How to Be a Breast Milk Queen: Foods & Tips
Over the years, I cannot even begin to count how many times people have told me how wonderful it is to be a parent. I am not saying that I didn’t believe them, but I probably tuned them out mostly (smiling but only half listeneing), because I simply wasn’t ready to become a mother yet.
But now that I am a mother, I can say that yes- it’s all that’s cracked up to be! My love for Lil Bub makes me feel like my heart it going to burst 80 million times a day. His little smile brings tears to my eyes. His little feet make me giggle. He is on my body almost 24/7 as I’m practicing attachment parenting, and nothing feels more natural to me. His poop and spit up don’t seem gross, or even his pee that sprays on me sometimes while I’m changing his diaper. That is real love!
Photo Credit: Ylva Erevall
During my pregnancy, I was surprised to learn about how much fear-based and unfounded information is circulating. It made me really passionate to put out more mother-child based information, which I will continue to do. I had a pretty dream pregnancy following Beauty Detox but simply eating more of the same great foods- having enough energy to walk 5-7 miles up until the day I gave birth, avoiding swelling and most other preggo issues, and not having any weird food cravings (weird for me I would define as suddenly wanting a bunch of steak. I did eat more coconut ice cream probably than I ever have in my life!).
I also stayed plant-based, which worked for me and the health of my growing baby. You may choose not to be all plant-based, and you can still follow the basic principles of Beauty Detox and get great results, though I would encourage your to increase your veggie and overall plant consumption and reduce your serving sizes and frequency of eating meat.
Lil Bub was born at nearly 9 pounds at birth and is an incredibly healthy newborn. This is the best answer for questioning if a vegan baby can be normal weight and healthy!!
At his 2 week checkup, Lil Bub was in the 90% percentile for height and weight. I’m grateful to say the breastfeeding is going great. According to my pediatrician, the very respected Dr. Jay Gordon (who writes for Parents magazine and has been quoted in the New York Times, as well as many other publications), that there is a very different quality to the breast milk of any mother who drinks the Glowing Green Smoothie and eats an organic, largely or all plant-based diet- it is full of vitamin K and high levels of many other nutrients.
It is essential for all breastfeeding mothers to be very aware, even vigilant about the quality of their nutrition! Vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, it’s important to get in your veggies. Evidence suggests that a diet high in plant products will only help us get and stay healthier. After all, we know that almost 70% of Americans are actually currently suffering from ailments associated with dietary intake — problems that can be overwhelmingly improved by focusing more on a healthy, plant-based diet.
It really breaks my heart to learn that, according to the USDA, healthier diets alone could prevent at least $87 billion per year in medical costs in the United States alone because this illustrates a mind-boggling amount of mostly needless suffering. I only mention this because it is never too soon to develop a healthy approach to food, and the breast should always be the very first source of nutrition.
What steps can I take to be sure that my baby is getting the very best nourishment from me?
Getting lactation going
The first thing for every new mom is getting the lactation going smoothly. According to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, breast milk is thought of as nectar, and breastfeeding is considered the primary method of giving love to your child. It is through breastfeeding that the child forms his/her first understanding of, and bond, with the mother – a relationship that will literally impact all that follows it.
I think it is natural for most new moms to deal with concerns over supplying sufficient nutrition for their newborns. Starting them on the breast right away is key to stimulating production, and avoiding the binky, if possible will also make a big difference.
TIP* Suckling stimulates milk production, so time spent with binky is actually quite literally counter productive for you and baby. (Some moms may decide they want to use a binky later or occasionally as an aid to help soothe their little one, which is of course a personal choice. It’s important to choose a BPA-free option).
In the very beginning, they are really not getting milk at all, but rather its miraculous predecessor: colostrum. This substance which will be virtually all your baby will consume for the first few days of life, is super-rich in antibodies, protein and minerals to get his/her immune system off to the best possible start.
When they are very young, infants need to suck quite a lot, and there are times you may be tempted to just offer the pacifier, but this is the baby’s natural way of preparing you to supply ever greater amounts of milk as he/she grows. It also helps them develop their facial and tongue muscles while naturally stimulating your body to respond effectively to your little one’s increasing dietary needs.
Remember: emptying your breasts as fully as possible will ensure your increasing supply of milk, so if baby stops nursing before you are empty, start pumping ☺ with a great breast pump (I use the Medela brand).
Even though I am practicing on-demand feeding with no set schedule, I do pump and collect extra milk, often on the opposite side while Lil Bub is feeding, so I can freeze it and have it on hand for some occasions where someone else has to feed him- at least it will be with a bottle of precious breast milk. If I pump both breasts for about 20 minutes, I usually collect around 6 ounces of milk, which is plentiful! (I believe this can be accessible for many moms, not just me- with a superior Beauty Detox diet!).
