Boosting Nutrition for Breastfeeding Dyads through Fall Flavors
Throughout our pregnancy we are constantly reminded of how we’re ‘eating for two’. We are vigilant about what we should avoid and strive to eat healthy and balanced meals for our growing bumps. After delivery though, nutrition becomes, well, foggy. Quite literally in postpartum our brains are foggy due to a lack of DHA. Almost any and all stores of this Omega-3 fatty acid have been used to grow our babies. As we breastfeed, almost all of the DHA we take in is continually transferred to our babies in our breast milk. Living in this brain fog and being groggy from round the clock feedings doesn’t leave us much energy or brain power to focus on our nutrition. It’s a good thing our favorite fall flavors are packed full of essential nutrition for breasting dyads.
A dyad in this case is a relationship composed of two people. For breastfeeding humans, that’s you and your baby! When you exclusively breastfeed (pumping, nursing, or some combination of the two), you are the sole source of nutrition for your baby. It’s quite possibly the only thing that didn’t change with childbirth. Maybe one of the reasons we moms go nuts for pumpkin spice is that pumpkin is good for breastfeeding humans? There are many fall favorites that are packed with the nutrition we need to stay healthy, and provide the proper nutrition for healthy babies.
Proper Nutrition for Breastfeeding Dyads
Before we start rattling off all of our favorite fall flavors that are as healthy as they are tastey, let’s take a look at what experts recommend for breastfeeding dyads.
Studies show that women who breastfeed their babies can lose between three to five percent of their bone mass. That means the demand for calcium is so high, that every bit we consume and then some is transferred to our babies.
Most of us know this omega-3 fatty acid by the acronym DHA, but you might also see it listed as docosahexaenoic acid. DHA is essential for brain health in both moms and babies. It’s why pregnant women are strongly encouraged to seek prenatals that contain higher levels of DHA, and why they’re also encouraged to continue taking these supplements as they breastfeed.
Folic Acid or Folate is really important for breastfeeding mothers and babies. This helps to ensure your baby develops properly and to prevent birth defects in future babies. It helps in the production of both red and white blood cells, and plays a key role in the development of a baby’s brain and spinal cord.
Our thyroids are responsible for the production of hormones. Our hormone levels as mothers during pregnancy and breastfeeding directly affect the development of our babies. Iodine helps to support thyroid health and function.
During pregnancy we can sometimes develop anemia. Couple this iron deficiency with the blood loss experienced during childbirth and iron becomes very important. Iron helps breastfeeding moms also maintain their energy levels. According to the CDC, iron is responsible for the development of hemoglobin which carries oxygen to various cells in our body making it essential for infants and healthy development. Iron is also key in neurological development in babies.
Potassium is an electrolyte. It helps send electrical signals for muscle contraction, but also helps with nerve impulse transmission, and in cardiac function. It’s important for mothers and babies. We can sometimes lose potassium from vomiting due to morning sickness, or even consuming too much caffeine.
Most of us were familiar with protein from exercise and general nutrition before becoming mothers. But protein is especially important now that we’re growing a baby. In fact, protein is essential for producing breast milk. Then, it's transferred through the milk to help our babies grow and develop.
Vitamin A has a lot of key functions for breastfed babies. It’s essential for eye health, immune systems, and overall growth. According to Healthline, vitamin a levels are the highest in colostrum. Then they level out a bit. If you’re familiar with the different stages of breast milk, vitamin a is also higher in hind milk. Too much vitamin a can have negative side effects so if you are taking supplements consult a professional.
Similar to iron, vitamin b12 helps our bodies and babies produce red blood cells. It also impacts healthy brain development in babies and a deficiency in this vitamin can lead to permanent brain damage.
The sunshine vitamin, vitamin d, is necessary for our bodies to absorb the calcium we get from our diets. It also helps to prevent rickets which causes deformed or weakened bones. Experts say that breastmilk alone is not an efficient source of vitamin d and recommend that parents give babies a supplement.
Our bodies go through a whole host of changes as we become mothers, but did you know your body actually absorbs more zinc when you’re pregnant and breastfeeding? This is because from birth to six months babies need zinc for healthy development.
Nutritional Fall Favorites
Okay, now for the fun part. Grab your pumpkin spice lattes and get ready to make your next shopping list. These fall flavors are chalked full of nutritional benefits, they taste great, and they’re versatile. You can add these flavors into your soups and baking recipes. Many are great in curries, or as yummy snack bars.
"Eating seasonally is vital for our health and well-being. This ensures we rotate our fresh produce quarterly, allowing our bodies to take in the maximum amount of nutrients and benefits the earth has to offer us. Strive to 'Eat the rainbow' and add as many beautiful colors of produce to your plate as possible, the more colors, the more nutrients. Variety in produce will also keep our gut bacteria happy, which are passed along to our littles ones through our breast milk. Another way we can try to equip them with the best chance for their healthiest life."
~Courtney Podany, NTP
A great way to achieve this is by shopping at your local farmer's market for nutrient dense foods like those listed below. Since these foods are grown locally, they are picked at peak ripeness. Variety is key.
Oh pumpkins, their sweet and savory flavor that blossoms in just about every fall recipe! Pumpkins are a superfood. They boast fiber, zinc, potassium, iron, and a host of vitamins. Pumpkins are great for skin and hair health. They’re even good for your dogs! Stock up on baking pumpkins. You can check out this post for a how to on roasting pumpkin and turning it into baby food, or adding it to your other favorite recipes.
Pumpkin seeds are also super healthy. Roast these in a little bit of salt, cinnamon, or your favorite seasonings to replace potato chips or other empty calorie snacks this fall. They’re packed full of antioxidants, contain zinc, fatty acids and more!
Technically this is considered a winter squash, but you’ll find it popping up in grocery stores in the Fall. Butternut squash contains beta carotenes which are considered a precursor to vitamin a. So you can think of them as vitamin a to make things easier. Remember vitamin a is super important for eye health, and overall growth and development.
Experts say that sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of vitamin a and carotenoids. Remember these boost vision and help the healthy development of eyes in young babies. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of magnesium. Magnesium is being studied in relation to our mental health. Women with magnesium deficiencies are showing higher rates of depression, stress, and anxiety. They’re naturally sweet and taste great! Opt for these as fries, mash them up, and/or mix them into your favorites!
These tart little pops of color make more than just great decorations and pretty garnishes! Cranberries are a great source of antioxidants. They also contain zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and heaping amounts of vitamins. Mix whole cranberries into your favorite chocolate chip cookies for an extra pop of flavor!
Full of potassium, vitamins, and iron, beets are a super healthy fall favorite. You can consume both the beet root, as well as the dark leafy greens. Beets also support brain and digestive health. Pickle the roots, and chop up the leaves for a start to a really healthy fall salad.
Another fall root vegetable, carrots are really great sources of nutrition. Packed with Vitamins A and c, they’re also a great source of potassium, calcium, and iron! Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil or honey and roast them for a sweet treat. Slice them up in your favorite salad. Juice them with some of your other favorite flavors. Or roast them and then add them to soups, curries, and more.
According to some health experts, kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods available. It’s a huge source of vitamin a. It also contains calcium, potassium, and magnesium. This mighty leaf is also high in fiber and protein! You can make some really great sautés out of kale, spice up a salad with it, and more!
While it might be one of your favorite flavors, cabbage has its uses. It packs a nutritional punch as a good source of protein, fiber, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Did you know that cabbage can also be used to help with engorgement, weaning, and mastitis?