According to the CDC, 77% of newborns begin life breast-feeding, and the number of infants continuing to breast-feed at six months and twelve months continues to increase. This is great news because research has linked better physical and mental health and a lower risk of childhood obesity to breast-feeding.
In this guest blog post, Dr. Wahls explains how not all breast milk is created equal. What a nursing mother eats affects her breast milk, and subsequently, the nutrients her baby receives. What a mother eats also affects how her body fortifies her breast milk.
During pregnancy, if a mother’s nutrition is inadequate, the body will redirect nutrition from the mother’s body to the fetus, drawing down the mother’s reserves of important vitamins, minerals, and essential fats, especially docosahexonic acid (DHA).
DHA helps a baby’s developing brain and is associated with fewer developmental, mood, and behavioral problems, but it’s key for the mother as well. Moms whose DHA levels are depleted are at an increased risk for postpartum depression.
To help both mom and baby stay healthy, moms need to consume a nutrient-dense diet that includes plenty of vegetables, berries, nuts (especially walnuts), and flax or hemp. She should get a healthy amount of DHA from animal sources such as cold-water fish, shellfish, and grass-fed meats. Dr. Wahls explains consuming sufficient DHA is a greater challenge for vegetarian mothers.
Moms must also be aware of toxins. To reduce the risk of pesticides, herbicides, and growth hormones building up and being passed on to babies, moms should choose to eat organic foods such as wild, smaller fish, grass-fed meat, greens, and sulfur-rich vegetables as much as possible. This will provide detoxification enzymes and limit the toxic load stored in the body.
Strategies for eating a nutrient-dense diet and minimizing toxin intake and impact can be found in The Wahls Protocol.
While the rate of nursing is high, La Leche League reports that exclusive breastfeeding even under 4 months is around 33%. Breastfeeding has many benefits to both mother and baby mentally and physically, and creates a good parent-child relationship. When moms consume a nutrient dense diet and limit toxin exposure, those benefits have the potential to be more significant.
La Leche League supports mothers through encouragement and information on breastfeeding to help them get started and answer any questions along the way. They offer support to mothers, no matter how long they choose to breastfeed, provide information for extended breastfeeding, and help make breastfeeding more comfortable and common practice. La Leche League believes that breastfeeding, with its important physical and psychological advantages can help initiate good parent-child relationships. The peer-led groups complement the care of physicians and health care professionals while also recognizing the importance of mothers helping one another to perceive the needs of their children and to learn the best means of fulfilling those needs.
For more information on breastfeeding and La Leche League, Dr. Wahls recommends their book, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,” which can be found on the third page of books “Recommended by Dr. Wahls.”
For Dr. Wahls’ other posts on breastfeeding, visit her blog post on Herbicide Discovered in Breast Milk.