Maternal intake and breastfeeding

 

So I’ve been trying to write this blog post for several weeks now. But a certain babe has kept me from having the free time and mental space to actually do it. 🙄Such is life right now…

When it comes to pregnancy and breastfeeding, there is a LOT of pressure put on moms to have the perfect diet in order to provide the best nutrition for their growing babies. But can I be honest? That’s way too much pressure for me to handle. Yes, during pregnancy and now breastfeeding I am providing all of the nutrition for my baby. But getting it “perfect” is just too much pressure for anyone and can create a lot of fear, guilt, or shame. Besides, the opinion on the optimal diet changes from one person to the next (sounds a lot like the rest of diet culture). During pregnancy I just focused on eating what I wanted, when I wanted it, and as much as I needed. I didn’t focus on certain macros or food groups. I trusted that my body would lead me towards what it needed to grow my baby.

 
Maternal intake and breastfeeding
 

And this is the perspective I have taken into breastfeeding. Sure, I focus on drinking enough water and eating enough food, but it’s not difficult for me since my body is constantly telling me to eat and drink. 😂 However, since I’m in this stage of life and there is a lot of well-meaning (but stressful) advice out there for breastfeeding mothers, I decided to look into the research about breast milk and how maternal diet impacts it. I hope you find this post helpful if you are in this stage of life! Also, this post is not to convince you to breastfeed your baby. I completely understand that this is not always feasible and believe that “fed is best.” Please do not let this post shame you if breastfeeding was not feasible for you or if you chose to use formula instead.

Here’s a little bit of background information on breast milk. First, it contains a variety of growth factors, hormones, enzymes, immune system factors, macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). It’s caloric content varies from the beginning of the feeding to the end of a feeding, feeding to feeding, and even day to day. Lactose (a type of carbohydrate) is the most abundant macronutrient and is the most stable between feedings and from mother-to-mother. Fat content is what creates the most variability in composition and caloric content. It is more concentrated as the feeding goes on and varies in type depending on number of pregnancies, when your baby was born, how far you are postpartum (our body uses up our reserves of a certain type of fatty acid), and the types of fats you are consuming. Although the vitamins and minerals present in breast milk are in smaller quantities than in formula, it is actually more easily absorbed and utilized in the body. Basically, breast milk is constantly changing based on a variety of factors.

How does one’s food intake impact the nutrition available in milk? Can we increase the fat or vitamin/mineral content available in our milk? Here’s what we know—mom’s diet has some effect on breast milk composition, but probably not as big of an impact as we would like to think (fortunately or unfortunately). Neither mom’s food intake nor body composition are going to impact carbohydrate or protein content in the milk. But research does show that there is a correlation between maternal fat intake and breast milk fat composition. It doesn’t impact how much fat is present, rather the type of fat present in the milk. Some people have fattier milk (and therefore more calorically rich milk) than other moms, but I didn’t find any research that definitively answered the question of why there is so much variability among moms. Fortunately, volume of milk is important for infant growth rather than amount of fat or concentration of calories. This means that if you are feeding your baby often enough, they are going to be well-fed, even if your milk is on the lower side of fat/calories. (takes off some of the pressure, right?) A major type of fat that is impacted by maternal intake is that of DHA, a type of omega-3 that is important for brain development. Because of this information, I had been focusing on eating more plant sources of omega 3s (walnuts, flax seed, etc), but found out that the conversion of omega 3s into DHA in reality is pretty poor from these sources. The best sources are actually from fatty fish or a supplement. My recommendation? Take a prenatal vitamin with DHA 😉 (and eat some seafood if you like it!).

When it comes to vitamins and minerals for milk, food intake of those nutrients obviously creates the availability of them for milk. But just as we don’t have to consume 100% of our daily needs each day for our body (nutrition status is about overall intake over several days, not just one meal or day), we don’t have to consume 100% of all the vitamins or minerals every day for it to be present in adequate amounts in our milk. Research shows that our milk is incredibly resilient despite inadequate intakes, and slowly decreases in milk if it is not readily available from our diet. If we are lacking in certain nutrients day after day, our bodies will then use our own body’s reserves to feed our babies. Once that is used up, our milk concentration of those nutrients will suffer.

I know that breastfeeding is touted as THE way to help new moms lose their baby weight. There is a lot of pressure for moms to quickly return to their pre-baby body, which often results in moms trying to reduce food intake and increase exercise along with breastfeeding to get rid of that weight. In reality, research doesn’t support this. Yes, there are some moms who lose weight breastfeeding, but there is a large majority of the population who don’t. It makes sense that our bodies would hold onto extra energy if they are having to constantly supply energy for another human. It’s self-preservation. And although our milk supply and composition are fairly resilient regardless of our food intake, if we are not consuming enough food, it IS going to impact our ability to feed our babies as well as our ability to take care of ourselves.

