By Laurel Sterling Prisco, MS, RD, CDN
It has been discovered through decades of research that breast milk is really the best for mom and baby! Many experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that women breastfeed for one year or longer. If you are unable to breastfeed this long, try to breastfeed for at least the first month to ensure your baby reaps all the benefits from colostrum. There are many wonderful aspects and rewards from breastfeeding for both mother and child. It is nature’s most complete food for babies, and contains a perfect balance of nutrients needed for the child as they are growing and developing. Studies show that breastfed babies:
• Have a lower incidence of SIDS
• Receive mom’s antibodies to help develop a strong immune system
• Have a lower risk of allergies, asthma, and respiratory infections • Get fewer ear infections and are less likely to have diarrhea
• Reduce risk of childhood leukemia, juvenile-onset diabetes, and obesity in childhood and adolescence
Breastfeeding has many benefits for the mom as well such as:
• Convenience and cost
• Increases metabolism for faster weight loss
• Helps uterus to contract back to normal size
• Reduces risk of osteoporosis, Type-2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer
Mom should make sure to eat as nutritious and organic as possible. Also for her health and recovery and for nutritious breast milk, a post-natal multivitamin/mineral should be included. Look for one with 800 mcg of folic acid, and one that also includes zinc and iodine. Additional B vitamins are important as well for assisting with post-partum and the stress of delivery. They aid in the production of certain neurotransmitters that regulate mood (GABA, serotonin, and dopamine). Be sure that it contains calcium (citrate, malate), magnesium (citrate, malate, glycinate), and vitamin D3 for bone building, immunity, and relaxation in both mom and baby.
Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA in particular, which makes up approximately 20% of the human brain and nervous system) are crucial as well. Research from the National Institute of Health revealed that women with low DHA levels are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. A woman’s demand for DHA increases dramatically during pregnancy, and will remain low for 9-12 months after delivery unless she supplements with it. Experts recommend a minimum of 300 mg of DHA per day. High levels of DHA are associated with children’s reduced incidence of allergies and diabetes. Also research has shown that children of women who took DHA during pregnancy and while lactating had higher IQs at age 4 than those whose mothers had taken a placebo.
Probiotics (beneficial bacteria) like lactobacillus reuteri, which was originally discovered in human breast milk, have a tremendous amount of benefits for the mother and child’s bowel health (colic) and immunity. Also don’t forget to try adding back in some exercise when you can. Exercise is a natural mood elevator. It releases those feel-good endorphins. Try walking with the baby in a stroller or carrier, or check out “mom & baby” yoga tapes. This counts as extra time bonding as well!