What Can I Do About My Low Milk Supply? May 09, 2014 13:07
Written By Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC
One of the top reasons women wean their babies before intending is thinking that their milk supplies are low (McCarter‐Spaulding & Kearney 2001; Gatti 2008; Kent, Prime & Garbin 2012; Kent, et. al. 2013; Neifert & Bunik 2013). While there are cases where women cannot produce enough milk for their babies, more often the problem is in expectations about breastfeeding patterns and what’s normal for a breastfed baby.
Sometimes around 10 days and then again around the 4-6 week mark, women think they have “lost their milk” because their breasts don’t feel as full or their milk is no longer leaking copiously. Changes around these times, however, are normal fluctuations in the way your body makes milk. They are likely signs that your initial engorgement has subsided and your milk supply has evened out to perfectly match your baby’s needs (Mohrbacher 2010; Kent, et. al. 2013).
Women who feel their milk supply is insufficient often base this perception on infant behavior – a baby who seems unsatisfied, who wants to nurse often, who is fussy or unsettled, etc. Though these behaviors can have many causes, women tend to blame their own bodies for not producing enough milk (Mohrbacher 2010). In addition, use of formula before hospital discharge is often wrongly instituted for “insufficient milk supply” at a time when moms aren’t yet making much milk (as nature intended!). While their bodies are, in fact, working right, they are led to believe something is wrong. And this perception sticks with them causing them to wean early (Gatti 2008). In addition, McCarter-Spaulding and Kearney (2001) found “mothers who perceive that they have the skills and competence to parent a young infant also perceive that they have an adequate breast milk supply” and vice versa. If a mom isn’t confident in her abilities, she may think her milk supply is low whether that’s truly the case or not.
So, milk supply issues – whether real or perceived - can impact how long a baby is breastfed. The solution is to help these moms feel confident in their milk supply. Working to increase milk supply will help those who are truly experiencing a dip in output, and may aid those who perceive a low supply feel more self-assured in their ability to breastfeed. Consider these tips for increasing milk supply:
- Nurse more! The more stimulation your breasts get, the more milk you will make. And the baby is better at prompting this than any pump on the market. You need to be sure, however, that your baby is transferring milk well. Do you hear your baby swallowing after every one or two sucks early in the feeding and less frequently as the feeding progresses? This may sound like a soft “kah” sound, or may look like a pause in the middle of a suck. Do your breasts feel full before a feeding and softer when your baby has finished? These are good signs that your baby is transferring milk. Is your baby falling asleep at the breast soon after starting a feeding? These babies need to be encouraged to keep going.
Newborns will nurse every 1-2 hours, but even older babies may nurse often. Has your baby stopped nursing so often? Is he skipping feedings? Are you getting busy during the day or using a pacifier and missing some feeding cues? Has your baby started “sleeping through the night”? These can all lead to a decrease in supply. Try a “nursing vacation” – spend the weekend tucked in bed with your baby and nurse as often as possible.
- Pump: Using a quality electric breast pump can help to stimulate supply. Keep in mind that pumps and pumping supplies can wear over time, so be sure yours is in top shape for the best results. Also, some brands are better than others at removing milk, so do some research before purchasing a pump.
Some women choose a few times a day, and consistently pump at those times. Other moms pump on one side while baby nurses on the other. Or you can try pumping for 5-10 minutes after every nursing session. The key to getting a good yield of milk when pumping is the ability to elicit milk ejections. If you have difficulty letting-down to a pump, you will get less milk. Two let-downs are sufficient, and three or four are even better. (Mohrbacher 2010). Use all of your best relaxation techniques: relax your muscles, breathe deeply, think about your baby, listen to a recording of your baby crying, smell something baby has slept in, do whatever it takes to condition yourself to let-down to the pump.
Also, doing breast massage before and during a pumping session (sometimes called “hands-on pumping”) can increase the amount of milk you are able to remove, and may give your nerves more stimulation resulting in an increase in production (Mohrbacher 2012).
- Consider herbal galactagogues: A galactagogue is a substance that can increase production of breastmilk. Different substances have different mechanisms, but they should all be used in conjunction with increased nursing or pumping, or reserved for use until after other methods have failed to produce the desired results (Mohrbacher 2010).
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) is an herb used in many cultures to increase milk supply. The recommended dosage is 1800mg three times a day. Supply generally increases 24-72 hours of beginning the supplement; but for some women, it can take as long as one to two weeks. Use caution with this supplement if you have a history of allergies, asthma, hypoglycemia, or diabetes, and do not use if you are taking blood-thinning medications.
The effects of fenugreek are improved when combined with the herb blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus). Adding 3 capsules of blessed thistle 3 times per day along with fenugreek improve output.
Both fenugreek and blessed thistle seem to be the most effective if used in the first few weeks after birth. Other herbs (including marshmallow root, goat’s rue, alfalfa, fennel, spirulina, raspberry leaf, brewer’s yeast, and shatavari) and some foods (for instance, oatmeal) have milk-enhancing properties, so adding them to your diet may boost your milk production. Keep in mind, though, these substances won’t do much if you aren’t nursing or pumping often.
