Food, Mood and Nursing Mothers
Nourishing herself and her baby can be a challenge for most new mums, and this along with the pressures of a newborn can potentially leave a new mother feeling fatigued, low and over-whelmed. Therefore, what she chooses to eat at this important time in her life is paramount for the health of both mother and baby, and can also have a direct effect on the new mum’s own mental health and mood. Approximately 20% of women are affected by some type of mental illness either during pregnancy or in the 12 months after giving birth, presenting itself as anything from anxiety and depression to postpartum psychosis, which can all have an effect on breastfeeding.
There is no doubt that food is medicine, especially in cases such as this. A breastfeeding woman needs 200 more calories per day than she did during pregnancy, and it is important that these calories come from nutritious foods such as oats, spinach, garlic, fenugreek, apricots and good fat sources like coconut oil, coconut milk, flax, chia seeds and olive oil.
It is important to manage blood sugar levels to ensure the nursing mum feels rejuvenated and balanced throughout the day. It can be tempting to eat something sugary when we don’t have much time and need a quick snack, but these sugar boosts can leave us feeling low, tired and cranky. Eating small amounts of protein throughout the day helps keep blood sugar levels even, balancing hormones and stabilising mood. Eating meat, poultry, and fish along with low glycemic carbs such as nuts, whole grains, and beans boost production of serotonin, which has a calming effect. A good blood sugar balance slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream and keeps us feeling full for longer, keeping energy levels up and aiding a deeper rest when the opportunity to sleep arises.
Mushrooms can be added to the long list of foods which are beneficial for nursing mothers. Interestingly, mushrooms help colic symptoms experienced by many babies as they increase the body’s immune response, including increasing immunoglobin IgA, a substance which helps prevent large poorly digested food molecules from passing through the baby’s intestines. Babies are born with holes in their digestive tracts which allow immunities from the mother to pass through the digestive tract into the blood stream to provide protection for baby. Colic is caused when undigested food molecules pass through these holes, but by eating mushrooms once or twice a week, nursing mothers can help prevent poorly digested particles from passing through, lessening the likelihood of colic for their baby.
In conclusion, we are all aware that our food choices are vital at all times in our lives, but it is undoubtedly even more consequential when a woman is nursing her little one. Her decisions not only affect her own health and weight and that of her baby, but also her emotional wellbeing which ultimately has the potential to allow her to enjoy this beautiful time in her life.
As featured on the Moment Health Blog