If you’re breastfeeding your baby, you want to ensure your breastmilk quality is at its absolute best. And just like everything in life, simple diet and lifestyle changes can help you achieve this with ease.
The best part?
Taking care of your diet and introducing some exercise offers a plethora of breastfeeding benefits for moms, too!
How Does Exercising Affect Your Breast Milk Quality?
If you enjoy exercising, you may be concerned that it will affect your milk supply. Thankfully, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Research demonstrates that breast milk composition and supply aren’t affected by moderate exercise. Moms also reap the benefits of exercise, including having more energy, improving their moods, losing weight, and feeling better able to bond with their baby due to their improved mental wellbeing.
That said, it’s important to follow your midwife’s or doctor’s advice, making sure you only begin exercising 1) when it’s safe to do so and 2) with a fitness regimen that’s suited to you. It’s vital to remain hydrated before, during, and after exercise. Many breastfeeding moms find it beneficial to nurse their babies before exercising to avoid feeling full or engorged while doing so.
You should also be aware that while your milk supply/quality isn’t affected by moderate exercise, it can change the taste of your milk. This might not bother your baby, but the bitter or salty taste it can induce may cause some babies to refuse the breast.
What Are the Best Exercises for Nursing Moms?
When it comes to exercise and breastfeeding, you may find that moderate exercises such as yoga, cycling, swimming, pilates, or at-home workouts tailored for new moms are best.
Guidelines from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week — at a minimum. How much time you allocate to each exercising session is up to you. For example, you may find it easier to go for three long cycle rides per week, or you may find quick 10-minute walks when you can fit them into your schedule are better.
Do whatever feels right for you.
If you don’t meet this target each week — don’t worry. Avoiding stress is a great way to boost your breastmilk quality and supply, as high stress levels can severely impact breastmilk production.
How Can a Breastfeeding Diet Boost Your Milk Supply?
Nursing moms who aren’t getting enough nutrients in their diet are at risk of diminishing their milk quality and supply. Not only that, but your own health may suffer, too.
According to scientists, breastmilk composition is made up of 87% water, 7% carbohydrate, 3.8% fat, and 1% protein. It also provides 60-75 calories per 100ml. However, when it comes to breastfeeding vs. formula, the composition and content of your breastmilk can vary even within a single feeding session. For example, breast milk tends to be watery as your baby begins nursing (otherwise known as foremilk), but becomes more nutritious, higher in fat, and thicker (hindmilk) as they continue to feed.
Producing all of this nutritious milk is a tiring job for mom, too. Studies suggest that you’ll need an additional 500 calories in your diet per day to breastfeed your baby! Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean reaching for the odd chocolate bar or two, as there are certain recommended foods for breastfeeding.
What Are the Best Foods for Improving Breast Milk Quality?
A nutritious diet is key to sustaining your and your baby’s health, with certain foods being better suited to a new mother’s diet.
Fruits and vegetables
For optimum breastfeeding health, you should aim for your five fruits and veggies a day. Vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, berries, cabbage, garlic, kale, and tomatoes are all great additions to your diet.
Starchy foods (carbohydrates)
These are vital for keeping your energy levels up while breastfeeding, while also providing you with essential fiber and certain vitamins. When possible, avoid white versions and opt for wholemeal instead. Other great sources include butternut squash, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, and oats.
This group of foods includes fish, meat, and poultry, as well as eggs, beans, and nuts. Try to introduce two portions of fish into your diet each week, with one of these being oily fish, e.g. sardines, mackerel, or salmon. Try to avoid eating fish with higher levels of mercury in them, e.g. swordfish or shark, more than once a week.
Cheese, milk, and yogurt contain calcium and other much-needed nutrients. Try to opt for low-fat varieties for the most part or unsweetened, calcium-rich varieties of dairy-free products.
There are also foods to avoid when you’re breastfeeding.
These include: too much caffeine (one or two cups a day up to 300mgs of caffeine is considered safe), high-mercury fish (as mentioned before), and certain herbal supplements (this is due to lack of research on how they may affect your milk quality, so always look into this beforehand).
A Healthier, Happier Mom and Baby
One of the best parts about a mother’s diet and exercise postpartum is that it’s far less restrictive than during pregnancy. So, with a few simple steps and lifestyle changes, you can ensure that not only is your breastmilk quality at its best for your baby, but that you’re in tip-top health, too!