It has been said time and time again that breast milk is often the preferred choice for your baby. It’s pumped with nutrients, self-modifies to adapt to your baby’s adjusting nutritional needs, and perhaps, best of all? It’s free—cue the hallelujah chorus!
But one thing we aren’t always told is that although breast milk has many natural vitamins and minerals, it can actually be deficient in a few key nutrients needed for our baby’s proper development. Surprised? We were too.
Something that is even more surprising? Breastfeeding mothers have the ability to enhance the quality of their own breast milk.
The Nutritional Truth about Breast Milk
As a company that creates nutritional products for breastfeeding mothers, it’s no surprise that we believe breast milk is more beneficial than formula. But one thing we do want to mention is the fact that formula companies and developers use the most up-to-date nutritional research to create a baby formula with purposeful nutrients and ingredients. With breast milk, however, there is often a passive approach.
Too many sources online say that because breast milk is full of spectacular nutrients and immunological benefits, you don’t need to do anything else to it. But the truth is that although breast milk should be considered one of the natural wonders of the world, it often lacks some critical nutrients depending on the mother’s nutritional status.
Does this mean women should choose formula over breastfeeding? No.
It does mean that we at Majka are your fairy milk godmothers and are here to tell you two juicy lil’ secrets no one talks about:
- Breast milk is “conditionally perfect,” not “perfect”
- You have the power to enhance the quality of your breast milk
To start off, let’s dive into Secret No. 1.
What Does “Conditionally Perfect” Breast Milk Mean?
While breast milk is loaded with the good stuff, studies have shown that there are certain common nutritional deficiencies. Even in highly developed and progressive countries, breast milk has been found to be deficient in “vitamin D, iodine, iron, and vitamin K. Additional nutrient deficiencies have been documented in resource-poor countries: vitamin A, vitamin B12, zinc, and vitamin B1/thiamin.”
These aforementioned deficiencies were consistently discovered among the diverse group of pregnant and/or breastfeeding women tested, however, the exact quality and content of each woman’s breast milk varied slightly. Which leads us to another point in the study…
“Any nutrient deficiency existing in pregnancy will ultimately be carried forward via lactation. It is a biological impossibility for a lactating woman to transfer nutrients via breast milk she does not have.”
The biological fact that breastfeeding women cannot transfer nutrients that she is deficient in brings us back to our original point: breast milk is conditionally perfect. This means that breast milk can be significantly improved, but the mother must be proactive in her own nutrition to ensure her breast milk fulfills the nutritional needs of her sweet little one.
Being Proactive in Your Nutrition Approach
Hearing that you can improve and control the quality of your breast milk may spur two reactions:
- You’re excited! You binge-watch health and nutrition videos on YouTube on the daily and are pumped to learn about ways to enhance your breast milk.
- You’re nervous. Of course, you want the best for your baby, but just the thought of keeping track of your nutrition, on top of everything else, is overwhelming.
If you find yourself in Group 2, we get it—seriously. We’re moms just like you. We know you’re tired, probably haven’t showered in a few days (#NoShame), and emotionally and physically exhausted from adapting to this new, chaotic, and beautiful lifestyle.
Improving the quality of your breast milk through your own nutrition may sound like another thing to add to your mental to-do list. But here is the truth: Paying attention to your own nutrition isn’t another breastfeeding hurdle, it’s an opportunity to upgrade your nutritional choices to benefit you and your baby.
During a time when everything is flying at 1000 miles per hour, you—Mom Extraordinaire—have the distinct ability to control something in your body and give your baby the absolute best quality of nutrition by enhancing the quality of your breast milk.
Sound like a win-win? We thought so.
Here’s how you do it.
Enhancing the Quality of Your Breast Milk
Remember that kid who slept his way through high school, but managed to get good grades? Breast milk is kind of like that.
Like Sleepy Sleeperson, your breast milk is naturally “smart.” Without even trying, your breast milk is filled with the necessary goodies to assist in your baby’s development. But what if Sleepy Sleeperson actually studied? Can you imagine what he would accomplish with just a pinch of extra effort?
Your breast milk is the same. It’s amazing on its own, but with a little added effort, the quality of your breast milk can be divine.
To do that though, we need to know what nutrients breast milk lacks.
What Nutrients Does Breast Milk Commonly Lack
- Function: Vitamin D helps infants with healthy skeletal bone development. Although rare, a deficiency in vitamin D may increase the risk of your infant getting rickets, a condition that causes deformed or weakened bones.
- Recommended Intake: The amount of vitamin D present in breast milk varies, but typically, breast milk contains less than 50 IU of vitamin D per quart. A study in the United States showed that breastfeeding mothers with a vitamin D supplementation of 6400 IU/day safely supplied breast milk with enough vitamin D to satisfy infant requirements.
- Best Sources of Vitamin D:
- Sunlight: Vitamin D can be acquired through sunlight, so daily walks can be healthy for both you and your baby. However, it’s difficult to know how much sun exposure is needed and increases chances for sunburn and overexposure.
- Nutrient- Rich Foods: Foods rich in vitamin D (fatty fish, cheese, orange juice, egg yolks) in your daily nutrition or use
- Supplementation: Vitamin D supplements can be taken through maternal consumption or direct infant supplementation
- Function: In addition to proper neurological development, iron helps with creating hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that deliver oxygen to organs in the body. Without appropriate hemoglobin function, oxygen can’t be carried to parts of the body and red blood cells become small and pale which can result in anemia.