- Discuss medications with your healthcare provider: Prescription medications that act as galactagogues are sometimes warranted when all else has failed. Domperidone is the medication most likely to be effective in increasing milk supply, and the least likely to cause untoward effects for mom or baby. It has been used successfully in many parts of the world; however, use in the US is restricted. Reglan (metoclopramide) is another drug that helps to increase milk production. This drug should not be used by anyone with a history of depression or anxiety as it can increase the severity of these symptoms, and can even cause these symptoms in someone without a prior history. Use of Reglan should be considered with caution (Mohrbacher 2010; Zuppa 2010).
Any time you are dealing with a dip in supply, you should consider working with someone knowledgeable about breastfeeding, such as a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) or trained peer counselor. Sometimes just having that support is all you need to persevere through difficulties with supply. Any amount of breastmilk your baby gets is a gift – but maximizing your production so you can continue to nurse is well worth the effort, for you and for your baby.
Gatti, L. (2008). Maternal perceptions of insufficient milk supply in breastfeeding. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 40(4), 355-363.
Kent JC, Hepworth AR, Sherriff JL, Cox DB, Mitoulas LR, Hartmann PE. (2013). Longitudinal Changes in Breastfeeding Patterns from 1 to 6 Months of Lactation. Breastfeeding Medicine 8(4), 401-7
Kent, J. C., Prime, D. K., & Garbin, C. P. (2012). Principles for maintaining or increasing breast milk production. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 41(1), 114-121.
McCarter‐Spaulding, D. E., & Kearney, M. H. (2001). Parenting Self‐Efficacy and Perception of Insufficient Breast Milk. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 30(5), 515-522.
Mohrbacher, N. (2012). To Pump More Milk, Use Hands-On Pumping. http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/blog/2012/6/27/to-pump-more-milk-use-hands-on-pumping.html [Accessed March 30, 2014].
Mohrbacher, N. (2010). Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple. Amarillo, TX: Hale.
Neifert M & Bunik M. (2013). Overcoming clinical barriers to exclusive breastfeeding. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 60(1), 115-145.
Zuppa, A. A., Sindico, P., Orchi, C., Carducci, C., Cardiello, V., Catenazzi, P., ... & Catenazzi, P. (2010). Safety and efficacy of galactogogues: substances that induce, maintain and increase breast milk production. Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, 13(2), 162-174.
Can a birth doula improve breastfeeding success? March 29, 2014 15:26
Written By Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC
Continuous labor support during childbirth has many advantages, including a decreased risk of interventions (including cesarean birth), less use of pain medication, and more positive birth memories (Hodnett 2013). But did you know a doula may also increase breastfeeding success?
From the Greek word for slave, doula has evolved to mean a woman who supports another woman during the birth process. During childbirth, she supports the laboring woman and her partner physically - helping mom change positions, providing massage or counterpressure, and giving the birth partner suggestions on how to help – as well as emotionally and intellectually. She is typically with the couple from the start of labor to the time of birth. Because of her presence and her trusted position with the new parents, she may be the ideal member of the birth team to help a mom initiate breastfeeding.
In an early study of the effect of doula care on breastfeeding success, researchers found that women in the intervention group (doula care) were more likely to be exclusively breastfeeding at one month after the birth (Langer et al, 1998). These women were also less likely to wean or supplement for perceived low milk supply. In closing, the researchers write, “These results provide grounds to consider that psychosocial support during labour and the immediate postpartum period should be part of comprehensive strategies to promote breastfeeding “ (1062).
In another study, Nommsen-Rivers and colleagues (2009) assessed the timing of the onset of lactation and the proportion of breastfeeding moms at 6 weeks postpartum for two groups – those with and without doula care for the birth. Compared to the standard care group, women in the doula care group were more likely to have their milk come in by day 3, were less likely to use a pacifier in hospital, were less likely to report concerns about milk supply, and were more likely to be breastfeeding at 6 weeks. After looking at relationships between confounding factors, the authors conclude, “Among mothers with a prenatal stressor, doula care was particularly effective in increasing the odds of continued breastfeeding” (172).
When studying the effectiveness of a hospital-based doula program, Mottl-Santiago and colleagues found that women with doula care were more likely to express an intention to breastfeeding, and were significantly more likely to breastfeed within the first hour after birth. The authors caution, however, that their results may not be a direct effect of a doula at the birth, since the doulas also provided prenatal breastfeeding education to the expectant mothers.
A recent study showed even more promising results. Of the women who had doula care during birth, nearly all initiated breastfeeding (97.9% compared to 80.8% in the general low-income population studied). When looking at a subgroup of women who are less likely to initiate breastfeeding, the researchers found 92.7% of African American women with doula support initiated breastfeeding, significantly higher than in the general population studied (Kozhimannil 2013). The authors suggest that “access to culturally appropriate doula care may facilitate higher rates of breastfeeding initiation,” with the key being suitable matching of doulas to the client population.
What more evidence do we need? Having doula support for your labor and birth may increase the chances of your breastfeeding. Choose a doula who shares your same values and birth philosophy so you feel comfortable and confident in her care. Ask friends, family, your care provider, or your childbirth educator for referrals or check the DONA International website for a doula in your community. Be sure to interview the doula you choose – even asking about her background in breastfeeding education and support. Let her know you plan to nurse your baby, and ask if she will help you get started. Her support may be essential.
Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C. (2013). Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 7.
