Breastfeeding and Maternal Diet

There are thousands of myths about what mothers should or shouldn’t eat when breastfeeding. The current recommendation is that the mother should eat a varied diet of healthy foods that are typical for her geographic region or culture and not limit or include any special foods without medical indication.

To understand why maternal diet should not be restricted, it’s best to examine how milk is made. Milk is made inside glands from the blood stream. Breast milk is NOT made from the mother’s stomach contents. The foods mom eats are broken down in the digestive system. Blood reaches the milk glands where it delivers carbohydrates, nutrients, white blood cells, enzymes, pro- and pre-biotics water, fat, and proteins into the gland.

The foods that mom eats have a long trip to the milk. Not every food is able to pass a whole protein or fat or carbohydrate out of the GI and into the blood stream. Most of the proteins moms eat are broken down substantially in the digestive system. Insoluble fiber is a component of mom’s diet that never leaves the GI and never reaches the milk.

When considering foods to include or avoid when breastfeeding, we must remember that the whole food does not enter the milk. Here is a list of common food myths for nursing mothers and the facts:

MYTH: Broccoli, cabbage, beans, and cucumber give the baby gas.
FACT: Vegetables cause gas because of insoluble fiber mixing with gut bacteria. Insoluble fiber does not leave the GI tract and cannot reach the milk.

MYTH: Spicy food will make the breastmilk spicy.
FACT: Human milk is very sweet. No evidence has been found of capsaicin in human milk. Many moms taste-test their own milk after eating well seasoned food.

MYTH: Strong flavors a like garlic or onions will give the baby colic.
FACT: In a garlic breastmilk study, the babies in the garlic group spent more time at the breast and took more milk. Garlic might be helpful for moms who need to nurse more.

MYTH: If the baby is fussy or has colic, cut dairy.
FACT: Cow milk protein allergy is only in 2-7% of the population. Fussiness is not a symptom for diagnosing cow milk protein allergy.

MYTH: If the baby is gassy or has colic, switch to lactose-free milk
FACT: Lactose is the primary carbohydrate in human milk. It does not come from lactose in mom’s diet. The breast glands make lactose. Lactose intolerance in a newborn is a serious metabolic issue that needs to be addressed by a medical doctor.

MYTH: Mom should avoid soda because it gives the baby gas.
FACT: Carbonated drinks don’t carbonate the blood. The bubbles can’t reach the milk.

MYTH: Peppermint (tea, candy, essential oil) will dry up your milk.
FACT: Some folklore and historic herbal texts list peppermint as a lactogenic herb. There is no science to support either claim. Peppermint is one of the herbal teas listed as compatible with breastfeeding by The Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice.

MYTH: You have to drink milk to make milk.
FACT: Plenty of dairy-free women make milk.

 

Have your own favorite dietary myth to add? Leave us a comment! Breastfeeding myths are a favorite topic at our regular free mother to mother support group.

 

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My breast feels hot and hard. Is this mastitis?

It could be. Many cases of mastitis begin with a hard knot in the breast. Often this hard spot is caused by a clogged milk duct.

What is a clogged duct?      Breast milk contains a variety of fats and proteins so that it is complete nutrition for your baby. The fats and proteins are different shapes and sizes. Sometimes they get tangled and get stuck in the milk duct. Most clogs release from the breast with frequent nursing and/or pumping. If your baby releases the clog while nursing, it is perfectly safe. Your baby will not have digestive upset from nursing out a clog.

What is mastitis?      Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissue. It may or may not be caused by a bacterial infection. Mastitis is a relatively common condition. Women who suspect mastitis should keep nursing and seek treatment. Mastitis that is caused by infection is in the breast tissue, not in the milk. The milk is safe for the baby.

Common first aid recommendations for mothers experiencing the symptoms of clogged ducts or mastitis:

1. Keep nursing the baby. Frequent nursing is the best treatment. The milk is perfectly safe for the baby.
2. Rest. Mastitis tends to escalate more frequently in mothers who are over stressed. Staying in bed with your nursling has amazing benefits.
3. Drink plenty of clear fluids, just as you would with a cold or flu.
4. Apply heat to the affected area. Heat helps increase blood flow to the area and open the milk ducts so clogs can pass. A hot shower is a great place to hand express. Nursing directly after applying heat is beneficial as well.
5. Ibuprofen is a known anti-inflammatory that is compatible with breastfeeding. Contact your health care provider to discuss appropriate dosing.

Some mothers explore home remedies and traditional medicines. lavender

– essential oils massage oil: blend 1 part eucalyptus, 2 parts lavender, and 3 parts chamomile. Apply oil over skin, avoiding areola and nipple. Massage in. Cover with moist heat for 20 minutes. Repeat 3-5 times per day or until clog releases.

