Breastfeeding and nutrition


This one is for my Le Leche Girls! I promised I would compile some recipes from the past that I use to manage the ferocious and blinding hunger attacks that happen when you’re nursing.

You feel me, right? You’re going about your morning, starting a quick load of laundry, changing a diaper or two, trying to drink an actual cup of coffee in one sitting before it gets cold. You’re feeling ambitious. You’re wearing your nice yoga pants. Think of all the things you are going to accomplish today. You are committed. You switch the laundry. You are going to put that laundry away. Today. In drawers. On hangers. You are going to do a project with the kids. Playdough…no…Glitter! You are a champion of motherhood. Then, out of nowhere, the hunger bus hits you. 

This ruthless and ravenous hunger hits you with such force, you can hardly think straight. You reach for the nearest edible thing in sight and devour it in moments. When you catch your breath and come to, you look down and realize you at half a bag of tortilla chips and salsa. It doesn’t seem that bad until you look up at the clock and it’s only 10:00 am. Great. 

Or maybe your pregnant, bless your hungry heart. When your hunger attack hits, there is a catch. If you don’t eat immediately, you may miss the hunger window and then you be repulsed by the thought of food for another two hours. That puts you at eating nothing until noon. It’s hard enough to grow a baby, now you’re basically starving. 

I learned a little something when Lila started regularly eating solids. I would find myself in the pantry binging on dry cereal or a whole sleeve of crackers wondering why I was so hungry. It hit me. I had made many breakfasts that morning: my husband’s, my daughter’s, even the chickens were brought hot oatmeal for their morning treat, but I hadn’t eaten a single one. It was a wake up call.

Nobody is going to take care of me, besides me. 

I’m not throwing a pity party, it’s just true. My husband is a grad student, works full time, and is the assistant soccer coach at his college, my daughter is three and my son is 8 months old. For very valid reasons, none of them are going to whip me up a breakfast every morning and make sure I sit and eat the whole thing. 

I studied social work and got my BA in addictions counseling. If I’ve learned anything about the helping profession it is that if you don’t take care of yourself and set healthy boundaries, you will burn out. 

If motherhood isn’t a helping profession, I don’t know what is. Self care is not to be confused with selfishness. It is committing to become, and protect, your best self so you can offer your best self to others. 

What does that look like to you? What is one thing you know would “fill your cup” if you would set the time and energy aside? Is it reading books? Journaling? Working out? Going to bed earlier? The list could go on and on. I know mine does. 

Basically as nursing Mom’s, our health is important and there is more to it than not eating tortilla chips for breakfast. We are not only fueling our bodies, but our baby is depending on us to make wise choices in our diet for their sake. If you’ve read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (like I’ve insisted you do) you also know that what we eat while pregnant and nursing really does set the stage for the types of food our babies will have a taste for. 

I was talking to someone about health and food and she said, “Yeah, well, you just eat lettuce.” I laughed, because it’s true. 

I eat a lot of lettuce. I love salad. I don’t eat side salads. I get a medium mixing bowl and fill it and binge on salads. I also, however, love bread, and cookies and ice cream and butter. In my opinion, true health is about balance. It’s not ‘all or nothing’. I use essential oils in my homemade cleaning products, but I buy toilet bowl cleaner. You would be shocked at the Bacon cheeseburger and fries I can put away without a crumb left behind, and still have room to finish my husband’s but the next morning, I’ll eat a healthy and balanced breakfast. If there is cake, I’m on it. If there is kale, I’m on it. In fact, in the name of self care and emotional health, I would argue that comforting bread bowl of broccoli cheddar soup from panera is the healthiest thing you can do sometimes. It’s a personal philosophy, I’m sure Dr. Oz would disagree, but who cares. 

As a mom, my days and nights tend to blur together. I can get so caught up in giving that I find myself running dry. I have to be self aware enough to make sure my needs are met so that I can better meet the needs of others. So, here are some practical things I do. Take what you want, leave what you don’t and please add your own tips and tricks so that other mama’s reading can gain from your insight. 