Kozhimannil KB, Attanasio LB, Hardeman RR, O'Brien M. (2013). Doula care supports near-universal breastfeeding initiation among diverse, low-income women. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. E-pub ahead of print 9 JUL 2013.
Langer A, Campero L, Garcia C, Reynoso S. (1998). Effects of psychosocial support during labour and childbirth on breastfeeding, medical interventions, and mothers’ wellbeing in a Mexican public hospital: a randomised clinical trial. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (105), 1056-1063.
Mottl-Santiago J, Walker C, Ewan J, Vragovic O, Winder S, Stubblefield P. (2008). A hospital-based doula program and childbirth outcomes in an urban, multicultural setting. Matern Child Health J 12, 372–377.
Nommsen-Rivers LA, Mastergeorge AM, Hansen RL, Cullum AS, Dewey KG. (2009). Doula care, early breastfeeding outcomes, and breastfeeding status at 6 weeks postpartum among low-income primiparae. JOGNN 38, 157-173.
The Official Divine Mama Breastfeeding Diet October 01, 2013 14:32
At last! I finally had some time to put together what I think is a great dietary guideline to follow while you are breastfeeding since each day I receive so many questions about food choices - what's good, what's bad, etc. for breast milk.
While lactogenic foods are important, they are just one part of a more comprehensive diet and lifestyle plan that will help you and your baby reach optimal health while breastfeeding.
I have studied over fifty different dietary theories as a pharmacist and nutrition counselor. Unfortunately, I have found that most mainstream theories contradict themselves, making it difficult to sift through all of the information and make the best decisions for you and your baby.
From my knowledge of lactogenic foods and from my personal experiences, I’ve created an official Divine Mama Breastfeeding Diet with the intention of providing you with simple guidelines that will help take the guesswork out of your quest for wellness.
Learn more about the diet here!
Conscious Eating: Why Grass Fed Meats Are Important For You and Your Family July 07, 2013 16:25
What Are Grass fed Meats?
Back in the day, nearly all meats were grass fed. Ranchers and farmers fed their chickens, cattle and pigs by allowing them to range on the prairies surrounding their farms or homesteads. Today’s high-tech feed was not available. In the twenty-first century, grass fed meats borrow from that tradition by skipping commercial feed and even corn in favor of allowing animals to graze and feed on grass.
The process is not as simple as turning the animals loose, however. Ranchers and farmers who cultivate grass fed meats follow a strict protocol of feeding and grazing that is designed to enhance the quality of the meat as well as ensure that animal welfare standards are followed in the raising of the animals.
Nutritional Advantages of Grass Fed Meats
Grain fed animals are raised to fatten up for market as quickly as possible. In the case of grain fed beef, this means that cattle are slaughtered after fourteen to eighteen months. Many grain fed cattle are penned in close quarters for much of their lives. By contrast, grass fed cattle are allowed to graze much as they did during the nineteenth century, and are not slaughtered until they are more than two years old. As a result, grass fed cattle are leaner and have more nutritional value than grain fed cattle.
Environmental Advantages of Grass Fed Meats
Grain fed meats represent a major drain on environmental resources. Commercial feed, corn and other crops must be cultivated, which requires using land and water resources. Growing grains for grain fed meats also encourages monoculture – the cultivation of single crops that can exhaust the soil. By contrast, grass fed meats do not require the diversion of crops such as corn that could be used for human consumption. Instead, the animals graze on grass and other naturally growing plant life.
Ethical Advantages of Grass Fed Meats
Besides avoiding the diversion of grains from human consumption, grass fed meats also represent an ethical method of animal husbandry. By definition, grass fed meats are not enhanced with growth hormones or genetically altered crops to boost their growth. Animal welfare standards are also an essential element in maintaining grass fed cattle, pigs and chickens. By contrast, many grain fed animals are raised in appalling conditions, along with being fed a steady diet of growth enhancing substances.
Health Advantages of Grass Fed Meats
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, abbreviated as BSE, is commonly known as “mad cow disease.” Mad cow disease gets its name from the fact that cattle that are infected with BSE often behave erratically. This incurable condition, although extremely rare in humans, can be contracted by consuming infected beef products, primarily from the spine or brain of an infected cow. In humans, BSE is known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which is fatal and incurable.
The practice of including parts of slaughtered animals in animal feed to be fed in other animals has been identified as a major factor in spreading BSE. Since grass fed beef is never fed renderings from other cattle, the odds are virtually zero of grass fed cattle being infected with BSE. Likewise, chickens and pigs that are grass fed are also not fed renderings from other animals, minimizing the chances that similar health hazards would ever occur in grass fed pork or poultry.
For Further Reading
- The New York Times: Where Corn Is King, a New Regard for Grass Fed Beef
- Teens Health from Nemours: Mad Cow Disease
- WebMD: Mad Cow Disease
- Whole Story: Raised to Taste Better
- Whole Story: The Scoop on Grass Fed Beef
With permission from Hilary Jacobson, here's a great comprehensive lactogenic list of foods from her book, Mother Food for Breastfeeding Mothers...