– herbal compress: chamomile is a known anti inflammatory. A chamomile tea bag can be used as a hot wet compress over the affected area.

– potatoes: grated raw white potato is said to draw out infection when placed over infected area

garlic– garlic: Garlic is considered naturally antibiotic and anti inflammatory. One study showed that babies nurse more when moms are taking a garlic supplement.

-lecithin: lecithin is a dietary supplement that is purported to keep fats smooth and flowing in the milk. A dose of 4000 mg is commonly recommended. Lecithin is derived from either soy or sunflower.
What to avoid

1. Cold. Ice or cool packs cause constricting.
2. Tight fitting bras or clothing.
3. Doing too much
4. Alcohol

Antibiotics are very effective in treating bacterial mastitis. Drugs from the penicillin family are commonly given to treat this condition. Amoxicillin and many others are very safe for breastfeeding. There is no need to wean to treat this condition, and evidence shows weaning during mastitis exacerbates the condition.

The information provided on this blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure. Always contact your health care provider and LC to work as a team during illnesses while breastfeeding.

Placenta Encapsulation: A Traditional Galactagogue

Placentophagy is the mammalian act of the mother consuming the placenta after birth. While there are no clinical trials in humans to prove or disprove the effectiveness of this practice, science shows benefits of placentophagy in other mammals. Mammalian placentas contain high levels of prostaglandin which help the uterus shrink back after birth. Anecdotes suggest that mothers have less bleeding post partum when they consume their placentas. The amount of oxytocin in the placenta is also said to aid in lactation. Some also believe placentophagy  can stave off post partum depression.

If you are looking for a placenta preparing service in the Atlanta Metro Area, please scroll to the bottom for breastfeeding friendly providers.

The following instructions and images are for a raw preparation of the placenta.

Tools:

– cutting board
– large chef’s knife or boning/ fillet knife — at least an 8 inch blade to reduce tearing of the placenta
– encapsulation tray and tamper
00 veggie caps
– food processor, herb grinder, or coffee grinder for pulverizing dried placenta
– wax paper or parchment to cover dry work area and capture spills
– dehydrator that adjusts to temperature under 140 degrees F

This is a 4 Step process
1. slice placenta
2. dehydrate placenta
3. grind placenta
4. fill caps with dried placenta

Dehydrate the placenta to get all the water out, but do not cook it. Dry it under 140 degree F to keep the enzymes and bio-active components intact. This placenta pictured here was eventually dried for 24 hours at 100 degrees F.

This is the placenta “shiny side” up. The membranes are the wrinkly layer around the edges. They gather up on each other. The cord and major vessels here will be cut away. Some save the cord and membranes for homeopathic tinctures or to plant with a tree in the child’s honor.

The cord and membranes have been cut away. The placenta is still shiny side up. This is a 10 inch chef’s knife for size reference. The child who grew with this placenta measured 6lbs 10oz and 18 inches, gestation 39 weeks and 3 days.

This is the “dull side” or the side that was attached to the mother’s uterus. This is the “meat” that will be cut away. The dark red-purple spots are blood clots. Either rinse those away or dehydrate them. They will shrink down considerably.

Half of the “meat” has been filleted off  with the membrane left on the bottom. It is very “spider-webby” and spongy. It is possible to feel with the knife that the tissue is too tough to cut through very well.

The tray with the cut placenta before going into the dehydrator

After dehydration

Note how thin and crisp the pieces are after dehydration. All the water is out.

In the food processor bow is ALL of the dried placenta. Note that not much is left after drying. Next to it is red raspberry leaf that this mother chose to add. The addition of optional herbs is completely up to the mother.

This is the capping station. The pill pamper is at the top. The loader tray at the bottom. This is a baking sheet covered with waxed paper to hold spills. The tray brand is Cap M Quik

These are the loaded pills before getting the top of the cap added. They fluffiness of the red raspberry leaf or other dried herb may prevent of uniform filling.

Finished caps

This placenta with herbs yielded 150 caps total.

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Looking for a certified placenta encapsulator in the Atlanta Metro Area? Check out Melanie at Natural Afterbirth Placenta Services. She is a veteran breastfeeding mother and placenta preparer. Her services include pick up and delivery, in hospital or in home raw smoothie preparation, keepsake placenta printing, placenta chocolate truffles, and both TCM and raw encapsulation methods.

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The information contained here is not intended to treat, diagnose, or prevent any illness. Pregnant and lactating women should always consult with their health care provider before taking any supplements.

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