Can you Improve the Quality of Your Breastmilk?

Can you Improve the Quality of Your Breastmilk?Caitlin Beale, MS, RDNBreastmilk is often referred to as “perfect” nutrition for your baby. This is true to an extent; however the quality of breastmilk is still reflective of your nutrient status. While nutrient deficiencies are rare in the U.S., if a mom has any suboptimal nutrients, it can impact the overall nutrient quality of her breastmilk.What you eat postpartum matters almost as much as pregnancy! Here are some of the nutrients to keep an eye on.1. Choline. Choline is vital for your baby’s brain and memory development, lipid metabolism, proper growth, and more. Studies suggest that infants quickly excrete choline during the first year, so getting it from breastmilk is critical. The amount found in breastmilk is linked to the mother’s diet and supplementation.Foods high in choline include eggs, beef, liver, legumes, and salmon.2. Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is critical for the health of your baby’s nervous system and cognitive function. It also helps form blood cells and prevent anemia. B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning the body doesn’t store them but instead excretes whatever is not needed. As a result, infants tend to have low reserves at birth. Moms who follow a vegan diet are especially at risk for B12 deficiency if they aren’t supplementing since vitamin B12 comes from animal products. This deficiency would also be reflected in breastmilk.Foods high in vitamin B12 include beef, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy.3. Calcium. Calcium is critical for the healthy development of your baby’s bones and teeth and proper muscle function. Inadequate amounts of calcium in breastmilk can lead to suboptimal bone development in your baby. There is some question about whether calcium supplementation actually impacts the amount found in your breastmilk, so ensuring optimal status from your diet is ideal.Foods high in calcium include dairy, sardines, leafy greens, soybeans, and broccoli.4. Iron. While baby is born with iron reserves, their stores deplete after four to six months. Iron is critical for maintaining healthy red blood cells and the oxygen transport system. After six months, your physician may recommend iron supplementation depending on your baby’s food intake as breast milk can be low in this nutrient.Foods high in iron include beef liver, meat, fish, chicken, beans/lentils, tofu, and dark leafy greens.In addition to these nutrients, ensuring you are getting adequate fat and protein from your diet is critically important for optimal breastmilk. Mothers who significantly cut down on calories can lose out on breastmilk nutrients and run the risk of negatively impacting their milk supply.The quality of your breastmilk is reflective of your nutrient status. While it’s ideal to meet all your nutrient needs through diet, if you feel like your food variety is lacking (or you know you have a nutrient deficiency), a supplement can really help fill in the blanks.


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