Breastfeeding is not always easy - I must admit to looking enviously at mothers who could sit at a cafe, sipping on a cuppa and breastfeeding a baby at the same time. That has never been me - second time around it is easier but still not the romantic picture I had in mind, especially when your baby is really nosy and likes to see what’s going on when you are trying to feed - no need to worry about wardrobe malfunctions to feel a little exposed!
I love the support I see from friends, strangers in the community and online for breastfeeding mothers - I believe it does make life that little bit easier, and a little bit easier when you have a baby is always a good thing!
Breastfeeding is amazing if you can do it (and if you can’t or if you choose not to then that’s ok too!) but we need to keep in mind our own health as well, it can be a big tax on our bodies - after growing these beautiful little people for ninth months and them taking so many nutrients from us whilst in the womb they do continue to take from us while breastfeeding.
Some essential items I believe that breastfeeding mums need (and that I use myself) include:
Multivitamin: A really good quality multivitamin that is specifically designed to support you while breastfeeding is something you really can't do without. As mentioned above our bodies are already depleted from pregnancy, mix into that lack of sleep, higher levels of stress and often a less than wonderful diet, we really need the boost that something like this can provide
Magnesium: One of my favourites! When you are stressed, your body may require more magnesium than normal. It is beneficial for many things including managing stress and improving energy. You may also know that magnesium is used as a muscle relaxant. Due to its relaxing qualities, it may also improve mood and sleep. Food sources include leafy greens, eggs, almonds, cashews, wholegrain cereals, cocoa & legumes
Probiotics: A healthy gut is really important and in recent years research has shown the link between gut health and the human brain. The digestive system makes up for about 70% of the bodies immune system and is where a large amount (up to 90%) of our serotonin (essential for supporting emotional health – therefore decreasing the risk of depression and anxiety) is made. Good digestive health is essential for a well functioning body. Probiotics are also important to help prevent thrush which is common after lots of hormone changes – obviously giving birth is a big one!
Fish oils: As with any supplements quality is really essential here - please do not go and buy a large tub of these from the bargain bin in a vitamin store or on the supermarket shelves! Fish oils reduce inflammation and also provide neural support (think learning, memory and mood) with research showing a decrease in the chance of postnatal depression when mums take this.
I also love the use of herbs to support our nervous system as well as lactation support – breastfeeding and being a new mum in general can be really stressful, so I believe it is often necessary to nourish and support the nervous system. Some of my favourite herbs include Fenugreek, Chamomile and Withania. Another way to include herbs gently into your daily routine is to enjoy some beautiful herbal tea – there are quite a few breastfeeding teas out there but I really love the one from Love Tea.
As a naturopath I believe in the mantra of ‘food as medicine’ and as such I look at ways to include some foods known to support milk supply into the diet – such as Oats and Flaxseeds – into things such as smoothies (easy breakfast and snack options) as well as in lactation cookies. Speaking of cookies – I love and have used the recipes from The Nutrition Guru & The Chef but would often add 1-2 tablespoons of Brewers Yeast to the mix as this is known to also support milk supply.
So, why not get your partner or a friend to make some cookies and put the kettle on – sit back and try and enjoy the craziness that is being a mumma!
And please remember you are never alone – if life is overwhelming reach out for support. A few other areas you can get support other than from myself include your local GP, BeyondBlue, Lifeline and The Australia Breastfeeding Association.