By Marian Mitchell (AADP)
A new life was just born from your body. It’s an incredible, awesome, and incredibly overwhelming time. You lost blood, your boobs are swollen and painful, your belly didn’t bounce back to pre-pregnancy greatness, your hormones are all over the place and how do you even shower with a newborn to take care of….. The movies and books make this time sound so amazing, and let’s be honest, we ignored the warnings of how difficult the transition can be.
One of the biggest challenges is cooking and eating with this amazing, wonderful and needy new child. The first time I ever burned food beyond repair was after my second child was born. My daughter had colic and it was the time of day when the painful crying would last for hours. My four-year-old son needed his mom, too. We all needed to eat. When I saw my green beans burnt to a crisp in the pot and overcooked chicken, I just sat down and cried. How was I supposed to take care of two children, make sure I kept my milk supply, lose the baby weight and eat healthy?
Thankfully, we all ate some avocado toast and survived. After that night, I made it my mission to come up with some easy to make meals I could easily prep during nap time, would provide lunch and snacks for at least three days, deliver vital nutrients and boost my milk.
Let’s talk about the foods that boost your milk supply and replace vital nutrients that were diminished during pregnancy and birth. Eating the right foods will give you much needed energy, improve the little bits of sleep you get, help your hormones get back to normal and keep your immune system strong. Eating the right stuff will also help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight or, if needed, set you up for long-term weight loss success. Here is what I recommend:
Oats – This food is famous for boosting lactation. Not only does it help with milk production, it is high in iron, fiber and B vitamins. It is also easy to prepare, making it the perfect staple for a breastfeeding mom. To make your life easier, I recommend making my lactation cookies (recipe to follow) or and make overnight oats. Both are easy to eat when your hands are full, and the cookies make a great grab-and-go snack.
Nuts and seeds – High in vitamin E, iron, magnesium, calcium, protein and carbs, they help boost your milk, ease skin itching, give you much needed calories and help you stay full. An easy snack is a banana topped with almond or peanut butter. You don’t even have to plate it! Peel the banana, grab a spoon and that jar of peanut butter. Scoop it out and put it on the banana before taking a bite.
Protein – Ask your partner, best friend, mom or dad to grill up pasture-raised chicken thighs, a grass-fed beef steak or wild-caught salmon and make a Starbucks-inspired protein plate. High protein intake is essential for maintaining your milk supply, energy levels and keeping you satiated. There’s no need to make anything fancy – get food storage containers and put in cubes of meat, a hard-boiled egg, grapes and a couple cubes of cheese. And now you have several easy-to-eat, one-handed meals.
Dark leafy greens – Dark leafy greens are nutrient powerhouses and especially high in B-vitamins, which are absolutely necessary for your energy level and overall health. An easy way to include greens into your day is to add them to smoothies. Grab some frozen berries, an orange, flax meal, protein powder, a couple handfuls of greens, water and ice and you will have a delicious, filling and milk-boosting smoothie. Salads are always my personal go-to, and I also like to add them to soups during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Foods rich in good fats – Your milk is half fat and you need to consume at least 40% of your calories from healthy fats, so they are very important. Let’s put the dangerous “low fat” craze in the trash heap. And remember – fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does. You and your baby need a lot of fat to maintain your milk supply; boost brain health; absorb all the fat-soluble nutrients in those dark leafy greens; absorb vitamins A, E, D, K2 and powerful antioxidants to help fight inflammation; keep you full (thus promoting weight loss) and maintain energy levels. Don’t be afraid to smother your vegetables in butter, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to your salad dressing, eat an entire avocado on that toast or add coconut oil to your coffee or tea.
Desiccated liver capsules – This may not sound appealing, but hear me out. Nutrients for your child were taken from your body and some of the food you ate. The absolute best way to replenish your stores is to consume the most bio available sources possible, and liver is it. I did this with my second and the difference from baby 1 and baby 2 was astonishing. It’s worth the investment and capsules make it really easy. Just like taking a vitamin!
Probiotics – With your hormones all over the place, constipation is a real problem in the early weeks. In addition to this, your milk is also a pre- and probiotic rich elixir that will help populate your precious baby’s gut. Consuming probiotics is a must. You can get them from capsules, but the most cost-effective way to get them is to eat fermented, probiotic rich foods. You can buy raw sauerkraut, kimchi and fermented pickles from health foods stores, or you can make them yourself at home.
Water – It’s not a food, but is incredibly important for your health and milk supply. Drink it cold, warm, flavor it with fruits and herbs, but make sure you’re drinking 10 cups a day or more. You may also enjoy herbal teas, but be careful which ones you choose because not all are breastfeeding safe.
I know this can seem like an overwhelming list, but the most important things to remember are lots of healthy fats, protein, and water. Depend on your support system, buy pre-cooked meats, premixed salads, or frozen green smoothie packs. Also keep a huge jar of nut butter and fruit on hand.
Here are some recipes to help get you started.
1 3/4 cups oat flour
2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (organic preferable)
1/4 cup flax meal
3 tbsp brewer’s yeast (not gluten free)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup raw cane sugar or maple sugar
6 tbsp coconut oil or butter
¼ cup milk of choice
Optional add in’s:
¾ cup mini chocolate chips, ¾ cup raisins and/or ½ cup chopped nuts
Preheat the oven to 325 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking sheet.
Pour the 2 cups of oats into a blender or food processor and process them into a fine flour.
In a large bowl, add the oat flour, oats, flax meal, nutritional or brewer’s yeast, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, add in the eggs, vanilla, sugar, coconut oil or butter and milk. Mix well.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix completely. Then stir in your add-in of choice.
Using a spoon or scoop, form 2-inch size balls of dough and line your baking sheet. Bake for 14-16 minutes.
Remove from the oven and move to a cooling rack. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days and in the freezer for up to one month.
Four Protein Plates
1 cooked chicken breast, diced into cubes (about 4 ounces)
1 hard-boiled egg
1 cup grapes
1 shot glass of almonds
4 cubes of cheese (or a string cheese)
4 ounces of cooked steak, cubed
¼ cup hummus
5 baby carrots
1 stalk of celery, cut into 3 pieces
½ cup berries
1 turkey sandwich with turkey, tomato, lettuce, pesto sauce and one optional slice of swiss or provolone cheese, cut in half
1 apple, sliced
1 tbsp nut butter of choice
4 ounces smoked salmon
1 serving whole grain crackers (gluten free if needed)
⅓ cup pitted olives of choice (I like kalamata)
Protein-Packed Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie
8 oz milk of choice (I really like full-fat coconut milk)
1 serving collagen protein
1 tbsp oat bran
1 tbsp flax meal
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp peanut butter or nut butter of choice
1 cup of greens
1 cup of ice
Optional: 1 tbsp local honey or 1 dropper of stevia
Blend until smooth and enjoy!