*Ayurvedic remedy: If you feel your breast milk is scanty, try a mixture of almond milk and herbs. Soak ten almonds in water overnight. Then peel them, put them in a blender with a cup of the heated liquid and puree them. Pour the almond milk into a glass and stir in a pinch each of ginger powder, cardamom and saffron and a teaspoon of date sugar (available in most health food stores) or organic honey. Drink this twice a day, morning and evening, to help strengthen the quality and quantity of your breast milk.
Nutrition Is Key
Your nutrition is key – It goes without saying that making sure that you are eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet will go a long way toward ensuring that your milk supply is abundant in every possible way. Because your body is supplying not only your own needs, but those of your new little one, you should ideally try to increase your nutrition intake by roughly 500 calories per day. This can easily be accomplished by incorporating a Power Protein Smoothie each day, along with a bowl of oatmeal and a few handfuls of nuts. In fact, all the best beauty foods are also best for new mommies with just a very few exceptions (more on this a bit later on)!
Protein – Remember I mentioned earlier that one of the key components of your healthy breast milk is protein? That is because your baby’s body needs protein to build the tissue of his/her skin, muscle, and organs, facilitating his/her healthy growth and continued development.
This protein has to come from your body, so it is essential that your diet supply a generous replacement level of protein to keep you and your baby healthy and strong. Remember, you are not only supplying your baby with the building blocks necessary to facilitate his/her rapid growth, you are also rebuilding your own body after the strain and demands of your pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, while nursing, you should be taking in approximately 20 additional grams of protein each day over and above your usual intake to keep up with the additional demands on your body.
In the plant world, grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds all contain significant levels of high quality, clean burning protein and have the added advantage of offering powerful Omega 3 fats as well as essential dietary fiber. This is why they are featured components of your Beauty Detox Lifestyle which focuses on a daily diet that is varied, balanced and natural. Sprouted grains like buckwheat, oats, quinoa and millet are also among the double- or triple-duty members of your Beauty Detox team, as they offer additional vitamins, amino acids and dietary fiber, in addition to being great sources of natural protein.
If you are looking for a refreshing, satisfying way to increase your protein intake, try whipping up my Power Protein Smoothie for a delicious way to incorporate over 18-25 grams (depending on what brand of protein powder you use) of plant-based, clean-burning protein into your day. *TIP: Avoid any soy or dairy-based protein powders (whey), opting instead for hemp or brown rice which are easy for your body to assimilate. I like the Garden of Life brand protein.
Greens are without a doubt among the most nutrition dense foods on the planet. One serving of greens will provide you with folate, antioxidants, carotenoids, amino acids, flavonoids and fiber, among other things. Your body needs these nutrients to support everything from your immune system and your healthy cell repair/generation to blood, heart, brain and colon health, and so much more.
These are a few of the reasons that I love beginning each day with a Glowing Green Smoothie ® (GGS). Enjoying just one GGS a day is a great way to incorporate tremendous amounts of greens into your diet – far more than just eating your veggies. A serving of your yummy GGS contains over 3 cups of dark leafy green vegetables, and you can change up the selection of greens according to your mood or what is in season! Your daily GGS will also contribute about 16oz of valuable fluids to your healthy daily hydration (more on this in a bit). If you have 16 ounces of GGS, you will get around 6 grams of easily assimilated plant protein as well.
Moringa, Fenugreek, and other Herbal Galactagogues
Galactagogues aren’t referring to a type of alien- they are foods that help promote breast milk production! Here are just a few of the healthy herbs you may want to include in your lactation arsenal:
Great for people of all ages, moringa is loaded with health and beauty supporting vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, making it a true superfood in every sense of the word. High in vitamin C, Vitamin A, beta carotene, and all 18 amino acids, it offers a wonderful plant based source of protein. I actually like it so much, I even add it to my GGS from time to time.
Fenugreek is an herb that is most commonly used in Ayurvedic Indian cooking. While on its own it can have a somewhat off-putting, bitter taste, used in the right amounts, and with other complimentary herbs, it actually imparts a complex sweetness to foods. Check it out for yourself- try stir-frying brown rice with coconut oil, veggies and some fenugreek.
Fennel has a long history as a lactation stimulant, as well as being a time-honored household remedy for colic – that dreaded malady that causes baby (and mama) so much discomfort. Fennel has a beautiful anise-like fragrance, and it has long been used in herbal medicines to treat digestive disturbances like gas, bloating, and constipation.
* TIP: Try making yourself a warm, soothing tea with fennel steeped in barley water to enjoy while nursing.
Oatmeal is truly a comfort food, and it is so quick and easy to make! A nice, warm bowl encourages relaxation, and provides you with natural cholesterol-lowering nutrition. Relaxation encourages milk let-down by stimulating oxytocin release in the body, and the complex carbohydrates in a bowl of oatmeal will also give you a lasting energy boost to help keep you going throughout your day. Of course we love that oatmeal is a great source of iron (essential for new moms), and provides lovely dietary fiber to help facilitate lower cholesterol, healthy digestion and prevent constipation, supporting your healthy bowels.
