in a way that is fun, relatable and safe! Plus each video is only 3-5 minutes long.
Let’s face it our kids are going to hear stuff about sex from their friends, school, and the media. Shouldn’t we be proactive and make sure their primary source of information is us as parents? I know that if Baby K ever has any questions about sex or her body I would want her to come to me first. I don’t want her to receive confusing or misinformed information. Instead, I want her to feel comfortable about her body and confident in bringing me her questions.
I may not know where to start in talking about puberty with my daughter when the time comes, but I’m glad to have The Whole Story as a starting point. I wish I’d had something similar available when I was growing up!
I also love that the course includes two versions: one for 10-12-year-olds and one for 13-15-year-olds. These age groups have different needs. Younger girls need factual, practical information whereas teens need to discuss and understand the more emotionally driven and nuanced topics like porn, masturbation, and dating.
The younger version covers:
- her period
- body changes
- sex and how babies are made
- boys and peer pressure
- taking care of her body
The older version covers:
- troubleshooting issues with her period
- relationships with guys
- how to handle social issues like online bullying, peer pressure, friends
- honouring God while living in a highly sexualized world
- styling yourself in a way that sends a positive message
If you’re ready to start the conversation about puberty, sex and growing up with your daughter in a way that is fun, low stress and way less awkward than when we had the talk check out the Whole Story!
Do you have any awkward experiences of going through puberty?
What do you wish would have gone differently for you when learning about puberty, sex and growing up?
*affiliate link used