- Recommended Intake: Most infants have enough iron stored in their bodies for the first four months of life. However, after that, iron intake is especially important. Breast milk contains only small amounts of iron, which is why it is recommended that babies that are breastfeeding should receive one milligram of iron for each kilogram of their total body weight.
- Best Sources of Iron:
- Meats (beef, lamb, pork)
- Brussels sprouts
- Function: Iodine assists in proper thyroid hormone creation and management, as well as cognitive development. When an infant has an iodine deficiency, they are at risk for cognitive delays.
- Recommended Intake: Breast milk contains small traces of iodine (around 11 micrograms in mature milk), but the daily intake for breastfeeding mothers is 290 micrograms per day.
- Best Sources of Iodine:
- Fish (especially cod and tuna)
- Dairy products
- Iodized salt
- Function: Vitamin K is needed to ensure proper blood clotting in order to prevent serious bleeding. A deficiency in vitamin K for newborns can result in a rare disorder called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB) which can cause bleeding in the brain.
- Recommended Intake: 90 milligrams per day is the daily recommended intake and breast milk typically contains 1-4 milligrams.
- Best Sources of Vitamin K:
- Leafy greens (spinach, swiss chard, kale, cabbage)
- Soybean Oil
- Function: For healthy neurological development and red blood cells, vitamin B12 is needed. However, if the mother is low in B12, her child may also become deficient. Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs more often within mothers who are anemic, had gastric bypass surgery, has a gastrointestinal disorder, or has vegan or vegetarian diets when minimum or zero amounts of animal proteins are consumed. If an infant’s B12 levels are severely depleted, they are at risk for anemia, mental developmental delay, or abnormal skin and hair development.
- Recommended Intake: For mothers who are breastfeeding, the recommended daily intake for vitamin B12 is 2.8 micrograms and for infants 6 months or less in age, the daily intake suggestion is 0.4 micrograms.
- Best Sources of Vitamin B12:
Note: Unless they are fortified, most plant foods do not contain B12. If you are a breastfeeding mother who is vegan or vegetarian, ask your doctor and nutritionist about the possibility of incorporating B12 supplements.
- Function: Zinc helps with cell growth, wound healing, and immune system functionality. Zinc deficiency can result in a decreased ability to fight off infection and illness due to a weakened immune system. In a study of 158 infants, results showed that exclusively breast-fed infants had a 14.9% zinc deficiency, 5.3% deficiency in formula-fed infants, and 2.9% in infants who alternated between breastfeeding and formula.
- Recommended Intake: For nursing mothers, the recommended daily intake for zinc is 12 milligrams and not to exceed 40 milligrams per day.
- Best Sources of Zinc:
- Red meat
- Legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils)
- Seeds and nuts (sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, peanuts)
- Dairy (cheese and milk)
We want to point out that the specific contents and quality of breast milk varies from mom to mom, which is why consulting with your doctor and/or lactation consultant is recommended before changing or supplementing anything in your diet.
So, What Should I Be Conscious of Going Forward?
You Can Make Your Breast Milk Even Better
At Majka, we do our best to empower moms. We firmly believe that when women know they have the power to enhance their milk supply, they will be more proactive about their health choices, will feel more confident in their ability to provide for their baby, and will ultimately breastfeed longer.
Your Diet Matters, Even in Postpartum
When you’re pregnant, it’s easy to recognize that the food you consume directly travels down to your little one because who can overlook a belly the size of two watermelons?? But something we often forget is that our diets matter even during postpartum.
Although you are now holding your baby in your hands instead of your belly, when you breastfeed, your diet still affects the growth and nutrition of your infant. This is why paying attention to your diet and incorporating the right supplements is so important for both you and your baby.
Aim for Nutrition, Not Perfection
If you’re trying to enhance the quality of your breast milk, the best advice we can give you is to aim for proper nutrition, not perfection. In other words? Practice mindful eating. This means choosing nutrient-dense foods over highly-processed ones. Yes, microwaving a frozen fettuccine alfredo dinner is convenient, but it takes the same amount of time to throw some fresh berries, almond milk, and a scoop of protein powder in the blender for a nutritious smoothie.
Find a Nutrient-Rich Supplement that Covers Your Bases
Did you think we’d leave you hanging? To help you improve the quality of your breast milk and stay on top of your nutrition, the co-founders of Majka—real moms with real businesses, real feelings, and real busy schedules—created a supplement just for breastfeeding mamas like you.
Majka’s Nourishing Lactation Protein Powder is a quadruple-threat in the health department. This wholesome, superfood powder:
- Acts as a complete postnatal vitamin that fills your nutritional deficiencies
- Has over 50 bioavailable ingredients to support both you and your baby
- Helps breastfeeding mamas maintain a healthy, more enriched milk supply
- Is a vegan, superfood protein that helps restore and recover your body after giving birth
As mothers ourselves, we’ve gone through (and still are going through) the topsy-turvy journey of balancing their nutrition, busy lifestyles, and emotional and physical recovery.
We wanted to create an easy-to-incorporate, 5-minute, no excuses supplement that gave moms the nutritive support they needed while also giving them a boost in breast milk production—and voila! The Nourishing Lactation Protein Powder was born.
We know you want the best for your baby and we are here to help in any way we can. For even more nutritional and lactation products, tasty recipes, motherhood advice, and more, give us a visit at lovemajka.com/!
PS: If nobody has told you today, you’re doing a fantastic job. You’ve got this, mama.