  1.  Plan your meals. Sometimes I am great at this, and sometimes it is 4:45 and I have nothing thawed and nothing ready so we eat quesadillas for dinner (not that I’m complaining). I do notice that if I have a basic idea of what I’m making over the week I am less stressed, we waste less, and we eat healthier. 
  2. Plan one or two”girl dinners” a week. This is a dinner that you really want. It’s geared towards your likes and your preferences and your health. If you think everyone will hate it, then they can make their own dinner that night. If you’re nicer than me, you can make it as a side, that’s fine too. When you make it, make a lot. This will be lunch for the rest of the week. When the hungries hit, you’ll be ready. Consider these recipes:
    1. Roasted Spaghetti Squash
    2. Hippie-Girl Vegetarian Nachos**
    3. Hippie Fried Rice
    4. Vegetarian Bean Curry
    5. Or any of your favorite soups made with homemade stock
  3. Always have a giant salad. I love my Genius Salad Chopper . I buy a bunch of lettuce, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, and any other seasonal vegetable that I like and wash and chop it all. For some reason, it stays fresh in this thing all week. Each day for lunch, I warm up a bowl of girl dinner, and dip into my giant salad and add some avocado or croutons (duh) and have at it. Way more satisfying than eating the leftover scraps of your toddler’s PB&J.                                             
  4. Eat when they eat.  I’m not a breakfast person. I’d eat waffles for dinner any night of the week, but I could probably go until lunch everyday on nothing more than black coffee and essential oils, but I know better. So, I commit to eating breakfast. The only thing that works for me is making my breakfast when I make Lila breakfast. This seems pretty logical, but if I don’t, I end up making her breakfast, cleaning up, and then realizing I haven’t eaten and I don’t feel like making a big fuss about it so I just skip it altogether. Not good when I’m responsible for fueling not only my body but also a growing baby boy. Maybe nobody else struggles with this, but I have to make it a point to eat or I just push it further down my list and then get attacked by the hungry bus. That jerk. 
  5. Breakfast is going to happen. Every day. If you have little kids, chances are that breakfast is going to happen before you have even touched your coffee. Don’t be blindsided. Be prepared. I’m telling you, make a huge batch of dry oatmeal. Include everything you’d put in there for the very best bowl of oatmeal. Now, your breakfast is prepped for a long time. Lila and I eat it everyday, and now little Danny is even starting his day the oatmeal way.  There are so many health benefits of starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal. It’s high in fiber and protein. It boosts your immune system. It gives you sustaining energy. It even is linked to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight by filling you up with nutrient rich food. It is actually considered one of the top 10 lactogenic foods that can improve milk supply. It is super affordable, filling and easy to make. Just turn on your tea kettle, scoop your mix into two bowls (one for you and one for the toddler who has already asked you 100 questions today), add some banana slices, apple slices, peach, plum, pear dices, and pour your tea kettle over the top. That’s it. No eggs to scramble, no trying to spread cold butter on burnt toast. No cracking the kids out on empty sugar foods first thing in the morning. Just wholesome, healthy, filling, and delicious breakfast. Save the pots pans and syrup for sundays. My mix has a few of my favorite things in it, I buy all of this in bulk to get high quality ingredients at a lower cost. For the local ladies, you should check out Greater Grains and Molbecks. I always add: 
    1. Cold Milled Ground Golden Flax Seed
    2. Organic Chia Seeds
    3. cinnamon
    4. dried cranberries 
    5. Nuts, even brown sugar if that’s your thing. (I don’t sweeten my oatmeal, I just use the cranberries and whatever fresh fruit I have around, I think it’s delicious. Here is the original post with this recipe. 
  6. Be flexible and have a back up plan. I’m all about whole foods and eating close to the earth, but let’s get real. Sometimes it’s not going to happen. I think it’s ok to drink your meals on occasion. Especially if you’re nursing. In the winter, it’s hard to get all of the nutrients you need every day. I think it’s ok to supplement for convenience and to make sure you have all your bases covered nutrition wise. I add some frozen banana, some natural nut butter for more calories and healthy fats, buzz it up in my blender and enjoy! I am pretty picky about what shakes I’ll drink, but these are a few I like. 
    1. Juice Plus has a shake that I really enjoy. It’s their dutch chocolate drink mix. It is whole food based and Lila even likes the taste, so that is one I always have around. Here is the link to where to buy some from a friend of mine and learn more.  This youtube video really helped me understand the nutrition in this shake. It’s about “filling the gaps” and nourishing our bodies even when diverse and pure fruits and vegetables aren’t always easily accessible. 
    2. I also use the Vegan Smart All-In-One Nutritional Shake
    3. Lastly, I always add a little dash of Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW Organic Powder 
  7. Hungry? Then keep eating. My goodness. Just eat more. I’ve been known to eat breakfast, work out and then drink a shake for second breakfast. I don’t believe in going hungry as a fitness plan, just eat more clean food. Nobody ended up on the Biggest Loser because they just ate way too many fruits and vegetables. So, I don’t really track those things. 
  8. Don’t confuse thirst for hunger. If you have this feeling that you’re missing something, it’s probably just water. Don’t be like Pooh and just assume a spot of honey will make you feel better.

We all have different reasons that we nurse and continue to nurse our little ones, but I bet we can all agree that we are doing what we believe is best for them. It’s a huge responsibility. It is a mountainous task at times, but it’s worth it. And if we’re going to put so much of ourselves into it, I think it’s great that we’re all taking the responsibility seriously and taking  close look at what we’re putting in our baby’s milk.

Good job mamas. I come every month to our meetings just because it helps me to know I’m not alone. I’m inspired by all you have overcome to fight for your nursling. I’m honored to be a part of this group.

Oh, and thank you for breastfeeding.  

* I know this look very similar to eating chips and salsa as a meal, but it’s way healthier. Trust me. Or, at least, let me think it is. 


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