World Breastfeeding Week is on 1-7th August each year and is aimed at promoting awareness and support for breastfeeding mothers to achieve better health outcomes for both mothers and babies. At Des Lardner’s Organic, we understand the challenges that mothers face when breastfeeding and aim to support them in a holistic way.
Breastfeeding is valuable for the bonding of mother and child and can be nurturing for both. However, for many women, breastfeeding doesn’t come easily. There are a number of reasons breastfeeding may not be possible for mothers such as: difficulty latching, caesarean section, ongoing infections and obesity. Ironically sleep deprivation and exhaustion are the leading causes of breastfeeding challenges; effecting milk production, flow and quality.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Australia’s infant feeding guidelines recommend “exclusive breastfeeding of infants to at least six months of age when solid foods are introduced and continued breastfeeding until the age of 12 months and beyond, if both mother and infant wish” 1. A 2010 Australian survey showed 90% of mothers begin exclusively breastfeeding their babies from birth1. However this figure drops dramatically to only 15.4% of babies being exclusively breastfed at 5 months of age1. Part 1 of this blog discusses dietary and lifestyle tips to best support the health of mothers and babies during the first six months of breastfeeding, then in part 2 we will discuss the benefits and concerns around the use of Western herbal medicine in breastfeeding.
Breast milk is made up of a unique rich blend of nutrients, immunoglobulins, B-cells, T-cells, neutrophils, macrophages and antibodies. Colostrum, protein and fat content in breast milk varies for each individual depending on the feeding infant’s age, method of feeding and time of feeding. Early in a feed the composition of breast milk is lower in fat. As the breast empties the milk becomes higher in fat content – this keeps bub fuller for longer and the fatty consistency steadies the speed of digestion and helps to reduce colicky symptoms by half 2. Breastfeeding promotes a long list of health benefits for both babies and mothers. There is strong evidence it reduces rates of colic, diarrhoea, respiratory illness, middle ear infection, type 1 diabetes and childhood leukemia for babies 1. Breastfeeding speeds up mothers’ healing and recovery time from childbirth, reduces risk of breast and ovarian cancers later in life, strengthens bonding between mother and child and reduces maternal depression 1 .
An herbal or nutritional supplement will never replace a good diet, quality sleep and a calm stress-free mind. That is why first and foremost we recommend focusing on a whole food diet enriched with healthy fats, quality protein and plentiful fruit and vegetables.
Nutritional breastfeeding support:
Good fats- salmon, mackerel, sardines, nuts and seeds, avocados and olive oil contain essential fatty acids for babies’ brain and nervous system development.
Protein- red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, yoghurt, goat or sheep milk/cheese, tofu and legumes help sustain energy, balance sugar levels and support growth and repair for both mother and baby.
Fresh fruit and vegetables- at least two servings of fruit and at least 5 servings of vegetables daily. Pre-preparing vegetable sticks, smoothie packs or cutting up fruit into snack-size pieces so you can quickly and easily refuel with one hand while nursing or feeding bub is ideal.
Complex carbohydrates- Ditch processed, prepackaged breads, pasta, biscuits and chips. Processed carbohydrates turn into sugar once eaten and will only exacerbate your blood sugar roller coaster and add to your exhaustion. It can also increase your risk of nipple thrush and mastitis. Choose complex carbohydrates which are essentially whole grains in their original state like: brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, spelt and oats.
Hydration- Changes in oxytoxin levels (the love and mothering hormone) during and after suckling increase thirst in breastfeeding women3. Aim to drink at least three litres of water per day while breastfeeding and ensure this water is readily available. Sit multiple bottles of water in each room of your house, in easy reach while nursing bub.
Additional breastfeeding support:
Lactation cookies- Choose/bake lactation cookies that contain good amounts of brewer’s yeast, oats, and rolled flaxseed. All of these ingredients contain a high nutritional profile; brewer’s yeast contains nearly a complex set of B vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and biotin, oats also contain a good B vitamin complex for energy production and stamina. They have a thymoleptic/mood boosting action, as well as being a great source of fibre for balancing blood sugar. Rolled flaxseed are one of our favourite superfoods, rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. These seeds are also high in the minerals: magnesium, calcium and zinc.
Mothers anecdotally report an increase in breast milk production by 50-60mls within 5-6 hours after consuming three lactation cookies4. Our favourite brand is Franjo’s Kitchen co-founded by Donald born Naturopath Joanna Clark.
Probiotics- Specific probiotic strains for both mum and bub can support healthy immune systems, prevent mastitis, thrush and colic. Science also shows Lactobaccillus rhamnosus LGG probiotic strains during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and for the first three years of life can reduce rates of allergy-related conditions like eczema, food intolerances ad asthma in children5.
Fish oil- Omega-3 fatty acids are made up of EPA and DHA. As mentioned above, DHA has been shown to help babies’ brain and nervous system development and EPA can help reduce inflammation and assist in postpartum recovery. A healthy omega-3 fatty acid ratio also supports a healthy breast milk composition.
Topical- Our nipple creams are a blessing for raw cracked nipples. And the old wives’ tale of cabbage leaves for engorged, inflamed breasts – just as most natural remedies passed down from generation to generation- does indeed work.
There is a phrase – ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and we are sure every mother would agree. To all breastfeeding mothers, “you are doing great and you are not alone. “To friends, family or neighbors of a breastfeeding mum who are reading this blog – we encourage you to support mothers as much as possible; whether it is cooking a nutritious meal, filling up their water bottle or offering tips from your personal experience.
If you would like more information about how we can help to support breastfeeding mothers, please contact our staff in store or ask to speak to our Naturopathic practitioners. A lactation consultant, midwife, doctor or nurse can also provide information, as well as the Australian Breastfeeding Association. In part 2 of this blog, we will discuss herbal support for breastfeeding mothers and babies.
Written by Naturopath, Ebony Jordan.
- Australian Government Department of Health (2019). Breastfeeding, https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-brfeed-index.htm?Open=&utm_source=health.gov.au&utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=digital_transformation&utm_content=breastfeeding
- Renfrew M, Fisher C and Arms S (2004). Bestfeeding: How to Breastfeed Your Baby, Berkeley, CA:Celestial Arts.3. James RJ1, Irons DW, Holmes C, Charlton AL, Drewett RF, Baylis PH (1995),Thirst induced by a suckling episode during breast feeding and relation with plasma vasopressin, oxytocin and osmoregulation. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 43(3):277-82.
4. Franjo’s Kitchen (2018), Galacta-what-Galactagogues, https://franjoskitchen.com/blogs/news/galactagogues
5. Michael D. Cabana, Michelle McKean, Aaron B. Caughey, Lawrence Fong, Susan Lynch, Angela Wong, Russell Leong,Homer A. Boushey, Joan F. Hilton (2017), Early Probiotic Supplementation for Eczema and Asthma Prevention: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics.
Photo by @gowildmama
Photo by @gowildmama