Naturopathic Post-partum Health

The post-partum period is a unique time in a mother's life. The arrival of a new baby is a wonderful event, but it also comes with many changes to the family dynamic, not to mention sleep and eating habits. Knowing what to eat can be an added stress to many mothers (which in turn can effect milk supply)  

Why Breast Milk?
Breast milk is the best form of nutrients for infants. Breast milk provides a diverse array of bioactive substances to the developing infant during critical periods of brain, immune and gut developments.

Milk production is responsive to maternal states of well-being. Thus stress and fatigue can adversely affect a mothers milk supply. Relaxation is key for successful lactation.
Breast milk contains protein (0.8%), carbohydrates (7%), fats (3-5%), Enzymes specific for digestion, immunoglobulins for immunity, and pre & probiotics helping to seal up the gut lining and shape the immune system.Therefore it essential that the mother is eating a varied and diverse diet to meet nutritional needs of baby.
The World Health Organisation recommendations that ‘wherever possible infants should be
fed exclusively on breast milk from birth until six months of age’ 

Benefits of breastfeeding
For the Infant
  • Superior nutritional composition with high bioavailability of nutrients
  • Provision of immunological, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agents
  • Enzymatic components which improve digestion
  • Reduced risk of infection including bacterial meningitis, bacteraemia, gastroenteritis, respiratory tract infection, otitis media and urinary tract infection
  • Reduced risk of developing certain chronic diseases
  • May reduce risk of atopic conditions / allergies
  • Improved neurological and cognitive development
For the Mother
  • Decreased postpartum bleeding
  • More rapid contraction of the uterus
  • Lactation amenorrhea allows conservation of iron stores with less risk of anaemia
  • More rapid return to pre-pregnancy weight
  • Decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer
  • Possible decreased risk of osteoporosis later in life
  • Aids bonding with infant
It is vital that mothers are eating around 300-350 extra calories whilst breastfeeding (Note: This may vary depending on the individual). If the mother is not meeting this requirement it may contribute to lack of energy, fatigue and depression. Nursing mums will be hungry and so it is important to not be worrying about loosing baby weight or going on a strict diet. Ensure that the diet is high in Omega 3 essential fatty acids (Oily fish, Flaxseeds, Chia Seeds) Lean protein (1.25-1.5g / per Kg body weight - Chicken, Lentils, Chickpeas, Eggs, Nuts), and Complex carbohydrates  (Brown rice, Sweet potato, Wholegrain pasta) are essential. 
Include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables to make sure you are getting all your essential micronutrients including:

Vitamin C - Citrus fruit, Pepper, Sprouts, leafy greens, papaya
Vitamin A -  Eggs, Cheese, Carrots, Squash, Red Pepper, Green leafy veg
Vitamin E - Sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts, salmon, avocado
Zinc - Red meat, chickpeas, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds
Copper - Liver, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, leafy greens.
Vitamin D - Salmon, Mackerel, Eggs, Fortified cereals/breads. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that every pregnant and lactating women take a Vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms daily.

If a mother is struggling with breast feeding there are certain foods known as Galactagogues that are herbs known to increase breast milk production. the best known is Fenugreek (taken as tea 2-3 times per day). Other galactagogues include fennel seeds, oats, brewers yeast, milk thistle and Goats rue. If you would like more information on this please ask as doses will depend upon each individual. 

Nursing makes you thirsty so ensure you are drinking at least 2litres of water per day (10-12 glasses per day). Try infusing water with lemon, cucumber and mint to add a fruity twist. The EFSA advise that breastfeeding women should limit caffeine consumption to 200mg per day. This equates to two mugs of instant coffee, two mugs of tea, or one mug of filter coffee.

Self-Care for the Mother
  • Mobilise a community of support
  • Try and get as much sleep as possible: nap when the baby naps
  • Try to integrate the baby into everyday life: Use slings or pouches to keep hands free and allow you to get out a bit more
  • Take a shower and get dressed everyday
  • Try doing gentle exercise with the baby - walks are a great option
  • Speak to others - don't isolate yourself.
Practical Tips
  • Pre-birth pre prep meals for the freezer
  • Eat small and frequent meals including nutritious snacks: Apple+nut butter, Dates, Hummus + oatcakes, Protein bars, protein shakes.
  • Drink a pint of water every time the baby feeds - this helps to keep track of how well you are hydrating.
  • Tinned mackerel/sardines & walnuts are a quick and cheap nutritious snack high in Omega 3 fatty acids. 
  • Avoid alcohol and limit caffeine
  • Limit spicy foods as this can alter the taste of breast milk. 
I should also add that many mothers are not able to breast feed or choose not to. This is not something to feel guilty about as there are many reasons why this might be the case. I will be writing a future blog post on formula milks and what to look for. 

Lots of love H x