As a Registered Dietitian & Certified Lactation Consultant, I am always amazed at the Superhero moms’ abilities; tending to the little one's every need with such care and patience, sending hubby off with a lunch box filled with love, running the household and the business with a firm hand, breastfeeding on demand, all with very little sleep and often also with very little fuel in their bodies. During these demanding days, I have been asked by many moms, why is my supply low?
Firstly, a mom’s breastmilk supply ultimately depends on adequate emptying of the breast during a feeding session, which can be impacted by improper positioning of your little one when breastfeeding, a bad latch, skipping feeds or substituting them with formula and not breastfeeding on demand. Secondly, research has indicated that smoking, stress, and anxiety can also impact milk production. Finding a support group, following a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet can be crucial in coping with all the demands set upon moms in the modern environment. Furthermore, the need to pump at work can also have an impact. Breastfeeding comprises of emotional connection that increase your oxytocin levels when your baby suckles, leading to breastmilk being easily ejected from the breast. Unfortunately, breast pumping at work has the opposite effect, as a stressful environment and absence of skin-to-skin connection may cause a momentary decrease in supply. When this happens, there is often a snowball effect as the moms then doubt the quantity of their supply and the quality of their milk’s nutritional value to feed their babies sufficiently.
Why do I need superfoods if what I eat doesn’t impact my supply?
Following a healthy nutrient dense diet consisting of complex carbohydrates, quality protein, unsaturated healthy fats and oils will enrich your breastmilk with nutrients and vitamins needed to sustain your little one’s immune health and overall development. Frequent balanced meals will also assist you with managing your stress better, which can impact your breastmilk supply. Sometimes it can be very difficult to sit and have a proper meal three times a day, and that is why I always tell my superhero moms, “When you feed your baby, that’s the cue to also feed yourself”. Try to have superfoods as snacks during the day, whether you need to pump or breastfeed.
Which superfoods should I consider?
Complex carbohydrates assists with maintaining energy levels throughout the day, decreasing cravings as well as decrease the stress hormone called Cortisol, leaving you feeling less anxious. Include foods such as sweet potato, wholewheat bread, brown rice, bulgur wheat, quinoa and oats. Including sources of Magnesium can help to decrease stress levels, and elevate possible barriers to milk production. Include leafy greens such as kale, spinach and swiss chard, as well as dark chocolate, nuts, and seeds. Including salmon, tuna, and sardines ensures adequate Omega 3 fatty acids, which will be transported through the breastmilk and ingested by the breastfed baby to support healthy eye and brain development. It can also help to improve symptoms of anxiety in the mom further combatting a potential threat to breastmilk supply.
All superhero moms need to take care of their health and wellbeing, because it is just as important as the health and development of their babies. Aim to incorporate superfoods into your daily meals and snacks. Keep some in the car, diaper bag, your work drawer and in the kitchen for when you are breastfeeding or pumping. And when you still feel anxious, take a deep breath, remember that you are doing a great job and speak life over your supply!
Wanzel Bruwer - RD(SA), SACLC, IBCLC