Diet Guidance For Pregnant And Nursing Mothers
*Check with your Dr before following advice given by me or any other nutritionist. This information is given as a guide to help boost your knowledge*
The time before, during and after pregnancy is when people are most concerned with their health and diet. Mothers start taking vitamins, drinking more water, eating more vegetables and less processed foods. This is all done for a good reason. Your growing baby gets ALL of their nutrition through what you eat. This is the most important time of the babies life with regards to development and growth so what they get fed is not only important but its totally up to you as the mother to provide that nourishment.
We are going to start by covering the myths, false information and lies that are thrown around through lack of research and purely hearsay.
There are endless books on the subject of pregnancy and diet. The problem is that many will contradict each other and many will not truly be focussed on the health of the mother and baby at this stage in their lives but end up just being general diet advice that is carried over to a pregnant women. Its important to understand that the diet you need as a pregnant and nursing other is different to everyone else.
We are going to cover some really important points that need to be understood before a healthier and more nourishing diet can be followed.
Below are subheadings that separate each section into categories for easy reading and understanding.
This seems a very good place to start. Most people know that breast feeding is superior to baby formula for the growing babies health. Modern day formula is the ultimate refined food, a product of science that is composed of highly processed ingredients including sugar, nonfat dried milk, vegetable oils and a long list of synthetic nutrients. Formula lacks many key substances for development and growth.
Yes it is very convenient and easy to use. All you have to do is open, mix with water, heat and there you go. Very similar to a condensed powdered soup!
A few bullet points to highlight just a few of the downsides to formula include:
Formula contains double the amount of protein as breast milk which which promotes insulin resistance and childhood obesity.
Head damages the protein in formula which compromises the nutritional value.
Formula fed babies suffer more jaw misalignment and are more likely to need orthodontic work as they get older.
Formula fed babies tend to become mouth breathers who snore and develop sleep apnea.
Formula fed infants have more frequent and severe upper respiratory infections, wheezing, pneumonia and gastrointestinal infections/constipation.
Omega 3 fatty acids are hugely deficient in our modern diet and it is something that a pregnant and nursing mother needs to begin having more of.
There are plenty of different sources of omega 3 fatty acids but one of the most concentrated and best sources for a pregnant and nursing mother is cod liver oil. Cod liver oil also contains great quantities of vitamin A and vitamin D which are also very important not only for pregnant women but everyone as well.
When choosing the correct cod liver oil you need to make sure that you don’t get the highly processed cheaper ones found in supermarkets. These could even be toxic due to synthetic vitamin A and D and often containing lower ratios of vitamin D to A. A high quality cold liver oil is one of the most important nutrients/foods a pregnant lady or even anyone else could be taking.
A great, traditional and natural cod liver oil is made by Green Pastures and can be found here…
Vitamin A and vitamin D.
Many books mention cod liver oil but few books actively recommend it. Some books caution against cod liver oil due to the high dose of vitamin A in it.
This worry of having too much vitamin A is what causes many to advise against having liver also. The concern with too much vitamin A is that people are worried about birth defects. However few people ever manage to distinguish between natural and synthetic forms of vitamin A in their advice. Synthetic vitamin A in a multivitamin pill form and processed foods like margarine has indeed been linked to birth defects and is best avoided. However the natural form of vitamin A that is found in nature is a vital nutrient to good health. This is important to note…vitamin D and vitamin A work together and without vitamin D in the diet, vitamin A can be ineffective and even toxic. This is why it’s important to make sure your vitamin D levels are high. You will have noticed that in the media vitamin D has been gaining more and more popularity for its massive health benefits. It is extremely protective against many diseases and vital to good health.
Protein, minerals and water-soluble vitamins can not be utilised by the body without vitamin A.
Whole sources of natural vitamin A can be found in animal sources and not vegetable sources as some people might tell you. It is often advised that good amounts of vitamin A can be got through vegetable sources in the form of beta-carotene which the body will then convert to vitamin A. However this doesn’t happen without sufficient fat in the diet and this conversion is difficult for much of the population due to digestive and thyroid problems.
Good source of vitamin A include liver, organ meats, cod liver oil, eggs, butter and cream from pasture-fed cows.
Again I want to stress the importance of a good source of vitamin A and vitamin D. Cod liver oil is one of the most concentrated sources of these vital nutrients and again it’s important to get a good quality cod liver oil. Cheaper cod liver oils that you may find in supermarkets are highly processed and low in vitamin A and D because these vitamins are removed during the deodorisation process and then manufactures fortify the oil with only a fraction of the original quantity of vitamin A and vitamin D.
A cod liver oil from say, 1930 would be much more effective because of the higher quality, higher vitamin A and higher vitamin D levels.
A traditional and natural source of cod liver oil that I would recommend is one by Green Pastures which can be found here...
The unhealthy modern diet compared with the wisdom of healthy traditional societies varies a huge amount when it comes to fats. You often hear warnings against eating fat due to heart disease, and getting fat. This is just not true and this healthy and vital component of our diets has been thrown out which is a reason for many peoples health deteriorating.
Much of the advice says to reduce fats and totally cut the ‘bad’ saturated fat. Saturated fat is actually a healthy fat and should certainly be part of a pregnant and nursing mothers diet.
The two types of fat that you should avoid are trans fats (hydrogenated fats) and vegetable oils. If you consume lots of these fats you will have huge levels of inflammation in your body which will go on to cause all sorts of diseases including heart disease.
Many books recommend against egg yolks due to their natural fat content and cholesterol. What must be understood is that the egg is one of the most perfect and nutrient dense foods. Dietary cholesterol and very little if any effect on blood cholesterol levels and cholesterol is vital in the body. It is the building blocks of many hormones that will keep you healthy, slim and strong.
Throwing away the egg yolk and only eating the egg white is so stupid and basically means you are throwing away all the best parts of the egg and only keeping a small bit of the protein that in the white. Egg yolks are full of vitamin A, D and E, choline, EPA/DHA which is part of omega 3.
When cooking eggs you can have the egg yolk runny but make sure you cook the white of the egg to neutralise the enzyme inhibitors that interfere with digestion.
Whole Milk, Cheese, Butter
Many books will recommend milk and other dairy for calcium. However pasteurised dairy is poorly absorbed due to the enzymes that are naturally in the food to help you digest the dairy begin destroyed through the pasteurisation process. Also inadequate phosphorus inhibits calcium absorption but the destruction of the phosphotase enzyme needed to assimilate phosphorus is destroyed due to pasteurisation.
If you can find raw milk then there are benefits to choosing to drink that. It is actually safer than pasteurised dairy due to the cows natural diet and overall health and has been used in cultures for centuries to build health rather than cause disease. Cows that are kept to produce milk that will be pasteurised are often fed cheap, unnatural foods which creates illness in the cows and the people that drink it. The cows that are kept with the intention of producing milk to be drank raw are pasture fed and healthy cows that produce great quality milk.
It is often recommended to use skimmed milk and reduced fat dairy by those still thinking that dietary fat is a bad thing. What this will do is reduce the number of fat soluble vitamins as well as robbing you of the healthy fats found in these products.
Butter is a great source of fats and also fat soluble vitamins. People that substitute it with margarine or some vegetable oil spread are missing out on many of theses nutrients as well as increasing the systemic inflammation in their bodies with trans fats and excessive omega 6 fatty acids.
For those who suffer from lactose intolerance you may find that drinking raw milk is fine for you. This is because the enzyme that helps you digest the lactose in the milk is present in milk that hasn't been pasteurised.
Many books on pregnancy will recommend carbohydrates as the primary source of calories. They follow the politically correct form of nutrition which has the food pyramid which will recommend 6-11 servings of grains and cereals a day. This abuse of carbohydrates is the reason why so any people are overweight today.
