If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or know moms that are, chances are you’ve seen the following mom-shaming cheeseburger breastfeeding ad.
It’s the brainchild of Brazil’s Pediatric Society of Rio Grande (SPRS) that’s meant to encourage women to eat a healthy diet while breastfeeding.
Believe me, I’m all for optimizing preconception, prenatal, and postpartum health. After all, my book Real Food for Gestational Diabetes (and online course), focus almost exclusively on how a woman’s lifestyle can positively impact both her own and her child’s health. There’s loads of research supporting the importance of a mom’s diet during pregnancy and lactation.
And in some ways, this advertisement has done its job – it certainly got our attention and sparked more conversations about breastfeeding nutrition!
BUT, maybe it hasn’t done so in the best way.
It’s always been a bit taboo to discuss breastfeeding nutrition in terms of how diet impacts the quality of breastmilk because there are already so many barriers to breastfeeding. Adding the requirement of a so-called “perfect diet” to the list can push some women away from choosing to breastfeed.
For that reason I’ve always tip-toed around the topic, even while presenting at medical conferences, because we know that moms who eat a less-than-perfect diet still produce quality breastmilk.
No matter what, breastmilk offers health benefits to baby.
It just happens to be more nutritious when a mom eats a nutrient-dense diet.
- For example, choosing real food fats in lieu of margarine will prevent the transfer of harmful trans fats into breastmilk (and instead ensure the transfer all sorts of good fat-soluble vitamins) (AJCN, 2014).
- Choosing animal foods sourced from grass-fed and/or pasture-raised animals will provide more nutrients and fewer pesticide residues.
- Making sure your vitamin D levels are optimal will increase the vitamin D transferred into your breastmilk. (J Hum Lact, 2013)
[W]hen maternal vitamin D intake is sufficient, vitamin D transfer via breast milk is adequate to meet infant needs. “ (J Hum Lact, 2013)
However, the last thing we want to do is make a woman feel like her breastmilk won’t be good enough (she’s likely worried about that already!).
Unfortunately, that’s exactly where this ad falls short.
Instead of showing an image of a mother eating a well-balanced real food meal and sending a positive message, it focuses on the negative. It makes mothers feel guilty if they aren’t eating as healthfully as they’d like to.
The first thought that I had when I saw this was: “If you eat the wrong thing, you’ll hurt your child.”
I guarantee you, even the healthiest of eaters aren’t eating that way every single meal. I know I don’t.
It also perpetuates the idea that fatty, filling foods, like burgers are not healthy, when in fact (perhaps minus the refined wheat bun), it’s a great food for a breastfeeding mom to have, particularly if it’s made with grass-fed beef and includes some yummy grilled onions and fresh greens. It supplies the necessary iron, zinc, B vitamins, folate, choline, fat, and protein that a mother and baby needs – not to mention the calories needed to replace the deficit left from breastfeeding. That’s right, exclusively breastfeeding moms burn an additional 500 calories per day.
As my colleague and favorite perinatologist says,
It’s like having a gym on your chest” – Dr. Kjos
And after your all-day and night “workout,” you’ve gotta eat!
To drive this point home and highlight some of the ways you can focus on the positive and ensure you both care for yourself and provide your baby with “super milk,” check out this interview I did with Ciara from Baby Wear for Fitness.
Some of the questions I answer:
- Do you think it’s important to pay special attention to nutritional needs during the postpartum period? (3:53)
- Can pregnancy deplete the body of certain nutrients? (6:45)
- What types of foods do you recommended to make super milk? (10:30)
- What foods should moms avoid? (15:30)
- What do you recommend as far as caffeine? Should we avoid it completely or is a little bit OK? (18:30)
- What about sugar intake? (19:57)
- What other recommendations do you have for moms that want to start exercising again? (23:30)
psst – The freebie with prenatal snacks mentioned in the interview (that double as filling, nutrient-dense snacks for breastfeeding moms) is linked below this post!
If you need help coming up with what to eat while breastfeeding, here are some yummy real food recipes that everyone, especially breastfeeding moms, can use:
- Maple Pots de Creme
- Liver Pate
- Wild Alaskan Salmon Cakes
- Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- Spinach Chips
- Indian-Spiced Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Cardamom Cashew Butter
Until next week,
PS – If you’re trying to eat well, but struggling with how to make cooking at home faster and easier than takeout, check out these 8 tips (‘cause easy always wins in my book!).