Yoga. Unprocessed foods. Vegetarianism. Tunics. Breastfeeding.
All things our Indian American moms told us were best before they became cool.
Before my son was born I decided I’d breastfeed. Some of my Indian American mom friends warned that breastfeeding was hard, it hurt, and I might not be able to do it. I brushed them off. How hard could it be? Cavemen did it. Why couldn’t I?
The answer came in the whirlwind of hormones, sleepless nights, and tender moments that were my son’s first weeks of life. My breastfeeding journey was a rocky one, and my first challenge (which led to many other challenges, which I’ll tell you more about later ) was low milk supply.
The good news? It was fixable. Even better? My “medicine” was delicious food. I was lucky enough to have my supportive husband and my very own Indian American mom staying with me to buy/make me these foods. But you could also conscript some of the many visitors parading through to make or buy these for you. I’ve linked the post to some great recipes for your (their) reference.
Without further ado, here are Indian American Mom’s Top 10 Foods for Breastfeeding Moms. Bonus: they’re all vegetarian!
You can get this straight from the fruit or buy it frozen or dry. I liked eating my coconut in this awesome coconut oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. I substituted oil for ½ of the butter in the recipe and reduced the sugar. This makes a really delicious, moist, and filling treat. Best of all? It’s your “medicine” for better breastfeeding. Squee!
My Indian American mom also made me a delicious goanese potato sabji, using red potatoes, a tomato-onion gravy, garam masala, and dried coconut shreds.
Apparently, Latin American moms eat coconut for better breastfeeding too.
2. Coconut Milk
Creamy and amazing, it can be used to make satisfying soups, tasty curries, and sabjis. If you don’t feel like cooking, send out your partner for some yummy yellow curry from your local Thai joint. If he or she complains, repeat your refrain, “It’s cheaper than buying formula.”
3. Coconut Water
Breastfeeding has been an excuse to splurge on some tasty (but pricey) Vita Coco coconut waters . They don’t have quite the same flavor as the real thing, but come in grab and go juice boxes. We buy ours from Costco (they have the best price I’ve found at about $16 for a 12 pack). One downside is that they don’t come with straws, and the opening is very big, so it tends to spill. Especially if served in a moving vehicle. Or when your nursling is batting around and you are trying to keep him latched on.
4. Fenugreek (Methi)
These are bitter seeds used in Indian cooking and apparently to flavor imitation maple syrup (which this woman discovered the hard way). You can swallow a tablespoonful several times a day with a glass of water. You’ve taken enough when your urine and sweat smells like maple syrup (as if you didn’t feel sexy enough post-partum!). Start slowly, though, some people report that eating too much methi at once causes diarrhea (the postpartum sexiness does not end!).
Now to the delicious food part…you can also eat methi in the form of methi mattar malai (this is an easy way to make it) or thepla with methi (here’s a recipe and a cute aunty to teach you how!).
You can buy fenugreek (methi) at your local South Asian grocery store.
5. Dill or Dill Water
Dill water is something that Indian moms have fed their post-partum daughters for generations. The recipe is simple. Take a teaspoonful of dill seeds, dunk them in 8 oz of water, and heat the whole thing until it comes to a boil. Once it cools down, drink the water (with the seeds, if possible).
You can get a similar milk-producing effect by eating the dill seeds whole. My Indian American mom-in-law swears that you have to chew them up for maximum effect, but my Indian American mom says you can swallow them whole with water like the methi.
|Guess where I got my free dill storage container.
Incidentally, dill water also helps to alleviate gas. Indian moms say that the anti-gas properties of the dill pass through to the breastmilk and prevent the baby from getting gas.
I love a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar. If you want to cut back on refined sugars, chop up some apples and toss them in while the oatmeal is cooking. To up the protein content, add in a spoonful of peanut butter while it’s cooking. It melts right in!
Called “the mother grain,” this is a versatile gem to add to your breastfeeding pantry. It’s high in protein, a nutrient that is important for breastfeeding moms. My husband and I love this recipe. We usually skip the spinach and doctor it up with some taco seasoning for more flavor. We serve it in bowls topped with sour cream or shredded cheese and salsa. If you want to get fancy, serve it in bell pepper “bowls” as described in the recipe.
8. Whole Grains
I don’t have any particular recipe for this, but an easy way to incorporate these might be whole grain pasta.
I love these roasted and salted, but you can also use them to make a decadent pasta sauce. I chop up tomatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic, then toss them in a glass dish with two handfuls of almonds, several tablespoons of olive oil, and about a tablespoon and a half of Italian seasoning mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes (until all of the veggies are soft), then blend and add salt and cayenne or crushed red pepper to taste. The almonds give the sauce a creaminess that you will love. Toss with whole grain pasta and enjoy.
10. Water and Soups
Since breastmilk is about 90% water, you have to ensure you’re giving your body enough fluid to produce it.
I’d say that water is the all-star here, because you can drink it all day and are probably used to lugging it around from your preggo days. If you’re tired of drinking water or just want a satisfying snack, you can turn to soup.
Butternut squash soup is perfect for the crisp, fall days that lie ahead. I like to chop up some onions and peeled, raw butternut squash into chunks, sautee them in butter, then add water until the mix is just covered and boil. You can substitute vegetable broth for the water or throw in a vegetarian bouillon cube for flavor. Once the squash has softened, blend it up and salt to taste. If it’s too thick, dilute it with water. Simple, creamy goodness.
(Chopping up butternut squash is a task I generally put off because it’s so labor-intensive. You could just as well buy it prechopped at Trader Joe’s or cut it into large chunks and pressure cook).
So there you have it, 10 delicious foods to help you on your breastfeeding journey. Do you have any other ones? I’d love to hear them in the comments section.