5 Tips for Eating Paleo while Breastfeeding

Ria and I got off to a rough start with nursing (like many first time moms).  She had a bad latch and a big appetite that combined left me bloody nippled (sad but true) and weeping for the first six weeks or so.  Then we got the hang of things and had a happy nursing relationship until she self-weaned at 17 months, when I was three months along with Sunny.

Sunny was nursing solidly with a decent latch at 20 minutes old.  I was sooo happy!  Instead of six weeks of pain killers to help me manage nursing, I took advil for two days when my milk came in.  Instead of nursing day and night and day and night for hooooours like her big sister, Sunny was an efficient nurser from the start.  I was relieved that everything was so much easier this time around.

Then at six weeks, Sunny got a brutal diaper rash that just wouldn’t fully clear up.  Soon after she ended up with eczema all over her little body.  After some research and chats with my doctor, I decided she must be allergic to something in my breast-milk.  To figure out what it was, I went on an elimination diet.  I cut out wheat, soy, and dairy.  And that’s when I starting playing around with the Paleo diet.

I was a bit concerned, because my best friend had done a Whole30 and lost her milk supply, so I was very careful with my eating habits.  I kept my supply up and starting losing the remaining baby weight.  Dream come true!

This is what worked well for me but remember, I’m not an expert in nutrition or breastfeeding; I’m just sharing my experience.  Also, most of this advice holds true for any real food diet, whether it’s paleo, primal, gluten-free, whole food, whatever!

My top five tips for eating Paleo while Breastfeeding:

1 Listen to your body
Now this is just good advice all the time, but it’s especially important when breastfeeding to pay attention to your hunger cues.  I found that when my girls were in a growth spurt (and the first 2 months in general) I was starving all the time.  So eat something.  But don’t just get into the habit of eating more, pay attention and have smaller portions when your aren’t crazy hungry.  Your caloric needs are going to fluctuate way more than a non-breastfeeding individual’s because you are feeding someone else, and they don’t eat the same amount everyday.  I think this is the number one way to keep your milk up while losing weight.  Don’t attempt to lose the weight faster by staying a bit hungry, baby needs those calories!

2 Eat like an athelete
If you look at some of the paleo diet advice, they tell you to cut down (or cut out) on the starchy carbs like potatoes or white rice.  These seem to be paleo grey areas.  They say that you should stay away unless you’re an athlete.  I vote that being a nursing mother is similar as you’re burning so many more calories (although it’s Sunny who tries to do acrobatics while nursing, but that’s another story).  Have a baked potato.

3 Coconut is your friend
Now, once Sunny’s little tummy grew up enough to handle dairy, I switched back to my full fat – raw if possible – dairy products (I try to keep it local, and I love cheese).  But for a few months there, coconut products pretty much saved me.  I had a coconut milk with coconut yogurt and berry smoothie nearly every day and used a lot of coconut milk and oil in my cooking.  It turns out that coconut products are not just a handy substitute for diary, they are full of great things for your baby.  Read more about it in Nina Planck’s great book about real food for babies.  It’s a favourite.

4 Snack Smart
I snack a lot when nursing.  I need a solid bedtime snack (we eat dinner at five around here, it’s just to early to be my last food of the day) and when I’m nursing at night I am starving!  So I try to make sure to have good snack choices on hand and ready to eat.  Some of my favourite paleo options are:
– Sliced apples with almond butter
– Hard boiled eggs
– A coconut milk smoothie (make it ahead and keep it in the fridge, you’ll want to give it a good shake before drinking).
– Roasted nuts
– Dried fruit (also good for some other postpartum worries!)

5 Don’t worry so much!
Do the best you can, but if you end up needing takeout one night – or if your neighbour brings you a thoughtful and very unpaleo casserole to welcome your new baby – just go with the flow and eat better tomorrow.  Being a new mom has enough stress without beating yourself up over a poor snack choice.  And besides, chill moms often have better milk supplies!

Grain-Free Almond Butter Cookies

I love to bake cookies.  I find it oddly therapeutic.  Something about the mixing and the rolling the dough in my hands.  So, while we’ve given up wheat, I’m not ready to give up cookies.  Ria loves to help stir and to roll the dough balls.  Her balls are a little deflated and not very circular, but she loves them just the same.  And you know what?  I can’t always tell the different when they come out of the oven.  When I put the chocolate chunks on each cookie so would point to the one that needed it’s chocolate next.  “This one! aaand this one! aaaaand this one!”  I love baking with this kid.

These cookies are very simple and are grain and peanut free.  They taste a lot like classic peanut butter cookies but are a bit less chewy (unless you eat them still warm from the oven, which is the best!).  You could do chocolate chips easily, but I didn’t have any in the house.  I’ll do some more experimenting and see if I can do a honey version, but for now I used organic cane sugar, so I feel okay about it 🙂

1 cup almond butter (I prefer smooth)
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 a bar of dark chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  I always use my hands, then I know there’s no weird lumpy bits.  Make into 1 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart.  These are fairly spready cookies, so give them some breathing room.  If using chocolate, chop it into decent chunks (little slivers just melt away and get lost.  It’s a waste of chocolate, frankly.) and press a piece into each cookie ball.  Bake in your 350 oven for about 10 minutes.  Keep a close eye as they tend to brown quickly.  Try to keep toddler from burning fingers because she’s so excited to eat her cookie!

Also, I hadn’t intended to feed these to the baby (I try to avoid sugar before one), but Ria’s on a sharing kick these days (only with food, heaven forbid you try and get her to share a train) and I keep catching Sunny crawling around with bits of food.  There are cookie crumbs all over my house, I guess I should go sweep those up!