Nursing Nourishment | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Nursing Nourishment

Tips for the breastfeeding mom

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In the Talmud, a mother nursing her baby is advised to begin feeding on her left side, to be closer to her heart. There is no doubt that breastfeeding is not only recommended in the Jewish tradition, but is regularly practiced by Jewish families thanks to many references to breastfeeding in Jewish texts going as far back as a weaning party for the biblical patriarch Isaac and baby Moses nursing from a Jewish nursemaid who happened to be his own mother, Yocheved.

Fast-forward to contemporary times and while study after study shows that breast milk is the perfect food for babies, helping with everything from building their immune systems to making them smarter, the concerns around breastfeeding are many and it and can seem like a fraught decision. How will the mother be able to maintain a breastfeeding relationship while possibly working, running a household, and caring for the new baby and herself, not to mention feeling comfortable breastfeeding or pumping wherever she is?

As a side-note unique to our community, breastfeeding in Jewish spaces continues to elicit debate. Rabbi Maya Resnikoff began a simple website called Nursing at Shul as a repository of reviews of synagogues' friendliness to breastfeeding mothers. Rabbi Ysoscher Katz of Yeshiva Chovevei Torah writes that "The practice of women who are nursing taking their babies to synagogue is a new development. While not the habit of our ancestral mothers and fathers, our rabbis saw such a practice in a good and positive light. According to the opinion of some later commentaries, it is not merely permissible to bring young children and nursing babies to the synagogue, it is also a mitzvah." Also interesting: breast milk is not considered dairy and can be thought of as pareve.

While many healthcare professionals (including my own) assert that whether or not foods can really boost breast milk supply is anecdotal and effectiveness varies from woman to woman, many women believe that what a nursing mother eats can have an impact on the milk she produces, both quantity and quality.

"One of the more interesting facts is that breastfed babies tend to be better eaters, noted famed lactation consultant Freda Rosenfeld. "The reason is that flavors and smells of the food that the mom eats are very faintly in the milk. Babies get to subtly smell and taste varying 'foods' through the milk which help broaden their taste buds." Rosenfeld recommends nursing women eat almonds and whole grains high in B vitamins such as oatmeal and barley. 

In her new guide to nourishing the nursing mother, Boost Your Breast Milk, Alicia Simpson, a registered dietician and lactation consultant, discusses the role of the foods new mothers eat and drink. Simpson delves into what to eat and what to avoid in the months or even years that a woman breastfeeds, discussing the virtues of both health-sustaining superfoods and milk-boosting lactogenics.

The superfoods Simpson writes about "have been used for centuries all around the world to nourish nursing mothers and contain a nutrient-rich mix of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidents that are ideal for the breastfeeding mother."

In honor of World Breastfeeding Month, we salute those mothers who are making the effort to breastfeed their babies (with no judgement towards those who aren't), and hope these tips and recipes can help with the process.

Moringa Muffins

Milk Maker: moringa

Superfood: chia seeds

Oatmeal Milk-In Cookies

Milk Makers: barley, oats, whole wheat flour

Superfoods: chia seeds, hemp seeds

Vegetable and Barley Stew

Milk Makers: barley, fenugreek seeds

Superfoods: carrots, chickpeas

Foods breastfeeding moms should try to eat:

avocados

nuts

beans

mushrooms

oats

barley

fenugreek

moringa


Foods to avoid in large amounts while breastfeeding:

sage

parsley

peppermint

high-mercury fish

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