New mothers can feel incredible pressure to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight and shape. The natural inclination to wish you could fit into your favourite clothes is exacerbated by all of the magazine photos showing celebrities who have recently had babies wearing lovely, form-fitting clothing. As you stand in the grocery store checkout lineup with a squawking baby in your arms, baby spit on your shoulder, your clothing wrinkled and without your make-up on, seeing them beautifully made up and looking polished and shiny can make you feel like you should be “doing better”.
Along with all the other dietary ideas that abound, those same magazines often talk about the juice cleanses these celebrity new mothers have done to get themselves back into front cover photo worthy shape. Many mums wonder if doing a juice cleanse is safe and compatible with breastfeeding.
The first thing to understand about juice cleanses is that there are no good scientific studies to back claims that they clear toxins from your body or promote healthy weight loss. Your liver, kidneys and colon are designed by nature to remove toxins from the body and for most people who are eating a healthy, fiber-rich diet they do an excellent job.
Juice cleanses are low in calories, fats and protein, all of which are needed to fuel breastmilk production. If you are not providing these nutrients to your body through your diet it will take them from your own stores in order to continue to make high-quality breastmilk for your baby. Juice cleansing will likely cause you to lose some weight but it will be at the expense of your own energy levels. As much of the weight lost will be water weight it is also likely to come right back when the cleanse is over. Juice cleanses are also low in the dietary fiber which is required by our bodies for the colon to do its job of clearing toxins.
So what can you do to improve your diet, increase your energy levels and perhaps encourage a few of the pregnancy pounds to go away without jeopardizing breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is the best way to lose the extra weight you may be carrying post-pregnancy. New mothers often weigh about 10 pounds more than they did when they got pregnant and that weight was put there by nature to fuel breastfeeding. For most mothers those 10 pounds disappear without any extra efforts over the first six months to a year as they breastfeed their babies. Eating a nutrient-dense diet of whole grains, protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables is best for your body at any stage of life and especially when breastfeeding. Juices aren’t off-limits to new mothers. They can be healthy if they are low-sugar (primarily vegetable based with only enough fruit for sweetness) and part of a well-rounded diet. Juices can be tempting as a quick pick-me-up when you are really busy and juggling life with a small baby. Some mothers find a smoothie made with greens, fruit or fruit juice, low-fat milk or milk substitutes and a fiber source is quick to make and easy to consume while breastfeeding the baby or walking circles with a fussing little one. Many high-fiber smoothies can be made ahead of time which is extra helpful when you are busy.
Here are a few links to smoothie recipes to get you started:
Disclaimer: La Leche League Canada has no personal or commercial connection with these sites and makes no claims about their information other than that the smoothies look tasty and healthy.
Lastly, remember that those celebrity mothers on the magazine covers generally have help of all kinds from baby care to cooks and fitness coaches. The amount of time and effort required to look like they do is considerable and it is time away from their children. Also, Photoshop can make anyone look 10 pounds lighter, smoother, or less exhausted. Don’t believe that everything you see in the magazines is the way things really are when the cameras aren’t looking.
If you have questions about what to eat while breastfeeding or any other breastfeeding-related questions please contact a LLLC Leader.