I’m certainly not saying to cut carbohydrates out the diet or even bring them down to low levels. This has great health benefits to many people and will aid fat loss in a big way. However your priority here is health and the optimal health and development of your baby.
You should be getting your carbohydrates through natural and whole sources such as vegetables, fruits, lentils, quinoa and beans.
Protein is super important for the tissue development and growth of the baby, placenta, hormones, milk production during lactation and also the increase in blood volume during pregnancy.
The most whole and complete form of protein which includes all the essential amino acids is from animal sources. Plus with this you will be getting the other benefits that these animal products prove sun as fat, vitamins and minerals.
The intention here is not to have a rant about how bad vegetarianism is and fall out with anyone. However there are nutritional reasons for eating animal products and its important that everyone considering becoming a vegetarian needs to understand.
It must be said that some people that become vegetarian lose some weight and do feel better. However you have to think about what the typical diet is like before they become vegetarian. If someone is eating fast food and fried food and then switches to vegetables, fruit and cereals then that is bound to improve their health. This doesn’t mean that some animal products added in can’t improve things further.
Lastly your baby needs lots of fat and calories in their diet which means so do you. If you are only eating plants then you might get lean and even feel ok but your baby will not be getting the nutrition that they need to grow and be healthy.
Some reasons not to choose vegetarianism.
Vitamin B12 can’t be obtained in adequate amounts through plant sources.
Vitamin A can’t be obtained in adequate amounts through plant sources.
Vitamin D needs are rarely met just through sunlight. Some vitamin D through animal sources is necessary.
All the fats and cholesterol are found in highest amounts in animal products.
Although you can get a full spectrum of essential amino acids through plant sources, animal products contain the most complete amino acid profile.
Soy is not healthy. Read the soy section in this book to find out why.
It’s true that supplementation can give you the vitamin B12, D, A, amino acids and fats that a vegetarian diet might lack. However if someone has to supplement because their chosen diet isn’t fulfilling their dietary needs then surely the diet isn’t optimal?!
Also remember that these are synthetic, laboratory made supplements which can’t compare to the natural real thing.
Soy is just not what you should be eating any time never mind when you’re pregnant or nursing. Many people think it is a health food due to the amount of advertising that has gone into promoting it. However there is a pretty solid list of reasons why you shouldn’t consume it.
It is a highly sprayed crop which means it comes with many toxins for your body to contend with. It contains goitragens which can lower your thyroid output. It contains phytates which can block mineral absorption.
Soy has also been shown to delay child development. It can negatively affect the development of the foetus and lead to early puberty in girls and late puberty in boys.
Common sources of soy include tofu, soy nuts, soy milk, soybeans, soy powder, soy flour and textured vegetable protein.
Most people will agree that supplements are not as good as whole foods and can never replace it. However most sources of advice will agree that they have their place and often are not necessarily a bad thing.
One thing to remember is that if you are eating processed foods and think it’s ok because they’re fortified with nutrients you are still effectively choosing supplements over natural food.
Most speak about how supplements should come very much second to getting your nutrients through your diet. Although they will go on to say how fortified foods are fine.
The golden rule here is that natural whole foods are key to health and supplements should really only be thought of as just that, supplementing a healthy diet.
Recommendations Generally Accepted By All
There are a few pieces of advice that are recommended by all and have no controversy attached to them.
Dark green leafy vegetables - Packed full of vitamins and minerals and probably many other things we don’t even know about.
Whole grains - Whole grains are closer to a natural product that a flour based product. It gives fibre as well as some vitamins and minerals.
Fruits - Are sweet enough to prevent cravings for sugar but still full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Nuts - Great sources of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.
A variety of colourful fruit and vegetables - The different colours of fruit and vegetables are given by the different phytochemicals which act as antioxidants.
Fish - Great source of protein and fats and also many contain good amounts of omega 3 fatty acids.
