It seems obvious that the first step to ensuring problem-free breastfeeding is to do everything possible to have a healthy baby. If you give birth to a healthy, full-term baby (greater than 39 weeks gestation), you will increase your chances of a smooth transition from the uterus to suckling at the breast. There is plenty of evidence which indicates you can increase your chances of delivering a full term, healthy baby. So let’s begin at the beginning.
For some of you, this information will be late. However, if you are planning a pregnancy or for future pregnancies, if you are already pregnant, have a preconception physical with your midwife or physician. Get a good lab workup, have your vitamin D level checked and a thyroid panel drawn. Make sure your iron levels are good and if you are low or borderline, make sure you get that corrected.
Start taking your prenatal vitamins and minerals and if you’re a vegetarian or don’t eat red meat, talk to your practitioner about B12 supplementation. By the way, chicken liver (organic) is I believe the best source of absorbable iron.
I will talk more about diet, but for now, check your diet for the following:
This may seem overwhelming. Don’t let it be. Just start educating yourself and making improvements one step at a time. You and your entire family will benefit.
Last but not least, schedule your first prenatal as soon as you have conceived. Information gathered in your first trimester is used for treating any pregnancy complications that should arise.
Please start a list of questions for your care provider, so you can get all of your questions answered. This information is not intended as medical advice, but as information to discuss with your midwife or doctor.
* I was trained in pregnancy nutrition by Dr. Tom Brewer. He recommended to his patients 90 grams of protein a day – a quart of milk, 2 eggs, 2 servings of meat for starters. A smoothie from a good protein powder for breakfast, adding some frozen berries will be a big help towards getting more protein. If you don’t tolerate milk or are worried about drinking so much of one protein, I recommend a good plant based protein powder. I would also recommend Omega 3 eggs from non-caged chickens.
Much has been written about healthy eating since Dr. Brewer developed his diet plan. I like the 7 colors of fruits and vegetables and 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day guideline for eating. More is known about the importance of good fats in our diet as well. Even so, looking at the summary list of foods on the diet plan, it is really quite close and is still an excellent diet.
· 4 servings of dairy per day – 8 oz
· 2 eggs per day
· 6 servings (7 oz) of protein per day
· 2 dark green vegetables
· 5 servings of whole grains, starches and complex carbohydrates
· 2 servings of vitamin C – usually in the form of yellow or orange fruits and vegetables
· 3 servings of fats and oils
· 1 serving of Vitamin A – liver, cod liver oil, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale (many sources)
· 1 serving of liver per week or 1 extra serving (4 oz) of protein
· Salt to taste
· Water to thirst
· 1 snack per day
· Take your supplements
Keeping the 7 servings of vegetables a day and 7 colors in mind, I suggest when you select your foods to consider including the following:
Choose the whole fruit over juice. Include more berries and vegetables in your diet, especially if you have blood sugar issues. Many stores have frozen organic berries. There is evidence that freezing actually increases the phytonutrients content available to you. Adding a quarter cup frozen blueberries and raspberries a day is an excellent addition to your diet.
Fat has gotten a bad rap in fad diets today. However essential fatty acids are an important nutrient and must be a significant part of your diet. I believe fears about mercury in fish have led to a decrease in Omega 3 fatty acids consumption. Omega 3 fatty acids are needed to grow your baby’s brain. Cholesterol is also an important nutrient. Some sources of good fats are:
Butter, avocado, wild salmon, tuna fish* (not albacore), sardines, chia seeds, flax seeds*, grape seed oil mayonnaise, extra virgin olive oil, raw (and fresh) seeds and nuts, eggs (especially omega 3 or non-caged)
Processed oils other than expeller pressed oils are turned into trans fats by the heating process. When cooking in oil keep the temperatures low. Adding a little water helps to keep the oil from getting too hot. Oils should be refrigerated upon opening. Please eliminate hydrogenated vegetable oils from your diet. That includes that coffee creamer stuff. Treat yourself to a little real cream.
Morning Sickness after the first few weeks is serious. Please do everything you can to minimize it and make sure you are working with your midwife or doctor.
If you are small or thin the baby may be a bigger drain on your system. Years ago, the March of Dimes encouraged additional weight gain for small or underweight women.
If you are significantly overweight – Check out your diet. Is it full of empty calories that pack on the pounds, but don’t add protein, vitamins, mineral, antioxidants, and phytonutrients to your diet? You will do fine on the Brewer diet. Just be sure to eliminate the non-nutrient calories. If possible improve your diet before you conceive.
Do you work full time? A friend of mine was an OR nurse. Her unborn baby was diagnosed small for dates or IUGR (intra-uterine growth retardation). We told her to stop work and begin to eat, and to rest on her side. The baby caught up and she delivered a healthy baby. It is easy to get so busy; you forget to plan what you are going to eat and when you are going to eat it. Remember, all of the things that working moms cram into their spare time, stay at home homes use to occupy their day with. Planning meals, shopping, and cooking. It was actually fun. So if you work, just be diligent about your diet check off list. And plan for nutritious snacks for your breaks at work. Dr. Brewer recommended eating as though you were carrying twins. A protein shake with a good vegetable or whey protein powder, raspberries, blueberries and a banana mixed in milk will be a good addition to your diet. Mix it ahead of time and drink it on your break at work.
If you are expecting twins or multiples add 20 grams of protein and 300 calories for each baby.
Stress and grief can lead to loss of appetite or binging on non-nutritive food. Be extra diligent about your check off list. Get a friend or family member to help you.
It is known that aerobic exercise decreases blood flow to the placenta. For this reason, I personally recommend you limit your exercise. Walking briskly is great. There is a difference of opinion on this. At the very least replace all of the calories that you are burning with nutritive food and extra protein. I will add that I have seen more runners deliver small babies than big ones.
Eating the food on this list probably won’t be a problem in the second trimester of pregnancy, but as the baby grows it does become harder to eat large amounts. You will need to graze on the foods on your list rather than eat it all in three meals. This is good for your baby. Your baby can only get what is actually in your bloodstream at the time. The demands of pregnancy will require you to eat frequently, so your baby has a steady supply of good nutrients. You will have more room for food if you don’t consume water with your meals. This improves digestion and will decrease heartburn difficulties. It might also help to steam some of your vegetables if you find a salad too filling.
Remember, your baby needs good nutrition every day.
*Ask your health care provider about the safe amount of tuna fish. Albacore has a higher mercury level and should be avoided. Flax seeds should be freshly ground and consumed immediately as they become rancid quickly. A coffee grinder works well.
This article is not intended as medical advice or a substitute for early and regular prenatal care. Please take this information to discuss with your prenatal care practitioner.