Lactogenic foods support lactation for many reasons. Eating sufficient calories and getting an abundant supply of nutrients is helpful in itself for lactation, but these foods also contain substances that interact with and support the chemistry of lactation. These substances include phytoestrogen, natural plant sedatives, plant sterols and saponins, and tryptophan, among others. In addition, a rich supply of minerals and a good balance of fats ensure that the mother’s cells and nerves are functioning at an optimal level.
Fennel can be eaten raw or cooked, for instance, steamed, or sautéed in butter and then simmered in a bit of water. Fennel seed is well-known as an herb to increase milk production. The vegetable, containing the same pharmacologically active volatile oils, acts as a gentler support.
Carrot, Beet, Yam
These reddish vegetables are full of beta-carotene, needed in extra amounts during lactation. Carrot seed has been used as a galactagogue, and the vegetable, also containing the volatile oils and phytoestrogen, acts as a gentler support. The beet is a wonderful source of minerals and iron. Taking raw beet can help alleviate iron deficiency. These vegetables are naturally sweet, and they support the liver.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Dark green vegetables are a potent source of minerals, vitamins and enzymes, as well as phytoestrogen that support lactation. Dandelion and stinging nettle leaves are diuretic, and can help reduce edema during pregnancy and after birth. They can be plucked from your garden in early spring and eaten whole, chopped into salad, or used to make tea. Stinging nettle can be harvested for salad or cooked as spinach. In your market, you'll find arugula, beet leaves, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, chicory, collard greens and others.
Grains and Legumes
Grains and legumes have a long history as galactagogues. The most commonly used grains include oats, millet, barley and rice. Oats are the most widely used lactogenic food in the US. Legumes to include in your diet are chickpea, mung beans and lentils.
Nuts that support milk supply include almonds, cashews, and macadamia nuts. As much as possible, eat raw nuts, not roasted or salted. The taste of raw nuts will grow on you.
Oils and fats
Healthy fats play a vital role in cellular and neural metabolism. The kinds of fats a mother eats will influence the composition of fats in her milk. Please see the article “Dietary Tips for Pregnancy and the Postpartum” for more information.
The renowned expert in fats, Mary G. Enig, suggests that mothers get regular and substantial dosages of butter and coconut oil. In addition, use cold-pressed virgin olive oil, and take equal amounts of cold-pressed sesame oil and flaxseed oil in salads.
One way to balance the fats is to dribble a quarter teaspoon of olive oil, flaxseed oil, sesame oil, and a thin slab of butter over meals. Be sure to eliminate unhealthy fats such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and transfatty acids from your diet, as these will also enter your milk.
In addition, be sure to have a source for essential fatty acids. For more information, see “Dietary Tips.”
Lactogenic beverages include getting enough plain water to hydrate the body, drinking commercial lactation teas, non-alcoholic beer, ginger ale, Rivella, and natural herbal root-beers from your health food store. Check out coffee substitutes based on the lactogenic grain barley, such as CARO, Roma, Caffix, Pero or Dandy Blend. These imitation coffees usually also contain chicory or dandelion, plus malt—ingredients that are all lactogenic. A recipe for "Barley Water," a potent lactogenic beverage, is at the bottom of this article.
Garlic is famous for its medical benefits, and has a long history as a galactagogue.
In one study, babies were seen to latch on better, suckle more actively, and drink more milk when the mother had garlic prior to nursing(2). If you do not wish to eat garlic, try adding a capsule of garlic extract to a meal eaten about an hour before breastfeeding.
If you would like to introduce garlic to your diet, and are not used to eating garlic, introduce it very slowly and observe your baby’s reaction. Take only 1 – 2 cloves per day. These can be chopped or pressed through a garlic press into any food after it has finished cooking. Try it in vegetables, rice, grains, pulses, salad sauce, spaghetti sauce, or other sauce.
Our culture does not encourage eating garlic, and many people do not tolerate garlic well (or onions, another food which is traditionally lactogenic). For this reason, garlic is not recommended by the American Herbal Product’s Association while breastfeeding except under the guidance of a qualified herbalist. However, if you do tolerate garlic there is no reason that you should not benefit from it. Take garlic in moderation as do mothers all over the world.
Caution: Do not combine with anticoagulants, as garlic has blood-thinning actions.
Danger: Babies and small children should never be given garlic in any form, whether fresh, dry, powdered or in capsules, to chew, swallow, eat or suck on. Garlic is highly caustic to delicate body tissues, and rubbing it in one’s nose or eyes could be painful and dangerous. Babies will benefit from the garlic a mother eats, and that reaches him through her milk.
Ginger is helpful for the letdown and milk flow. Some mothers benefit from drinking ginger ale. Even commercial ginger ale is flavored with “natural flavoring” that is real ginger.
Warning: Do not use ginger or ginger ale in the early postpartum if there was significant blood loss during birth. Do not take ginger immediately after birth due to danger of hemorrhaging.
Caution: Ginger tends to compound and increase the effects of medication being taken. Talk to your doctor if you are taking medication, especially diabetic, blood-thinning, or heart medicine.
Sources: You can find ginger at your local grocery store. Check out stores that sell Asian foods, health food stores, and on line.
Spices in your kitchen can be used to support milk production. Try adding marjoram and basil to your meals, and anise, dill or caraway. Black pepper, taken in moderation, is helpful.