Avoid refined sugar - Probably the one biggest reason people gain weight. No good for anything apart from giving diabetes and making people fat.
Avoid white flour - There is a world of difference between white flour and whole grains. White flour is devoid of all that was good and beneficial in whole grains.
Avoid cheap vegetable oils such as sunflower oil - These cheap vegetable oils contain huge amounts of omega 6 fatty acids which in large quantities will cause a great deal of inflammation in our bodies. Stick to extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and butter.
Avoiding trans fats (hydrogenated fats) - These are one of the worst things you can eat whether you’re pregnant or not. So bad for you and can contribute to so many different diseases. Found mostly in margarine and processed food. Just avoid!
Avoid unnecessary medications - What ever you put into your body will find its way to your baby. If you need a medication for a good reason then of course don’t stop taking it. However really do try to limit the amount of unnecessary medications you take in this important time of your life.
Avoid smoking - This is an obvious one that everyone should know. You simply must not smoke when pregnant or nursing and also try to avoid passive smoking from people smoking around you.
Avoid alcohol - Again another obvious one. My advice would be to not drink at all whilst pregnant and nursing.
Avoid caffeinated beverages - Caffeine is a stimulant and it will be finding its way to your baby if you have it. If you must then go for decaffeinated beverages but remember that coffee is one of the most sprayed crops so if its not organic then you are taking in many toxins.
Generally try to limit toxins - Each one of us has a toxic load which is the total sum of all the toxins that we take in. You can lower your toxic load by making an effort to eliminate what ever toxins you can. You will never eliminate all toxins but every little helps in the constant effort to reduce your toxic load.
Recommendations To Pregnant and Nursing Mothers
Below are recommendations for pregnant and nursing mothers that are not often mentioned in most books. These recommendations are ways to break away from the government funded, politically correct route of nutrition and to have a diet that is rich in whole and natural nutrients to allow you and your baby to thrive.
Your babies health is the number one priority here so making sure that you are getting the most nutrient dense, wholesome foods available is what will guarantee your babies full nourishment and development.
1 tablespoon of cod liver oil daily.
4 tablespoons of butter daily, preferably from pasture fed cows and unpasteurised. Waitrose do a great unpasteurised butter that can be found here…Raw Butter
Fresh vegetables and fruits daily.
Quinoa, lentils, wholegrain rice daily.
Fresh red meat daily.
2 or more eggs daily, preferably from free range chickens.
Fresh seafood 4 times per week, particular oily fish.
2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily for cooking, smoothies, or straight from the spoon.
80-100g of fresh liver once or twice a week.
Foods that pregnant and nursing mothers should try to avoid are listed below. If you have already had these foods or can’t help having them occasionally then it’s not a problem. However you must try to limit them where you can for you and your babies health.
Commercial fried food
Trans fatty acids (hydrogenated oils)
Sugar and high fructose corn syrup
References for further reading...
1. Stevens EE et al. A History of Infant Feeding. Journal of Perinatal Education. 2009; 18(2) 32-39. PMCID: PMC2684040
2. Davis M. Commercial production of artificial baby milk. 11 Sep 2010 http://bit.ly/1EHUF7R ; and Wall G. Outcomes of Breastfeeding. Evergreen Perinatal Education. University of Washington. 2013; 1-61 bit.ly/1IQuQOg. And MilkShare. Breastmilk is the Best for Your Baby. Learn Why. http://bit.ly/1UscyPe
3. Pottenger FM Jr , Krohn B. Influence of Breast Feeding on Facial Development.” Arch Pediatr. 1950 Oct;67(10):454-6.
4. Oral Health during Pregnancy and Early Childhood. Sacramento, CA: CDA Foundation. D Feb 2010. http://bit.ly/1JHOde8; and Mittleman JS et al. Healthy Teeth for Kids: A Preventive Program: from Pre-birth through the Teens. 2001 New York. Kensington Books, p. 34.
5. Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A: Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering, Volume 48, Issue 8, 2013