Modern medicine has many recommendations for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Many women journey through their pregnancy avoiding sushi and soft cheese. They limit their coffee intake and often abstain from alcohol. In addition to medical advice, many also pay heed to cultural traditions and are careful to avoid taboos. Some Asian women, for instance, are told by family members to avoid eating oranges, apparently so their children won’t have overly noticeable pores in their skin. Although perhaps surprising, this can be good advice for many pregnant women. Not for baby’s complexion, necessarily, but for the different reason that oranges and other acidic foods can exacerbate heartburn.
When baby arrives, the draw to breastfeed can be quite strong, both biologically and culturally, and many are encouraged by health professionals around them to try their utmost to offer this perfect nutrition to their infants. Most nursing mothers recognize what they eat and drink has an effect on their milk supply and overall energy levels, and continue to follow recommendations around eating and drinking in a manner that will help them and their babies thrive. While it might seem bizarre, old wives tales, such as using cabbage leaves in the bra cup to ease the pain of swollen breasts when establishing breastfeeding, can be useful tools to make the transition from pregnancy to motherhood easier. The anecdotal evidence is strong, and anyone who has tried it will chime in with how effective it is.
But what happens when not everything adds up? What about when nutritional information, medical advice and old wives tales appear to be confused or even contradictory? Apparently, some Russian doctors recommend nursing mothers not consume red apples. Green apples are fine, but for reasons that are unclear, red apples are not. Probably, in bygone days, there was some explanation for this. Perhaps it is connected to the biblical concept of the forbidden fruit, or somehow consistent with the poisoned apples in fairy tales, which, after all, are often red. These days, however, the lack of rationale renders the advice quite flimsy, and quite the opposite of the support new mothers need.
The best information about what a nursing mother should consume will come from her own body, and good hints will also come from her baby. Most women will need about 500 extra calories per day to support a nursling, so quality food is very important. Mothers need to source a wide range of nutrients, mainly from fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates. Adequate fiber and hydration is also essential, and whole fruits are recommended as opposed to fruit juices. A range of colorful fruits and vegetables is ideal, though if baby is experiencing reflux, it can help to limit acidic and spicy foods. And as for apples, well, some Russian doctors may not like it, but you know what they say about an apple a day…