This powdered yellow root gives curry its yellow color and basic flavor. A potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, turmeric is being studied in connection with the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatism, and cancer. Turmeric has lactogenic properties and can also be taken to help prevent inflammatory conditions. One half teaspoon of turmeric a day may help prevent inflammation in the breasts.
Caution: Some herbalists warn that pregnant women should not use turmeric if they are at risk for miscarriage.
Oats (Avena Sativa)
The humble oat is one of our most nutritious foods, and contains proteins, vitamins, minerals and trace elements that nourish the nerves, support the metabolism of fats, and uplift the spirit. In traditional medicine, both the seed and the leaf—called oat-straw—are taken. Oats are prescribed as a nervine tonic in the treatment of nervous exhaustion. In Europe, women traditionally take oats after birth. Oats are taken today in the US to increase milk production, both as food and as a supplement. Like other galactagogues, oats are antidepressant, antispasmodic, and they increase perspiration.
Allergy: Occasional. Persons sensitive to gluten in wheat are frequently able to tolerate oats.
Dosage and Preparation:
Taking large dosages of oats is helpful in kick-starting milk production.
Oatmeal can be taken for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
Oat-straw is especially rich in minerals. It is available as capsules or as an ingredient in so-called “green-drinks.” Take as indicated on the package.
Fluid extract: 3 – 5 ml (15 – 35 drops), three times a day.
Nutritional and Brewer's Yeast
Nutritional or brewer’s yeast frequently leads to a significant boosts in a mothers’ milk supply. Mothers sometimes say that they feel much more energetic and emotionally balanced while taking yeast. This may signal a lack of essential nutrients in their diet, in particular, chromium, vitamin B complex, and especially vitamin B12, found in some brands of fortified nutritional yeast. Brewer’s and nutritional yeast also contain protein and good levels of phytoestrogen.
Allergy: Persons who are allergic to yeast should avoid these products.
Side-effects: Occasionally, mothers or babies become gassy, more so with brewer’s yeast than nutritional yeast. To be on the safe side, start with a small dosage and slowly increase.
Sources: Vegetarian stores and health food stores.
Green foods are reputed to increase the fat content of breastmilk. Some mothers supplement with chlorophyll. So-called "green drinks" can be very helpful. Their ingredients include barley-grass, alfalfa leaf, spirulina, corellas, kelp, oat-straw and other herbs with lactogenic and medicinal properties.
Caution: Chlorella, a common ingredient in commercial green-drinks, is used by medical specialists to chelate (remove) heavy metals from the body, especially mercury. If not taken at the correct dosage, chlorella can lead to an increase of mercury in the bloodstream and probably in a mother’s milk as well. It is wise to choose green-drinks that only contain a low percent of chlorella.
Sources: Super markets, health food stores, online.
Green papaya is taken as a galactagogue across Asia. It is a superb source of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals, including vitamins C, A, B, and E. Green papaya is the unripe fruit, and it needs to be simmered until soft. Green papaya can also be taken in supplement form.
Allergy: Persons allergic to latex may be allergic to papaya and other fruit.
Caution: Persons taking Warfarin should consult with their doctor before taking papaya supplements.
Large, black sesame seeds are used to increase milk production across Asia. Husked, light-colored sesame seeds are also effective and easier to digest. Sesame seed "butter" known as Tahini can be found in health food stores. Sesame is our most potent vegetable source of calcium!
Allergy: Allergy to sesame is becoming more common.
Spirulina is a non-toxic variety of blue-green algae. It has been farmed in lakes and ponds as a food source for thousands of years. It is valued for its proteins, enzymes, minerals, vitamins, chlorophyll, and essential fatty acids. Spirulina's nutrients are easily absorbed, even when a person’s digestion is not up to par.
It is important that spirulina be cultivated on a farm that is not located in waters that are contaminated, in particular with heavy metals. It is also advisable not to use spirulina that has been genetically ‘improved.’ Spirulina and other “green foods” may increase the fat-content of breastmilk.
Note: It is not wise to rely on spirulina as a source of B12.
Barley-water is used medicinally to treat colds, intestinal problems (both constipation and diarrhea) and liver disorders. It was recorded in Greek medicine two thousand years ago as a galactagogue. Taken for a week or two, it often helps mothers with chronic low milk supply. Make a pot in the morning and drink it throughout the day, warming each cup and sweetening it with a natural sweetener as desired.
Barley-water can be made with whole grain or pearl barley. Barley flakes can also be used, though these have been processed and are possibly less potent than the whole or pearled grain.
Protein: Essential Building Blocks for You and Your Baby April 20, 2013 00:00
Most people don’t know as much about protein as they think they do. When you were in school, or perhaps in your own kitchen as a child, you learned that protein was one of the rainbow colored sections that comprised the all-powerful Food Pyramid. The protein section of the poster was filled with pictures of beans and chicken legs, nuts and eggs. Your mother complained that the only protein she could get down you was peanut butter. Now, as an adult and a mother, you know that protein is important to growing bodies. But what, exactly, is t protein-rich food comprised of and why is it necessary for a healthy body and mind?
Proteins are the building blocks of life.
Simply stated, proteins are compounds formed from various combinations of amino acids, of which there are twenty, arranged in countless combinations.
