Sometimes women who have been very careful about their eating habits during pregnancy may forget, during nursing, that their bodies are still the source of nutrition for their child. Continuing good eating habits is important during breastfeeding, though sometimes harder to remember with a wee one in tow. The substances taken in by the nursing mother have a strong effect on the quality of milk she produces.
The post-natal diet of tribal women throughout the world reveals a consistency of custom. Tribal diets focus on grain-vegetable soups, soft-cooked grains and vegetables, greens, and fish soups. Women drink large quantities of warm water and tea to encourage the flow of milk. At one time African women used a grain called "linga-linga" when nursing. The same grain used in Peru was called "quinoa." This grain has an especially high mineral content. Quinoa has been rediscovered and is now grown and sold in this country. I use this delicious grain in several recipes in this book.
Another grain purported to aid in producing a good milk supply is sweet brown rice, a cousin of brown rice that has a higher fat content. This grain is often eaten in the form of mochi or amasake. To get those beneficial long chain fatty acids into mother’s milk, it is wise for mom to consume fish, eggs, poultry, and meat from healthfully-raised animals, fermented (probiotics!) full-fat dairy products and nuts and seeds. Breast milk rich in beta carotene as well as other vitamins and minerals requires mom to stock up on lots of dark green and orange vegetables and fruits. All signals point towards meals rich in whole foods.
High-quality breast milk doesn’t require you to eat perfectly balanced, home-cooked meals each and every day. Nature provides plenty of leeway. Do your best to eat well and sensibly throughout the day; drink plenty of liquids; sleep when you can and love yourself and your baby. Your milk will be blessed food.
Excerpt from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008)