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Nutrition for a Breastfeeding Mother

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The quality of breastmilk depends on the quality of the mother's diet. Avoid refined sugar and flour products (processed foods, white bread and pasta). Eat fresh, mostly raw vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

The quality of breastmilk depends on the quality of the mother's diet. Avoid refined sugar and flour products (processed foods, white bread and pasta). Eat fresh, mostly raw vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Use cold-pressed, unrefined nut and seed oils such as flax seed or pumpkin seed oil on salads daily. These oils contain the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and linolenic acid (omega-3), which are precursors for developing the hormone-like substances called prostaglandins that are vital for healthy skin and a strong immune system in the developing child. For linoleic acid to convert to prostaglandins, gamma linolenic acid (GLA) must first be produced. GLA is present in mother's milk but not in cow's milk or formula. Evening primrose oil provides this GLA; open a capsule of it and rub the contents on tender skin such as the breasts to be absorbed.

Calcium is very important. If the mother's diet does not include sufficient amounts of calcium for milk production, this mineral is leached from her bones. Good sources of calcium are almonds, sesame seeds, carrots, endives, watercress, brussels sprouts and turnip greens. Vegetables are a better source of calcium than cow's milk because they also contain magnesium, which is essential for proper calcium absorption. Vitamin D is also needed to absorb calcium. Sunlight provides vitamin D, as does eating fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel. If the mother's overall diet is good, a well-supplied prenatal multivitamin can be continued while nursing, as all vitamins are important.

Green food supplements (one tablespoon daily) contain many nutrients, especially minerals and chlorophyll. Kelp supplies potassium and iodine for a healthy thyroid. Alfalfa is high in vitamin K. Brewer's yeast provides B vitamins and helps increase milk supply; take three teaspoons three times daily.

Certain foods in the mother's diet may cause colic in the baby. Common culprits are onions, garlic and cabbage. Dieting or fasting while breastfeeding can release poisons from the mother's fatty tissues and secrete them into the milk.

Source: Encyclopedia of Natural Healing (alive Books, 1998)

Breastfeeding Stats to Chew On

In 1996/97, 21 percent of Canadian infants under the age of three were breastfed, 35 percent were breastfed for at least three months, and 22 percent less than three months. That comes to 78 percent in total, up from 73 percent in 1994/95.

Infants with older mothers are more likely to be breastfed. In 1996/97, 73 percent of infants under three with mothers aged 20 to 24 were breastfed, compared with 79 percent with mothers aged 25 to 44.

Infants in western provinces are more likely to be breastfed. High proportions of breastfed infants under three were found in Saskatchewan (88 percent), BC (89 percent) and Alberta (90 percent). In contrast, infants in Quebec were less likely to be breastfed (60 percent). However, Prince Edward Island had the largest increase in the proportion of breastfed infants, from 61 percent in 1994/95 to 73 percent in 1996/97.

Source: Statistics Canada Health Indicators, statcan.ca

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