As we’re constantly on the quest to find ways to make motherhood feel good at Bb London, food does feature a lot on our minds (and a bit on the blog). And as we’re particularly concerned with new mothers then we do also talk about breastfeeding. So I though that this week we should bring the two things together… boobs and grub, all in one neat blog post.
When I was breastfeeding, I remember that cake was a very important part of my diet.* I had the most enormous constant craving for cake which I’m sure was my body telling me that it was a good idea (when pregnant it was broccoli and milk which seemed much more logical).
This week’s gorgeous guest poster is the clever Elena Cimelli who has written some sensible advice on nutrition when nursing. Here’s her personal (and professional) thoughts on it.
As ever, please let us know your thoughts by commenting below or on Twitter.
*Come to think of it, cake still is a very important part of my diet…. hmm.
Breastfeeding: (lactogenic) food for thought by Elena Cimelli, author of ‘The Contented Calf’.
Breastfeeding is such a personal and emotive topic, with every woman having a unique experience of and feelings towards it. It is almost impossible to write about, other than to relate what happened to you. That said, I still hesitate every time I put finger to keyboard. But here goes:
I have to say when it came to breastfeeding, I was incredibly lucky. Fifteen minutes after my daughter was born, she was latched on to my breast, where she stayed for much of the next 10 months. I was able to successfully breastfeed exclusively for six months (both on the breast and pumping for bottles) and continue on for another four once we started to introduce solids. It wasn’t all plain sailing. I had three terrible bouts of mastitis – one of which saw me hospitalised overnight on IV antibiotics! But, overall it went well, I had enough milk and I’m very grateful.
I can’t say for sure why I had a good experience while it can be so very difficult for others. I think part of it has to be that I had no expectations at all. I was totally formula fed, and have managed to make it past 30 OK. I’m not particularly sickly, I don’t believe my iQ has been impaired and I haven’t ended up in therapy with “my mum didn’t love me” issues! So perhaps that lack self-pressure helped?
Elena and Evie - sleeping on a full belly
Breast milk production and breastfeeding is a complex process. Indeed, in their book “Making More Milk” Diana West and Lisa Marasco introduce the concept of ‘The Milk Supply Equation’:
1. Sufficient glandular tissue
2. Intact nerve pathways AND ducts
3. Adequate hormones AND hormone receptors
4. Adequately frequent, effective milk removal and stimulation
= GOOD MILK PRODUCTION
Maybe it was just luck that meant that all the above factors were in place for me?
Looking at the equation more closely, there’s not much we can do about the first two – that is just luck of the draw. And if a new mum has breastfeeding problems, Midwives, Health Visitors and Breastfeeding Counsellors can help with the fourth point.
But what do most new mums really know about hormones? And in particular, what do they know about the role diet can play in lactogenesis (the process of making milk)? Interestingly enough, when I look back at what I was eating while I was breastfeeding, a lot of the food was lactogenic – foods that promote breast milk production. Perhaps this helped me too?
The process of making milk (lactogenesis) involves two hormones – prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin stimulates milk production and oxytocin promotes the ‘milk-ejection reflex’ or ‘let-down reflex’.
In terms of lactogenic foods, one group helps increase the level of prolactin in our bloodstream. With regards to oxytocin, stress hormones suppress its production. However, eating meals and snacks throughout the day can help reduce stress levels, as hunger can induce stress. There are also foods thought to help remedy problems with let-down or flow, which Hilary Jacobson lists in her book “Mother Food”.
You can find out much more about breast milk production and diet at www.contentedcalf.com/breastmilk, plus in the two books mentioned. It really is a very interesting topic, and definitely worth being aware of if you’re breastfeeding. The Contented Calf Cookbook includes a list of lactogenic (and anti-lactogenic) foods. But if you’d like some inspiration of how to include lactogenic foods in your diet straight away, just visit the recipe section of the Contented Calf website, and simply register to get more exclusive recipes, absolutely free!
WIN a copy of this book and other great prizes in this FREE prize draw.
Note from Sophie: You can also see my mum’s best cake recipe for another great treat when feeding!