Every single chemical reaction and every body function relies on the presence of amino acids. So you can see that proteins really are a requirement for a healthy body. They build cells, regulate fluids, rebuild tissues, and are vital to hormone, antibody, and enzyme production. In the absence of carbohydrates and fat, proteins also supply the body with energy.
Eight of those twenty amino acids that form the proteins are not produced or stored inside the body, so they absolutely must be consumed throughout the day. They are phenylalanine, tryptophan, valine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, and threonine. These eight are called essential amino acids, as in, “It’s essential that you eat them!”
Essential amino acids are found in a variety of protein sources like fresh water fish, eggs, nuts, and some nut oils. But it’s also important that you eat a balance of various types of proteins, essential and non-essential, as your body often cannot produce enough of the non-essential amino acids to meet your needs. Let’s see if we can make it easy for you to figure out just how much and what types of proteins to include in your diet.
Healthy Protein Consumption
You may have heard proteins referred to as complete or incomplete, high-quality or lower-quality. These terms simply refer to whether or not a protein source provides you with all of your essential amino acids in the necessary proportions. Sources such as meat, dairy, poultry, eggs/egg whites, and fish provide you with the correct balance of all of your amino acids. However, you can still get all of your amino acids by combining several incomplete proteins such as nuts and oats, or beans and brown rice.
Eating large amounts of red meat and dairy can actually add too much fat to your diet, without the necessary fiber for a healthy digestive system. Instead, you should balance your protein intake by combining lean meats and fish, low-fat dairy and eggs, with combinations of nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
How much is enough?
The Food and Drug Association recommends a daily protein intake of about 50 grams, based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This might look like two poached eggs for breakfast, a yogurt cup for a snack with granola, a cup of beans and brown rice as part of your lunch, a pork chop with dinner, and a handful of almonds and seeds somewhere in between.
Contrary to what you may think, the necessary intake of protein does not changed based on physical activity. Instead, protein needs are based on your weight, and should be right around .8 – 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Protein for Breastfeeding and Pregnancy
However, if you are a nursing or pregnant mother, you will need to increase your protein intake by about thirty additional grams per day. While still in the womb, this protein is crucial to the healthy development of his or her body and brain. Also, the amino acids that you take in will help regulate your sleep and your emotions, two very important things for your own personal well-being.
Infants use a third of their dietary protein to build new muscles and connective tissues. Since their primary, and best, source of nutrition is their mother’s breastmilk, you will need to make sure yours has all the protein necessary for your baby’s healthy body.
You can add extra protein into your diet easily by snacking on unsalted nuts, egg whites, lean meat slices and hard cheeses, or by sprinkling your cereals and yogurt with flax seeds. Skip the chips and opt for edamame or raw trail mix, and add a slice of turkey bacon to your morning omelet. Carry some prepackaged protein bars in your purse to avoid grabbing a bagel when you’re out running errands.
With just a few simple changes, you’ll be able to add the right kinds of protein to your diet… for your body and your baby’s.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administrationhttp://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/FoodLabelingGuide/ucm064928.htm
- Nutrition and Well-being A to Z
- The Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/protein/
- USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
The Benefits of Coconut Oil Before, During and After Pregnancy March 16, 2013 00:00
Nothing is more important than your health – unless, of course, it’s the health of your baby. Coconut oil has recently gained wide-spread attention for its health-boosting properties. A variety of studies have shown that it can help increase metabolism, balance hormones and improve immune system functioning.
Here are some simple ways that coconut oil can support health for both Mom and baby:
- Regular coconut oil consumption can help balance hormones. Properly-balanced hormone levels make it much more likely for a woman to ovulate and to conceive.
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a rare medium-chain fatty acid that is also present in breast milk. Lauric acid is antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. Increasing your coconut oil consumption during pregnancy might help support both your and your developing baby’s immune systems.
- There is evidence that coconut oil – by helping to balance blood sugar – might help women avoid or control gestational diabetes.
- Coconut oil can help settle your stomach if you’re coping with morning sickness. While taking the oil “straight up” might be too much for some women, it’s easy to stir some coconut oil into soup, hot cereal or a warm drink.
- Rubbing coconut oil on your skin can help prevent or relieve the itching and discomfort often connected to pregnancy. Coconut oil’s moisturizing properties can also help prevent stretch marks.
- Coconut oil is an excellent personal lubricant. It can help to alleviate the discomfort of vaginal dryness, a symptom sometimes present during pregnancy.
- You can use coconut oil to treat your new baby’s diaper rash and cradle cap. It is non-toxic and very gentle on baby’s skin. And as an added bonus, it smells lovely!
- If you’re breastfeeding, you might suffer from irritated or sore nipples. Applying coconut oil can help prevent and treat cracking and soreness.
- The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are reported to help increase milk flow. Your body needs adequate fat in order to produce enough breast milk to support your baby’s needs.
- The antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties of coconut oil – mentioned earlier – continue to be of benefit after your baby is born. The lauric acid that you consume in coconut oil will be directly passed on to your child through your breast milk.
- Coconut oil is perfect for massaging your new baby. Infant massages can help calm and relax babies, and has been shown to improve sleep. Improved sleep for baby means better sleep for Mom!
Your baby is the most precious, important thing that you will ever hold in your arms. Of course you want to do whatever you can to ensure that he or she will be healthy, happy and strong. Coconut oil is one tool that can help you support both your own and your baby’s optimal health.
