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Does Your Diet Affect Breast Milk?

Welcome to the Breastfeeding Support Blog Party! Bloggers around the world have gathered together to share posts which provide current or soon-to-be breastfeeding mothers with a wealth of well-researched information, personal stories, and statistics designed to help you have the most successful breastfeeding experience possible. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more about this movement as well as to link to and read more informative breastfeeding support posts.

Under Pressure

Under Pressure (Photo credit: Forty Two.)

There is a lot of pressure on us as women and as mothers in particular. High expectations of looking a certain way, eating a certain way, being on top of everything while being pillars of support are placed on us every single day.

I think this is part of why it’s so easy to get both defensive and judgmental when it comes to parenting.

Particularly as new mothers, we are barraged with information and criticism from every corner, all while trying to figure out this totally new role of parenting on less sleep than we’ve ever gotten in our lives. Not. Easy.

Among the topics that come up for the most controversy, you could hardly pick a more prevalent one than breastfeeding. And the pressure here is multiplied tenfold – you’re constantly told it’s best for your baby while at the same time stumbling through minefields of ‘booby traps’ or obstacles to breastfeeding.

I traveled through that minefield and crashed and burned. Lack of support, misinformation, pain and agony and more – the reasons I gave up on breastfeeding were many – and sneaking in right along with them were feelings of inadequacy. I wasn’t healthy enough. I didn’t eat well enough. I was too fat.

I wasn’t a good enough mother to do the best for my baby.

Now, while there’s nothing quite so humbling as parenthood, I do realize today that those thoughts were completely, totally wrong.

…research tells us that the quality of a mother’s diet has little influence on her milk. Nature is very forgiving – mother’s milk is designed to provide for and protect baby even in times of hardship and famine. A poor diet is more likely to affect the mother than her breastfed baby. ~Kellymom – How does a mother’s diet affect her milk?

The benefits of breastmilk as the optimal food for baby are, I believe, without question.

I could go on and on, but there’s plenty of info. out there and it’s easy to find.

What concerns me is that in spite of all of those known benefits, we still live in a society that discourages mothers and throws up obstacles in the path of breastfeeding – a big one being that if you’re not eating right, you shouldn’t be nursing.

There are several problems I have with that statement:

1. None of us are perfect. Even if your diet is 100% real food (and kudos to you, because you’re a rare being) there is some way in which you are not perfectly healthy. Maybe you don’t exercise enough, or you have toxins from the environment in your body, or there is an issue with your genetics - in other words, maybe you’re human.

None of that changes the fact that your breast milk is still the optimal food for your baby.

2. By this logic, you probably shouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place. But oh wait – your body will still take all the nutrients and calcium and minerals, etc. that it needs for the baby. It might suck for you, but odds are your little one will be just fine (this may not apply in extreme cases).

3. Formula is not an easier or better path. Please keep in mind – this is not judgement – I bottle fed my daughter and I don’t think I am a horrible person or a failure as a mother for doing so – but I do believe that my breast milk would have been better for her. I do wish at times that I could turn back the clock so she could have it. And I can attest to the fact that bottle feeding in many ways is more difficult. It’s more expensive, it’s more of a risk, it’s more work. Bonding is not impossible with bottle feeding but it certainly takes more commitment.

Plus, nutrition-wise – even if you’re buying the most expensive of organic formulas or making your own from the purest of real food ingredients, breast milk still wins.

Ultimately, I hope to encourage you if your diet affecting your breast milk is a worry on your mind. Whether you are vegetarian or carnivore, vegan or junk food enthusiast, real food maven or in the middle of the road nutritionally – even if you’re a smoker! – your breast milk is still one of the greatest gifts you can give to your little one.

Please don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Disclaimer: I feel the need to emphasize that I did not nurse because I want you to know that if you are or have been in that position, you are not a bad mom. If anyone is making you think you are, just stop listening – you don’t need it. There is support out there for you in the attachment parenting community and this blog is one place where you will find it. <3

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This gathering of breastfeeding support comes in response to the Weston A. Price Foundation’s (WAPF) continued stance on breastfeeding, which we all have a great concern with. While the WAPF does support breastfeeding as the best option for feeding babies, it does so with a caveat. Breastfeeding mothers must follow the strict tenants of the WAPF diet and mothers who are not following their nutrient dense diet recommendations would be better off feeding their babies homemade formula (based on the WAPF recipe). In addition, they are outspoken against using donor milk.

The bloggers sharing posts today are concerned with the confusion this may cause breastfeeding mothers. Not only does research support the myriad of health benefits of breast milk for babies regardless of the mother’s diet, it also outlines additional benefits of breastfeeding such as better bonding, deeper trust, and a long list of other emotional benefits. Let’s not forget the health benefits for moms!

We will have a complete list of all the blog posts published today (as part of this Blog Party) in a separate post on Sunday, March 31st. We welcome you to join this blog party by linking up your own new and previously published posts which focus on any positive aspect of breastfeeding and breast milk. Please enter using the Linky Tool which can be found at Hybrid Rasta Mama, Cooking Traditional Foods, Whole New Mom, Alternative Parenting, or African Babies Don’t Cry. (All links will be subject to moderation. Any link not following the spirit of the Blog Party will be removed.

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