Women's Health | June 17, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Holding your baby in your arms for the first time is exhilarating and daunting at the same time. With so many changes in your body, sleep deprivation and limited time, what can you do to take the best care of yourself while you take care of your baby? What can you safely take during breastfeeding?
After delivery, the hormones involved in pregnancy - progesterone and oestrogen - suddenly drop. This is normal and allows the prolactin to take over and the milk supply to set in. But it also brings with it a cascade of hormonal and adrenal changes. Since progesterone is known to have sedating effects, the sudden drop of this hormone at birth can lead to or exacerbate sleep problems. As progesterone breaks down to allopregnanolone, it acts like a hypnotic or sedative on the GABA receptors (gamma–amino butyric acid receptors which are present in the central nervous system and control anxiety). In post-natal depression, allopregnanolone levels are lower than normal and the adrenal gland does not make enough, so the body is unable to regulate mood and behaviour. A similar pattern has been seen in women with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Insulin levels drop immediately after giving birth and this can lower serotonin levels contributing to low mood.
It is important to try and sleep when the baby is sleeping. Going to bed immediately after feeding the baby and joining in the baby’s day sleep will aid your recovery.
Addressing any psychosocial issues such as lack of support are crucial. Keeping in contact with health professionals such as community nurses and GPs can help referrals to parenting resources such as Tresillian and Karitane, home visit services and private Mothercraft and Nannying agencies for respite and perinatal mental health facilities when needed.
To help reset the circadian rhythm; melatonin from natural sunlight may help reduce the time taken to fall asleep. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant which may also help to improve sleep quality in the post-natal phase.
Withania or Indian Ginseng is a traditional Ayurvedic herb used to treat exhaustion, anaemia, and help promote a more restful sleep. It has long been considered useful as an after-birth remedy but there are no formal studies to establish safety in breast-feeding.
Taking gentle calming herbs but in a tea form are a safe way to promote sleep and relaxation, impart extra fluids and pass through the breast-milk so have the added benefit of helping settle infant colic . Chamomile is a gentle, calming herb. Studies on Chamomile extract found it acts like a benzodiazepine to relax the nervous system. Lemon Balm and Linden in the doses found in herbal teas are all suitable during breast-feeding.
If anaemia is a problem; Blood loss may cause anaemia and supplementing with Iron and its blood-building co-factors Vitamin C and Folate have been shown to help fatigue, reduce stress levels, lower susceptibility to infections and improve mood and cognition after birth, even in those women who have not had a formal diagnosis of anaemia.
Calcium is extremely important to build the baby’s skeleton during pregnancy and to protect mums too. The combined losses during pregnancy and breast-feeding may reduce the mother’s bone mineral calcium by 3-10% 1000 mg of calcium is needed each day for breast-feeding women from diet and supplements combined.
A pregnancy and/or breastfeeding multivitamin can help to support your body’s increased needs for minerals such as Zinc, Iodine and Selenium, trace minerals like Chromium, Molybdenum and Copper as well as other nutrients like Biotin and Choline.
A protein-rich diet is important as protein is the building blocks for enzymes and hormones. Protein will also give the body important amino acids with like tryptophan which converts into the all-important brain–chemical serotonin.
Wound-healing nutrients include vitamin C to help repair collagen in the skin and ligaments. Vitamin C may also help to reduce the symptoms of psychological stress and may be taken in doses of up to 2000 mg during breastfeeding. Taking more than this amount can cause gastrointestinal upset.
An “Immuno-nutrition diet” particularly after a caesarean section will help with post-surgical recovery and includes anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients. This means lots of fruit and vegetables for antioxidants and omega 3 foods such as fish, olives, avocado and walnuts. Omega-3 can help to reduce inflammation after surgery.
Gentle stool softeners such as Slippery Elm and soaked linseeds in breakfast cereal can help ease the pressure of bowel motions after delivery. Slippery elm, is a Native American plant remedy from the bark of the elm tree which swells when in contact with liquid to make a slimy gel. This gel when taken internally has a soothing effect on the gastrointestinal tract and can be broken down by bowel flora.
Probiotics can be helpful for re-instating healthy bowel flora where antibiotics were needed during the birth.
Milk Thistle can help with the liver’s clearance of the many hormonal products that the body has used leading up to, during and after childbirth.
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