Healthy fats – Remember, your breast milk is a combination of water, protein, and fat, so making sure that your diet includes the healthy fats that are essential to nutrient rich milk production. Foods like walnuts, avocados, flax, chia, and hemp seeds will infuse your diet with those Omega-3 fats that are so essential to healthy brain, heart and eye development. I eat chia seeds pretty much every day. I make a chia gel (soaking the chia seeds in one part seed, 9 parts water) that I keep in the fridge, and add to my Power Protein smoothies and also make Chia Seed Delight. I also recommend supplementing with an algae-based DHA/EPA supplement, as some people do not adequately convert Omega-3 fats into these other types of fats. I like the Deva brand.
The BAD Guys – Breastfeeding is a perfectly natural thing, and shouldn’t prevent you and your new baby from living a perfectly normal life, in most cases. That said, every individual has to see what is going to work best for them. Just remember, your body is quite literally your baby’s grocery store, and whatever you put in it is going right into his/her cart.
There are the obvious things like alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, and I really don’t think there is much of a need to cover those here, but in the bigger picture, if you are living a Beauty Detox Lifestyle, and are following a clean, healthy diet of locally sourced (if possible), organic whole foods, your little one will naturally be content and healthy too.
The biggest thing to avoid: DAIRY
There are a lot of myths that surround the foods that mother eats causing fussiness or gassiness in baby. You will hear this about meals that feature cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage or brussels sprouts, onions, spicy foods, etc. and this may sound perfectly natural since everything you eat finds its way into your milk. However, while this may happen from time to time, since each baby is an individual, it is more often associated with dairy and dairy products. These are great for baby cows, and other ruminants, which is why those animals lactate too, but not at all good for humans. In fact, if I was to select one item that I think has no place in your diet as a nursing mother, I would say it is DAIRY. Studies prove that breastfed babies are sensitive to the proteins in cow’s milk and are more likely to develop colic than when the mothers’ diets are dairy-free.
There are also foods that can discourage your lactation like parsley, peppermint, sage and oregano. In moderate amounts, these herbs are pretty harmless, but take a pass on that big bowl of tabbouleh, or that huge helping of pesto unless you are actually trying to reduce your milk production.
I can’t stress enough the value of good hydration for your own health and beauty as well as for optimum milk production. Of course, everyone is a little confused about what is actually the appropriate amount of water to drink, so try this little TIP: take your weight and divide it in half – that’s the number of ounces of water you should drink every day. You may need more/less depending on your climate, activity levels and how many raw foods you eat daily, but this is a good basic general recommendation.
So, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink 70 ounces per day under normal circumstances. When breastfeeding, you naturally want to replace the fluids that baby is consuming as well, so simply make it a rule to keep a nice, tall glass of water with lemon handy during feeding times.
Something to Consider: Reducing Toxicity by Being More (or All) Plant-Based
Some estimates say that vegan mothers only have around 2 percent of the environmental toxicity of non-vegan mothers, as toxins bio-accumulate in the tissues of animals, which are higher up in the food chain. One estimate I read pegged it at non-vegan mothers have 30 times more toxicity than vegan mothers. So while there is some discussion around the exact amount of comparison, this is an important thing to consider for moms. You might not feel that being vegan is right for you and your body, and that’s okay as you know your body best. But at least reducing animal products and increasing plant foods and plant-based meals is something I highly recommend across the board.
Grazing animals (organic or not) that provide the meat on the dinner table have been eating plants and drinking water that can be tainted with a range of toxic substances, including industrial pollutants, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, etc. Sure, organic meat may not have the steroids and antibiotics that some factory farmed animals are fed, but that doesn’t stop the environmental pollution from amassing in their bodies.
According to the World Health Organization, these POPs (Persistant Organic Pollutants) represent a range of about twelve dangerous chemical compounds that are prevalent in our environment. They actually nicknamed them “the Dirty Dozen,” and for good reason! They are chemically very stable compounds that can last up to 11 years in the body with the potential to do harm to vital organs. Chillingly, WHO research confirms that over 90% of human exposure to these environmental contaminants exists through the food supply – mainly meat, dairy, fish and shellfish. Again, you may still choose to eat meat, and you can certainly eat meat and follow Beauty Detox, but I do encourage you to check out our recipes, eat more veggies, and reduce your animal protein consumption to a few times a week or once a day at the most.
Eating for optimal breastfeeding doesn’t have to be complicated! :) In fact it’s pretty simple: eat organic, whole foods in the Beauty Detox program. Feed yourself when you are hungry. You will need to eat bigger portion sizes and perhaps more often as breastfeeding takes a lot of energy (sometimes I find myself eating avocado wraps at 3 am since I’m up and down all night with Bub!). Listen to your body and your intuition.
Wishing you and yours superior health, happiness and joy!
In love and health,