 
We want to have the energy to take care of our babes, the available nutrition for our own bodies to create proper brain chemistry, and the brain space to fully be present rather than thinking_worrying about food all .jpg
 

I find it really comforting and reassuring that I don’t have much control over my breast milk composition and nutrient quality. Let’s take the pressure off of ourselves! But that doesn’t give us the excuse to underfeed our bodies in an attempt to make them smaller. Breastfeeding takes a big toll on mother’s nutrition status and requires that we feed our bodies regularly and adequately (and again, I recommend a prenatal supplement). We want to have the energy to take care of our babes, the available nutrition for our own bodies to create proper brain chemistry (motherhood is hard enough without having a lack of serotonin from underfeeding our bodies!), and the brain space to fully be present rather than thinking/worrying about food all the time.

I’d love to hear from you what your favorite breastfeeding snacks are (the hunger is no joke…)!



Sources:

http://www.asklenore.info/breastfeeding/resources/mysteries.shtml

https://www.nap.edu/read/1577/chapter/1#xi

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0952327815000307

I've got a secret to tell you...

I've got a secret that I've been keeping for awhile that I'm excited to finally let you in on.

These past few months have been pretty rough. Not emotionally rough, but physically. I've dealt with a lot of fatigue, nausea, high food aversions, an expanding wasteline, and general feelings of blehness...Yep...I'm PREGNANT!!

 
We're having a baby.jpg
 

Tomorrow I will officially be 13 weeks and out of my first trimester. Phew!! You have no idea how glad I am that it is finally here. I'm FINALLY starting to feel more like myself, which is such a breath of fresh air. Who knew you could accomplish so much when you actually have energy and don't want to vomit?!?

We actually found out when I was only three weeks pregnant (um, say what?? how is that even possible? that's actually really only one week of being pregnant 😳). I was noticing some body changes (I think my chest size doubled overnight) and I had to pee ALL the time. Then when I didn't start my period, I thought something might be up. I took a dollar store test on Sunday, and when it was positive, rushed to the store to get a second. Sure enough, it was positive too! I cannot even describe how sweet Isaac was when I told him. He was ELATED! For the next few days every time he would look at me he would just smile and then come over and shower me in kisses. So precious. I'm not going to lie, it came as quite a surprise to me. And I freaked. Isaac and I knew we wanted to start a family in the near future, but I was training for "one last half marathon before having a baby" and wanted to have a full year of private practice under my belt before having a baby. But the Lord obviously had different plans, and I know that this child is going to be the best blessing ever.

So what has pregnancy been like for me? Like I said above, not super fun. I pretty much had nausea 24/7 from week 5-10 and am still dealing with it off and on. I'm such a pansy when it comes to having the stomach bug, and that's what it felt like for me all the time. I didn't want to do ANYTHING. I've taken a LOT of naps over the past few months. And there have been many nights where I've gone to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. Oh wait, it was that way before I got pregnant 🙈. 

 
We're having a baby
 

Y'all, it's CRAZY what happens to your body during pregnancy. I knew that we don't have much control over our bodies, but pregnancy has really magnified that for me and it's something that I'm having to learn to go with the flow with. Nausea and fatigue? Of course I knew of those. But heartburn in the first trimester?? And night sweats? Oh dear, what else do I not know about?!? 😳I am having to constantly learn my body as it changes from day-to-day and respond accordingly.

Which brings me to food. Food has been tricky. I went from being extremely nauseous and not wanting food to being extremely hungry (you know the hungry where you feel like you're gonna vomit? that kind of hungry) but still having major aversions. It made eating really difficult. And really unenjoyable. Guys, I have lived off asiago bagels for the past 7 weeks. I have had at least one a day because it's about the only thing that sounds good. I've also discovered quite a love for sweet tarts 😉. At first it was a little concerning that I didn't want a single vegetable (barf) and that the only things I thought I could stomach were white (or sour candies)--bread, tator tots, french fries, etc. But then I realized that it is no big deal. So I don't eat vegetables for 12 weeks! Not gonna kill me. I am so incredibly grateful that I have incorporated intuitive eating into my life, because without it, the last few months would have been incredibly stressful. I knew that at some point, I would want to eat vegetables and fruits again. I knew that I would want more fiber-rich foods. But I had to give my body time. And I am so grateful to say that I AM wanting some veggies now. I'm really grateful that I have been able to give my body what it needs when it needs it without second guessing how it is that I'm hungry 2 hours after eating breakfast. Or that I essentially want dinner leftovers as an evening snack. These past few months have been such a blaring example of how freeing intuitive eating is for me. It's hard to understand my ever-changing body, but I have given myself grace for the times when I haven't met its needs exactly (example: overshooting hunger and then going to bed and having acid reflux--unenjoyable for sure, but it doesn't mean I'm a failure).

