The GAPS Diet and Breastfeeding
If you have a baby or are expecting one, you may be wondering how the GAPS Diet and breastfeeding fit together. Let me start by telling you a little of my own story, and why it is essential to start thinking about a nutrient-dense diet, like GAPS, even before conception (you are fortunate if you come across nutrient-dense eating before having children!)
Breastfeeding was not inherently easy for me. I nursed each of my four children for a year. However, I had difficulties with each one in the first couple of months. My diet was “healthy” as compared to the Standard American Diet, but things could have been so different if I had combined the GAPS Diet and breastfeeding!
When I began my first breastfeeding endeavors, I had no information about traditional foods, herbs, probiotics, healthy fats, or the art of breastfeeding. I was quickly thrust into a crash course when my first babe was listed “failure to thrive” at three weeks old. He wasn’t getting enough milk.
I was exhausted, ill, and a new (young) mother, but I was stubbornly determined not to give up breastfeeding. So I researched. While I supplemented with formula through a little tube that worked alongside breastfeeding, I learned how to increase my milk supply. I tried herbs like fenugreek, blessed thistle, and others (like this herbal formula), and they worked.
I didn’t yet get to the root cause of my issues, but I had started digging.
I learned more with each child. I supplemented a little formula with my first three children, and I kept at it.
In between child #3 & #4, I started to implement a real traditional foods diet. My fourth child was the one child that I was able to breastfeed exclusively. I was getting somewhere!
Food matters. And you can begin preparation before your newborn is here!
I wish I had been immersed in traditional wisdom and knowledge from a wise tribe of women before I conceived, birthed, and breastfed.
In light of where I was, though, I’m also grateful for the mistakes that eventually led me to search for answers and to experience the healing power of food. They inspired me to train as both a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and a GAPS™ Practitioner. I am blessed to be able to help moms and kids to have health through education, organizational tools, and inspiration. My hope is that more of the next generation doesn’t have to struggle so hard.
How To Prepare for the GAPS Diet and Breastfeeding?
Breast milk from a healthy mom is the optimal food for babies. If mom is combining the Full GAPS Diet and breastfeeding, she will be benefiting herself, and baby.
The next best is breast milk from a healthy donor or wet nurse, and the third-best is homemade raw formula as outlined on the Weston Price Foundation website. If you have NO alternative but formula, it is important to add good quality probiotics into every bottle feed from the beginning.
To ensure the best possible start for mom and baby, we start with the health of the gut. It is essential to take care of the gut flora before, during, and after pregnancy, by:
- Following a nutrient-dense diet (Full GAPS)
- Eating daily internal probiotics (fermented foods & probiotic supplements)
- Using daily external probiotics on breasts, and daily swabbing of the vulva area 2-3 months prior to giving birth (yogurt, kefir & probiotic powder)
Important Cautions for GAPS Mothers:
- It is recommended to NOT do the GAPS Introduction diet while pregnant or nursing, as this will cause you to detox, and toxins will make their way into the bloodstream and breast milk.
- The Full GAPS Diet and Breastfeeding are a suitable pairing, as well as for pregnancy, and much healing work can happen in Full therapeutic GAPS.
Clean Living Means Cleaner Breast Milk
It is important to remember that everything a mother has in her blood can make its way into breast milk. A mother’s blood is affected by:
- The food she eats
- What she applies to her skin
- What she breathes through her nose
So it is important to avoid chemicals, toxins, drugs, and processed foods. Avoid toxins in the home, in skincare, and elsewhere.
An easy way to pick good skincare is to remember that it should be edible, with simple ingredients…no more than a base and perhaps some essential oils for scent. Examples of good moisturizers are shea butter, coconut oil, tallow balm, olive oil, and my favorite tallow balm.
In your home:
- Clean with baking soda and vinegar
- Wash with biodegradable laundry detergents
- Try not to remodel with new fixtures, cabinets, paint, etc. as these will off-gas chemicals
Probiotics For Breastfeeding
It is important to populate the whole breast area with beneficial microbes to prepare for breastfeeding. This preparation can be done in the last stages of pregnancy as well as when breastfeeding. To populate the breast area, lightly apply one of the following to the breast & armpit area every day after bathing (allow to dry):
- Homemade 24-hour sour cream or yogurt
- Homemade 24-hour kefir
- Dust the nipples with probiotic powder before feeding (such as BioKult)
A Note About Mastitis
Mastitis is relatively common to get at least once while breastfeeding. It is essential for both you and the baby to continue to nurse during mastitis. Why?
For Baby: Baby gets an important but safe immune lesson by being introduced to the infection in your breast.
To quote Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, author of the GAPS book:
“Mastitis is a safe way to introduce common microbes into your baby’s body to train her immune system: the milk from the inflamed breast will supply these microbes in a complex with antibodies and many other immune factors, which will interact with your baby’s immune system and teach it the right response.”
For Mother: Emptying the breast of milk is one of the most helpful tools for mastitis, as well as applying hot compresses (like a warm, wet washcloth) or running hot water over it in the shower. Take probiotics and eat plenty of fermented foods. Keep the milk moving out!
Taking Care of You & Baby
There is more to breastfeeding than just actual breastfeeding. You can’t give sustenance out of your body without putting back in. That “putting back in” looks like:
- Delegating jobs and hiring help if you can (i.e., ask a friend to get groceries, hire a weekly housekeeper)
- “Shamelessly” taking rest a few times a day (or more). Stress & fatigue will dry up your milk
- Drink water (it’s especially hydrating to squeeze some lemon into your water and add a pinch of sea salt)
- Eat simple, whole, real foods, including plenty of high-quality meats, liver, eggs, animal fats, veggies & berries
- Do something pleasurable at least once a day, like taking a bath, or reading a good book while nursing
For the baby, it is crucial to have:
- Love…in other words, cuddles & care
- Fresh air every day
- Good sleep
- Non-toxic bathing & skincare (wash with just warm water, moisturize with only coconut oil, olive oil, or homemade kefir & yogurt for skin and diaper area)
- Natural bedding
Now that my children are older, I realize how special the breastfeeding time was, even though it was difficult. Enjoy your nursing time. It is gone so quickly, leaving a beautiful ache for a time.
Motherhood is about en-joy-ing the temporal stage in which you find yourself. At the same time, knowing it is fleeting and that there is an inevitable surrender around the corner of each milestone.
More Honest Body Resources
- GAPS Pregnancy Guide – Learn about a GAPS approach to Pregnancy & New Baby Care in my GAPS Pregnancy Guide
- GAPS Online Class – If you would like to learn more about GAPS, and have support from both myself and fellow GAPS families, please check out my GAPS Class here.
- Work With Me – For more in-depth issues that merit functional lab testing and a personal plan, you can also work one-on-one directly with me.
- Breastfeeding.com – http://pregnant.thebump.com/new-mom-new-dad/breastfeeding.aspx
- La Leche League – http://www.llli.org/
- Breastfeeding support groups. Many towns have them. KellyMom.com (below) can be a way to find one.
- Facebook groups like Mom2Mom – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1139210602925568/
- Kelly Mom – http://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-prep/bf-links-support/
- Lactation consultants are often available in the hospital, and some come and visit you in your own home. – http://www.ilca.org/
- Books, in no particular order: