Maria Lactans

Maria Lactans
Maria Lactans (wikimedia commons)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

How Motherhood and Breastfeeding Helped Me Achieve a Healthy Weight

When I first entered college, I developed some unhealthy eating habits.  I gained quite a bit of weight and did not listen to my body's signals about what to eat and when to stop eating.  Then I married my husband, and we wanted to start a family.  I ate better and exercised regularly.  I lost 25 pounds and was still overweight, but I was definitely at a healthier weight for pregnancy and childbirth.

I breastfed my first son and kept up my better eating habits.  I took almost daily walks with my husband and son, and my pregnancy weight came off during that first year postpartum.  We then moved to another state, and soon conceived our second son.  We only had one car at that time, so I walked a lot just to get to the grocery store, park, library and other places.  While breastfeeding my second son, I easily lost my pre-pregnancy weight and then some.  I tried to listen to my body's hunger signals.  I even wrote a response to a question about healthful eating and exercising after baby in the "Staying Home" column in LLL's New Beginnings magazine.

Fast forward to today.  I birthed and breastfed a total of five children.  As a busy mom, I am in constant motion, so that counts as a little bit I exercise.  My eating habits are not perfect, but I do try to feed my family and myself as well as I can.  I limit the amount of added sugar I and my children have.   I eat more fruits and vegetables each day than previously.  I incorporate enough whole grain breads and pancakes into my family's diet that my kids seem to prefer them.  I try to model good eating habits.  I exercise about three times per week - pretty steadily.  At first, I did the Walk Away the Pounds DVDs mainly, because I am not very good at some of the complicated dance moves found in many exercise DVDs.  Then I decided to start running.  When I started, 2 minutes of running felt like torture.  However, I stayed with it, and it did get much easier as time went on.  Now I actually enjoy running.

I really believe having children and breastfeeding all those years helped me become healthier than I have ever been!

Here are a few of my favorite nutrition books:

Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding

Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition

The Family Nutrition Book

Here is a link from Kellymom about nutrition while breastfeeding:

Mother's Diet Archives

A Sample Beginner's Running Plan:

Walk Run Off the Pounds

Lastly, here is an excerpt from Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers:

      Nutrition for Nursing Moms
       It is important to eat healthfully while breastfeeding, but a perfect diet is not required for an ample milk supply.  What should you eat while nursing?  According to Dr. William Sears, your daily food plan should include all the healthy foods you normally eat from the five basic food groups, just in greater quantity.  Try to choose nutrient-dense selections.  Also drink to thirst (The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013, p.159).  
      Are there any foods you need to avoid while nursing?  Unless you, the mother, have dietary restrictions or you discover that your baby is sensitive or allergic to a particular food, there are no foods you need to avoid.  Pregnant women are counseled to avoid certain foods due to increased risk of food-borne illnesses, but these restrictions do not apply to breastfeeding mothers.  The only exception I found was that of fish high in mercury.  However, both canned light tuna (not albacore) and Pacific wild salmon are two types of fish that can be eaten without restriction.
      According to The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013 (p.167), it is best to limit alcoholic consumption to that once-in-a-while, special occasion drink.  If you do decide to have an alcoholic drink, nurse your baby first and then have your glass of wine or beer; that way the alcohol will peak in your bloodstream before your next nursing session, and your baby will get very little, if any, alcohol through your breast milk. The concentration of alcohol is greatest in your milk about 60-90 minutes after you drink it (with food), and then quickly decreases.  Therefore, waiting 2-3 hours until the next nursing session will help ensure your breast milk has as little alcohol as possible (The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013, p.167).
      What effect does exercise have on breast milk?  Exercise is a great way to slim down after birth, relieve stress and add to your general health and well-being.  If you exercise strenuously and then nurse your baby soon afterwards, your milk may have a slightly different taste due to lactic acid build up in your milk.  Your baby may or may not notice the taste difference, but it is perfectly fine for baby to drink.  One option to avoid the altered taste is to nurse baby first and then exercise.  Moderate exercise should not affect the taste of your breast milk.