 
My lifeline....

My lifeline....

One half topped with avocado and pepitas, the other half with cream cheese, egg, and chicken sausage

One half topped with avocado and pepitas, the other half with cream cheese, egg, and chicken sausage

 

As far as body image goes? If I'm 100% transparent, I was trying to come to terms with my body still changing before finding out about the pregnancy. So with pregnancy, I've experienced a lot of bloat and my waste simply getting thicker. It's been difficult not to have clothes that really fit my body. But I am learning to accept my rapidly changing body size/shape. My body is changing for incredibly good reasons--it's growing a human. But to be proactive, I bought this book after seeing that Kylie Mitchell read it during her pregnancy too. I've only read the first few chapters, but it's really nice to know I'm not alone in what I'm experiencing or feeling. It has also been super empowering to read. Guys, our bodies can accomplish so much and that is something to be thankful for and proud of!

 
We're having a baby
 

Well, that's all for now! I plan on doing some pregnancy updates in the future. I don't really know what my fall will look like or the months after having baby, but I'm just going to take it one day at a time.

Caio!!

In defense of sugar

I kid you not, as I'm beginning to type out this blog, I'm eating a chocolate chip cookie...and it's delicious.

 
In defense of sugar
 

There is a lot of controversy in the health and fitness world over what diet is healthiest, what foods should be avoided, what should be consumed, the optimal ratios of foods, etc. But what most people can seem to agree on is their take on sugar. I mean, there seems to be an all-out war on it. I hear people talking about it ALL the time: "that has way too much sugar," "that yogurt is practically like eating ice cream," "sugar is the cause of all of our health problems, and we should cut it out", and on and on. 

And while I don't encourage people to eat donuts for breakfast, Little Debbies for lunch, skittles for a snack, and cake and a coke for dinner, I do think we need to give sugar a break. You guys, ANYTHING in excess is harmful. You can drown by drinking too much water. Vitamin A in high doses can cause tumors. Too much calcium causes painful bone deposits in the joints. So I would agree that too much sugar is not a good thing. But sugar in itself is not the problem--it's about the totality of the diet. 

It's interesting to me that major proponents of cutting out simple sugars or refined sugars often turn to alternative sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, organic sugar, dates, etc. because they are "healthier" (don't get me started on people who say we should cut out fruit because of the sugar content...). But can we break those things down for a second? All carbohydrates--I'm talking ALL of them--regardless of whether they come from table sugar, maple syrup, white pasta, or beloved sweet potatoes (side note: did you guys know sweet potatoes are rated the #1 most nutritious vegetable?) are eventually broken down into the same three molecules--fructose, glucose, and galactose. The foods we eat are a complicated combination of those three molecules with varying linkages. Some have linkages that are easily digestible and some have linkages that our body can't actually digest (fiber). BUT, they are all going to be broken down into fructose, glucose, and galactose.

In defense  of sugar...carbohydrate breakdown

I get that this is an oversimplification and that a lot of other factors come into play. And I'm not saying that we should just forgo our veggies and whole grains and instead eat all refined carbs and simple sugars, but what I am saying is that we need to let go of the fear of refined sugar. It's broken down into useable energy, just as our sweet potato is. And energy isn't a bad thing. And if our sweet potato is broken down into glucose and fructose, then why do we fear table sugar that is broken down into glucose and fructose? The fear and morality we form around eating sugar is going to do far more harm that the sugar itself. Restricting sugar and then overeating/bingeing on it is far less healthy physically and emotionally than having moderate amounts on a regular basis. Fearing any food is going to wreak havoc physically on your body (um, hello cortisol!), your ability to foster relationships, and your ability to truly nourish yourself.

So I encourage you to challenge those beliefs you have around sugar. It's broken down into the exact same molecules as other types of carbs, and your body knows how to handle those other carbs. Again, I'm not promoting eating sugar all day everyday--your body is not going to feel good, and I promote eating in a way that makes you feel energized and good. But let's stop the fear-mongering that is going on around sugar and just eat our food, enjoy it, and move on.