I studied breastfeeding almost 10 years ago. It was after/around the time of the major flooding in Louisiana. I thought “if breastfeeding was normal there wouldn’t be so many issues about babies having clean water for formula”. With that story a lactivist was born. A couple years later I trained with La Leche League to work as a breastfeeding counselor, and a few months after that, I began breastfeeding my first-born and began my own experiences with breastfeeding.
During the last 5+ years of breastfeeding I’ve eaten a variety of diets. I’ve studied and worked in nutrition and I’ve worked with women who are eating a huge variety of diets. Most of those were vegetarian or vegan, and a lot of them have been raw vegan. That may seem pretty specific, but the variety in raw diets varies significantly…just like the variety of diets you can eat as a breastfeeding mother varies. I have never seen a woman have problems feeding a healthy baby when they consumed plenty of liquids and ate enough food (which could actually mean they were eating just enough to produce the volume of breastmilk needed).*
I know, and you can know too, that malnourished mothers can still breastfeed babies. Have I personally found myself preferring a certain way of eating while breastfeeding? Absolutely. I have also had to change my diet in relation to breastfeeding. At one time a pediatrician suggested I eat animal products(not because I was deficient in anything, just her uninformed suggestion), I tried and my daughter had a horrible few days of painful constipation. She was just a few weeks old.
After that time(and before) I ate a very high fat vegan diet. At times I ate all or mostly raw foods. I found my daughter was gaining weight really well and considered to be very chunky by most. She wasn’t lacking in anything. She was also very healthy. She never had ear infections or anything of the sort. I felt very lucky. She was, as they say a “titty monster”. She nursed a lot. a lot. a lot. a lot.
After several months I think I started to lose weight(and I didn’t need to). I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and be completely famished. Sometimes that would happen in the morning or in the middle of the day. Breastfeeding definitely uses a lot of energy. I found it difficult to eat enough because even though I liked the food I was eating, I didn’t like it enough to eat a ton of it. I carried on and started eating vegan junkfood at times…but the breastfeeding was still going well. I never had a problem with milk supply.
I started to think there was something wrong with my digestion and started looking into Bragg’s books. I started fasting for 24-48 hours weekly and I still found that breastfeeding was easy. I didn’t notice better digestion, however. Finally I found a low-fat, high-carb, high fruit eating plan that I resonated with. I studied natural hygiene and started to integrate some of the things I was learning. I started to feel much better nourished. Again my breastmilk was never a problem. My daughter kept growing, kept eating, kept smiling, kept learning new things, kept expressing herself in more pronounced ways, and she was still a titty monster. At this time she was a little over a year old. I always wanted to breastfeed for at least a year, but I had no goals to wean at a certain age.
I slowly introduced solid foods for her, but she was still majority breastfed for the next year. I got pregnant again and learned a lot more about staying full and eating the way I chose to ate. At this point I never experienced that famished feeling again. My daughter didn’t nurse as much. She was eating a lot of solids at that point, although she still had unlimited access to breastmilk.
With my new daughter I wondered if I would ever feel that way again. I finally knew how to eat enough for me. I was checking my nutrients on
, I began to eat all raw at times. I was eating low-fat and at the times I’d eat higher fat, my daughter would have a bad reaction. I tried eating that way because I saw that people would stress as much fat as you want as a breastfeeding mom, but I realized I still didn’t want it, or need it, and my daughter didn’t like when I ate high fat. However, there was still never a problem with milk supply. I have always fed my daughters unlimited breastmilk and never introduced any supplements. They have been exclusively breastfed, usually on a vegan diet, and guess what, my kids are very healthy, “normal” sized. This is due to the amazing magic that is the human body and one of it’s most amazing processes(in my book), breastfeeding.
Of course, I believe nutrition is important. That is the reason I believe human milk is the best nutrition for our babies. I’ve seen it time and time again with all kinds of women on all kinds of diets, and before I saw it, it happened during the course of our history as a species. People have eaten all kinds of things and babies have been breastfed on all kinds of diets. I want mom’s to trust their bodies, marvel at how amazing it is that our bodies know how to produce milk for our babies. I want mother’s to feel good about their choices, to feel supported, to feel the community around caring for our kids as close to our natural design as we can, regardless of how modern our world may be.
Of course there are some women who have issues with breastfeeding. I wish I could give a big hug to all the moms who wanted to breastfeed their babies and couldn’t. What I can suggest is to try to eat plenty and drink lots of water and look into natural ways to increase your milk supply if you have problems with it. If you’re low on milk for your babies, look into milk-sharing. http://www.eatsonfeets.org is a great website that helps moms around the world who don’t have enough human milk for their babies. There is nothing that compares to human milk and there never will be, regardless of what the mother eats.
*What I mean by never seeing a mom have problems with breastfeeding, is in relation to diet. Of course there are other legitimate reasons why breastfeeding may not work, or may not be established well enough in some situations, but I don’t believe this is due to diet, except in the case where some foods are triggering reactions and can be easily improved by eliminating those food items. Like what happened when I ate animal products and high fat, while breastfeeding.