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Here's the Skinny on Dietary Fat March 07, 2013 00:00
While a fat-free or even low-fat diet is not the healthiest choice, there are certainly some types of fat that you'll want to do your best to avoid or limit. These are the fats that are detrimental to your health, especially when consumed in large quantities.
Saturated fat comes from animal sources. When you eat a burger with bacon and cheese, the saturated fats from the meat and dairy raise your total and LDL blood cholesterol levels. This is not good. High LDL cholesterol dramatically increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Trans fats are naturally occurring in some animal products, but most trans fats are the product of partial hydrogenation. The process of hydrogenation takes healthy unsaturated fats and turns them into fats that are more shelf-stable and easier to cook with. These fats are usually solid at room temperature, .like lard, butter, margarine, and shortening. They are often referred to as synthetic fats, and are found in a lot of the processed and prepacked food that fills most American grocery stores.
Many restaurants and food manufacturers now advertise the fact that their products are trans fat free. Be careful of tricky labeling... just because a doughnut is trans fat free doesn't mean it is good for you. It's likely to be high in sodium, sucrose (the bad sugar), or heavy in saturated fats. Your best bet is to read the label, including the little box that tells you all the vitamins and minerals (or lack thereof).
Remember, food is fuel. If you are filling up with empty calories (that's food that is basically void of any nutritional value), you won't be able to run very long before you crash.
The term “good fat” is not an oxymoron. Fats are the building blocks of the brain and are absolutely essential for proper body function, but you must be able to differentiate between the good, the bad, and the ugly... or at least the good and the bad.
Monounsaturated fat is found primarily in oils (like olive oil), nuts, sunflower seeds, and avocados. This type of good fat reduces the risk of cardiac disease and stroke, because it helps regulate LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.
That's not all, though. A diet rich in monounsaturated fats verses one that is comprised of “bad fats” and carbohydrates often results in weight loss, decreased symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, prevention of type 2 diabetes, and reduced belly fat.
Polyunsaturated fat is found in plant-based foods, oils, and some types of fatty fish. One especially beneficial type of polyunsaturated fat is Omega-3 fatty acid, found in some types of fatty fish, nut oils, and flax seeds. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Omega-3 fatty acids are a necessary component of a healthy brain, including memory and behavioral function. In fact, infants who have not received enough of this polyunsaturated fat in utero can suffer from vision and nerve problems.
Balanced consumption of Omega-3's is also associated with reduced risk of inflammatory diseases like cancer, heart attack, stroke, and arthritis.
WHAT CAN GOOD FAT DO FOR ME?
According to information published by the Franklin Institute for Science Learning, fat literally builds your brain. Fatty acids from the food you consume are the substance your body uses to build the specialized cells which allow you to think and feel.
Good Fats Build Neuron Membranes
Neurons are the specialized cells that the brain uses to communicate with the rest of the body. The membranes of these cells are comprised of the same fatty acids that you consume in your foods. The process of digestion breaks the dietary fat into molecules of different lengths. These molecules become the building blocks of the fats used in the formation of brain cell membranes.
Good Fats Protect Your Brain
Myelin is the sheath that protects the neurons of your brain. It's composed of 30% protein and 70% fatty acid. Oleic acid, the most abundant acid in human breast milk, is one of the most common fatty acids found in the brain's myelin. Excellent dietary sources of monounsaturated oleic acid are avocados, olive oil, and oils from peanuts, macadamias, almonds and pecans.
Good Fats Aid Digestion
Believe it or not, that slippery looking margarine is hard to digest. Why? The shape of a trans fat molecule is not barbed, which means lots of those molecules can clump together nice and tight. On the other hand, a mono or poly unsaturated fat molecule is barbed, which means they are loosely packed and can be picked apart by the body and put to good use. These fats are more readily absorbed and distributed to the cells that need them. Whereas the bad fats, in essence, plug you up.
WHAT CAN GOOD FAT DO FOR MY BABY?
A pregnant mama supplies two specific types of fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid), to her growing baby. These fatty acids are crucial to the baby's brain and vision health. Studies have shown that a deficiency in DHA and AA can lead to impairment of the baby's central nervous system and cognitive development.
After the baby is born, the mother will continue to provide these necessary building blocks through her breast milk. Since Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential nutrients, they can not be manufactured by the body. They must be built from the foods that we consume. A diet high in nuts and cold pressed oils will help ensure that a nursing mother produces the most nutritious breast milk for her baby's growing brain and body.
HOW MUCH GOOD FAT DO I NEED?
The United States Department of Agriculture's Dietary guidelines are based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Within that framework, you should consume about 44 to 78 grams of fat per day, most of which should be unsaturated fatty acids.
Remember, even good fats are high in calories. For a nursing mom who needs to consume a few more calories, this is no problem. But it's best not to go overboard. Start by replacing a couple of beef dinners a week with fresh water fish. Snack on nuts, or non-hydrogenated nut butters on celery, instead of chips and crackers. Whip up a free-range egg white omelet for breakfast. Go for a snack bar that is full of flax, almonds, or macadamia nuts instead one that is really a glorified candy bar.
