There is a reason why breastmilk is as precious as liquid gold for your baby. It’s packed with everything that your little one needs. Here’s your ultimate guide to producing gold star breastmilk.
As soon as you have had your baby, anxious wellwishers will hound you with questions about breastfeeding, breastmilk supply and how long you intend to breastfeed. They mean well, but it can be stressful, especially for a first-time mum. It’s not easy to know whether your milk supply is adequate and whether the quality and nutrients are good enough for your precious baby. We understand (we’ve been there, Mama!). And so, we asked an expert to guide us on all things to do with breastmilk production, from ways to maintain supply and to tips on improving quality. Read on for her handy advice!
What’s In Your Breastmilk
You’ve had the baby and all you want to do is celebrate with a glass of bubbly, your favourite sushi and some stinky cheese. But hold on – you’re breastfeeding! Now what?
Well, the truth is, everything we eat and drink will affect the taste and composition of our breastmilk. After all, we’re making this milk from scratch with the ingredients we put into our bodies. So, of course, it makes sense to steer away from alcohol, caffeine and other such ingredients you wouldn’t give a baby straight up and on the rocks.
Having said that – don’t beat yourself up about a well-timed glass of wine that’s a few hours away from your baby’s feed. We’re not just mamas, we’re real-life human beings and sometimes – a glass of wine, bubbly or a cocktail is just gonna happen!
A more useful question is how to supercharge your breastmilk so that it is creamy, rich, liquid gold. Here are my four top tips!
Indulge In Healthy Fats While Breastfeeding
Whilst you’re breastfeeding, it is really important to indulge in a broad range of healthy fats. Babies need a truckload of healthy fats to develop their central nervous system, vision and intelligence. Those sumptuous healthy fats will surround the nerve cells in the brain and protect it.
When cooking, dump the canola, sunflower, peanut oil and all those nasty, refined oils and start using coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, ghee and avocado oil.
Fish like salmon, barramundi, sardines, mackerel and herring are also rich in those beautiful healthy fats that are crucial not just for your baby, but also for you. They’re going to help you lower inflammation and keep your hair, skin and nails gorgeous.
Smoothies are a great way to boost healthy fat intake. Try including some yummy almond butter or a bit of avocado for a decadent, creamy treat. In fact – check out my recipe below!
Why Breastfeeding Mums Should Pump Up the Iron
Mamas, having a baby is taxing on the iron reserves, and without iron, our energy levels plummet and you could put yourself at risk for anxiety and depression (why some doctors advise continuing with prenatal supplements). This situation spells bad news for milk production. Babies are born with iron stores but these stores are generally used up by the time they’re 4 to 6 months old. Baby formula usually includes iron so if you’re formula feeding by then, don’t worry.
However, breastfeeding mamas need to keep on top of their iron levels. So don’t be afraid to tuck into that steak. Beef is also rich in zinc, which breastfeeding mamas also really need to help boost immunity levels. If you want to go plant-based, lentils, beans, tempeh, leafy greens, tomato sauce, brown rice and quinoa are good sources of iron.
And instead of reaching for that coffee, how about trying this iron-rich, herbal tea to help boost your milk supply and pump up your iron levels.
- Get yourself some dry stinging nettle lose herbs or tea bags.
- Steep a tea bag or a teaspoon of the dry herb in a big cup of freshly boiled water for 5 to 7 minutes.
- To sweeten it, add a dollop of iron-rich blackstrap molasses (a byproduct of sugar cane’s refining process). Blackstrap molasses is also rich in B6 – a stress-fighting vitamin that will help you keep calm and make milk.
Read more: Where To Buy Nursing Bras In Hong Kong
The Benefits Of Bone Broth In Breastmilk Production
Confinement nurses swear by their bone broth recipes and for good reason! They are the breastmilk bomb! Have a different one each week. You can vary the base between grass-fed beef bones, collagen-rich chicken feet, pork shank bones and even fish head. Add some green papaya, yam and ginger – and you’ve got the ingredients for a delicious soup base, rich in highly bio-available minerals and collagen to replenish your body and keep you glowing from the inside out. You can even use the broth to cook your whole grains and stir-fries.
Did know that ginger root joins fenugreek, nettle, blessed thistle and fennel as one of the top ingredients to boost milk production? Plus, breastfeeding is thirsty work! A cuppa bone broth is exactly what you need.
Eat Your Stress Away With Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are rich in minerals, especially magnesium, which is super important for practically everything your amazing body does for you. Unfortunately, magnesium deficiencies are very common postpartum and this can lead to a variety of symptoms including constipation, water retention, inability to sleep (even when your baby lets you!), anxiety and that horribly annoying eye twitch you thought you were getting because you were tired.
But here’s the thing – magnesium also helps to deactivate adrenaline. Adrenaline is a stress hormone, which interferes with the production and let down of milk.
Making sure your magnesium intake is stellar is really important to help keep the stress hormones down and the milk flowing in abundance. You can do this really simply by eating good quality protein with every meal and pairing it with foods like leafy greens, avocado and sea vegetables, like kelp.
Recipe To Help Improve Breastmilk
Here’s a delicious smoothie for gold star breastmilk that will nourish you and your gorgeous bubba.
The spinach and raw cacao are rich in magnesium in other minerals. Almond butter and coconut milk are full of healthy fats. And hemp seeds are a rich source of plant-based protein to help keep you feeling full and energetic. Mix all ingredients in a high-speed blender and enjoy!
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk
- A cup of water (or more if you like a thinner consistency)
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 2 tbsp almond butter (or nut butter of your choice)
- 1 banana
- 2 tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 tbsp raw cacao
Oh! And one last tip lovely, mamas. Don’t forget to drink water – and lots of it!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2017 and updated in July 2021.
This is part of a special series, “Everything You Need To Know About Breastfeeding In Hong Kong“. For more posts on breastfeeding in Hong Kong, click here.