By making these simple dietary changes, you can provide your beautiful baby with the most nutrient rich breast milk possible. Not to mention that your own mental and physical health will benefit right alongside your baby's. Healthy mama. Healthy family. It's a no-brainer.
Mayo Clinic. Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Dietary Fats: Know Which Types to Choose.
The Franklin Institute: Resources for Scientific Learning. Nourish- Fats.
University of Maryland Medical Center, Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
United States Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines. 2010.
There's Sugar, Then There's Sugar - Understanding the difference between sucrose and fruit sugar February 02, 2013 00:00
All sugar is not created equal.
Understanding the difference between refined white and brown sugar and the natural sugars found in fresh, cooked, or dried fruits and vegetables is essential to making healthy food choices for you and your children.
How Refined Sugar Hurts Your Body
Refined sugar, scientifically known as sucrose, is composed of fructose and glucose molecules. When you eat something containing this kind of sugar, like a candy bar or soda, you feel an instant rush. Why? Because of how the body metabolizes sucrose.
When you consume sucrose, your body instantly releases insulin to combat the rapid rise in glucose levels. Insulin's job is to help cells absorb the glucose and store it as fat for when your body needs energy later. Because the sucrose is introducing pure glucose into the body, the amount of insulin produced is overwhelming. Your liver and muscles can store some of it, but much of it will get converted into fat, your body's energy storage facility.
While that burst of energy provided by refined sugar might be good for someone performing incredibly strenuous activity, like a firefighter running up several flights of stairs or an athlete preparing for a race, for most of us it just starts a vicious cycle of insulin resistance and sugar cravings. Insulin resistance causes cells to say, “Whoa, no more glucose.” Since the cells aren't opening their doors, the body actually produces more insulin to try to stabilize glucose levels.
The bottom line is that high insulin levels build fat. That's why refined carbohydrates and table sugar, as well as high fructose corn syrup, make you fat even when they are fat free. Of course, this type of insulin regulation disorder can eventually cause Type 2 Diabetes and possibly affect heart function.
It doesn't stop there. Insulin plays an important role in regulating brain function. An inability to properly process insulin can potentially lead to psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, and memory loss. Did you ever eat a pint of ice cream because you were depressed, only to have it make you feel even more depressed? I'm not saying that the results are that instant, but the long-term correlation is there and being studied more thoroughly by mental health researchers.
Sucrose and Breastfeeding
While many nursing mothers crave sugar, it's better to grab an apple than a slice of cake. When your blood sugar spikes as a result of eating something filled with sucrose, your nursing baby's blood sugar will spike, too. Babies are not well-equipped to manage blood sugar spikes, and the unstable insulin production can interrupt the development of healthy physical and cognitive function.
The high levels of sugar in the breast milk can also cause early tooth decay, according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association. This is especially true for babies nursed longer than twelve months. Breast milk with high sugar content also increases the risk of thrush, a yeast infection caused by the high acid levels present in sugar.
Why is Natural Sugar Better?
The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables have a different chemical makeup. Fruit sugar is simply fructose, which must be broken down into sucrose and glucogen by the pancreas before it can be used as energy or stored in the fat cells. This is why natural sugars rank lower on the glycemic index than sucrose. It takes your body time to turn natural sugar into glucogen to be used by your cells, so insulin doesn't have to rush in to balance suddenly high glucose levels.
When you consume healthy amounts of natural sugars from fruits, your body doesn't need to spike its insulin production. Just as high levels of insulin are directly related to weight gain, low levels of insulin help keep you lean.
Furthermore, it's widely recognized among the medical community that eating lots of fruits and vegetables keeps your heart healthy, your blood pressure and cholesterol down, and your mind clear. Not only is fructose a healthier form of sugar, the fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that a spoonful of sugar will definitely not give you.
Satisfying the Sweet Tooth
Even' the healthiest people want to indulge in a little something sweet once in a while, and in fact those cravings are your body's way of telling you it needs energy! But don't fuel it with calories that aren't just empty, but potentially dangerous to your health. Instead, appease your sugar craving with healthy alternatives like dates, dried cherries, dried apricots, coconut, nut butters, and a nearly unlimited variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Once you switch to these healthier alternatives, you'll start to notice that sucrose-based desserts like ice cream, candy bars, and cookies taste sickly sweet. Instead, you'll crave apples and almond butter, and your body will thank you for it.
Turner, Joel. Sugar's Negative Effect on Our Brains. Kale University. 17 May 2012.http://kaleuniversity.org/6231-sugars-negative-effect-on-our-brains/
Griffin, Sharon. The Effects of Sugar on Breastfed Babies. Livestrong. 28 March 2011.http://www.livestrong.com/article/69073-effects-sugar-breastfed-babies/
Ketterer C, Tschritter O, Preissl H, Heni M, Häring HU, Fritsche A. Insulin sensitivity of the human brain. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2011 Aug;93 Suppl 1:S47-51. doi: 10.1016/S0168-8227(11)70013-4. Review. PubMed PMID: 21864751. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21864751
National Institute of Mental Health: Diabetes and Depression. PsychCentral.http://psychcentral.com/lib/2008/diabetes-and-depression/all/1/
Effect of Fruit and Vegetables on Insulin Resistance. NIH Clinical Trial.http://clinicaltrialsfeeds.org/clinical-trials/show/NCT00874341