How is the body affected by breastfeeding? article image

How is the body affected by breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is a complex process that not only contributes important nutrition to the baby, but also has major effects on the mother's body. During this period, the body undergoes a series of physiological changes, from hormonal fluctuations to increased nutritional needs and possible physical complaints. Understanding how the body is affected by breastfeeding can be crucial in creating a smooth and healthy breastfeeding experience for both mother and child.

What happens in the body?

After childbirth, hormonal changes occur that signal the mammary glands to start producing milk. Within the first few days after birth, the breasts produce a substance called colostrum, which is a nutrient-rich liquid high in proteins, vitamins and antibodies that protect the newborn against infections and strengthen its immune system. After a few days, the production of colostrum switches to producing mature breast milk. This milk contains an optimal mix of nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary to meet the nutritional needs of the newborn baby.

To speed up the process of breast milk production, stimulation of the breast is important, it can be through manual stimulation or through sucking from the baby.

What happens to hormone levels in the first few weeks after giving birth?

During pregnancy, the woman's sex hormones estrogen and progesterone increase sharply, only to gradually drop back to normal levels after childbirth. Estrogen, which is a collective name for the three hormones estradiol, estrone and estriol, is the hormone that is important for, among other things, ovulation, sexual desire, moisturized mucous membranes, maintaining skin elasticity, normal hair growth, mood, and normal bone density. After childbirth, estrogen decreases partly because it is no longer needed in the same amount, but also to make room for the hormone prolactin, which is important for breast milk production.

The hormone oxytocin, known as the "love hormone", is also important for breastfeeding and helps with the expulsion of milk, but also for creating a strong bond between mother and child.

Low estrogen levels

With reduced estrogen levels, many women experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness, decreased sex drive, mood swings and decreased bone density. These changes are normal and expected during breastfeeding and usually return to normal when breastfeeding ends. During the breastfeeding period, it is important to support the body with a balanced diet and plenty of fluids to help the body return to normal hormone levels after breastfeeding has ended.

Food and drink during breastfeeding

During the breastfeeding period, the mother not only needs to ensure that the baby is getting enough, but also to be aware of her own health and well-being. It is important to eat a balanced diet and drink enough fluids to support your own body and the increased energy expenditure that breastfeeding can bring.

By eating a varied and nutritious diet, you can ensure that you get all the necessary nutrients to support your own health but also the production of breast milk. Focusing on eating "real" food and avoiding whole and semi-finished products is preferable so that you get as much nutrition as possible. A good multivitamin for breastfeeding can be a supplement to the daily diet during the breastfeeding period. Elexir Multi Gravid is developed for both pregnant and breastfeeding women. Read more about the product here .

The important protein

Protein is an important component of breast milk for the child's growth and development, but also essential for the mother's recovery and muscle building. Protein is also very satiating, which means you don't snack as much and keeps your blood sugar more stable. Various protein-rich foods are meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils. Eat what suits your diet best!

Fat, carbohydrates and fibre

Fat and carbohydrates are also important to replenish slow energy and faster energy. It takes a lot of power from the body to produce breast milk and it is then required that you replenish properly to support your body in its work.

Fat is very important for the child's brain and development, immune system, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and keeps your child full longer, which also applies to your own body. As with protein, fat is important for keeping blood sugar stable and keeping you full and satisfied for a longer period. Aim to meet your fat needs from natural sources such as avocados, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, fatty fish, eggs and and real butter.

Carbohydrates and fibers from, among other things, fruit and vegetables, potatoes, root vegetables, rice and oatmeal are important for energy levels, so that you can keep up. Fiber is also very important for stomach health and digestion, and just like fat and protein also for keeping blood sugar stable.

What should you not eat when breastfeeding?

Certain foods and drinks should be avoided or minimized during breastfeeding because they can affect the baby negatively through the breast milk but also for the sake of the mother.

Caffeine: The Swedish Food Agency does not recommend limiting coffee, tea or other drinks with caffeine when you are breastfeeding as long as the baby is doing well. Caffeine is transferred to the baby via the breast milk, but it is in such small amounts that it does not harm the baby. Too much caffeine could make the baby irritable or have difficulty sleeping, so there may still be a point in limiting the caffeine content during the breastfeeding period.

Alcohol: Should be minimized to moderate amounts during the breastfeeding period. According to the current advice from the Swedish Food Agency, a maximum of 1-2 glasses of wine or the equivalent 1-2 times a week is recommended.

Fish: Just like during pregnancy, there are some types of fish that you should not eat very often, as they may contain high levels of environmental toxins. These are the same varieties that pregnant women should not eat so often, for example, sturgeon and fresh tuna.

Herbal products and herbal medicines: Herbal supplements and herbal medicines have not been tested for this target group and should therefore be avoided during breastfeeding.

Strong spices: You can eat spices as usual during breastfeeding, but if the baby has stomach problems or colic, it can help to exclude them. Even milk and dairy products can affect the stomach of some babies.

It is important to be aware of how different foods affect the child and to reduce potential trigger substances.

Health benefits of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is not only a great benefit for the child's health and development, but also has several health benefits for the mother. Breastfeeding helps you as a mother to recover after childbirth, and reduces the risk of high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol levels and elevated blood sugar levels later in life. Breastfeeding also provides some protection against both ovarian cancer and breast cancer. But with that said, it is common that breastfeeding does not work for various reasons and in that case breast milk substitute is a good alternative that gives the baby everything it needs.

Common breastfeeding problems

Breastfeeding can also be very challenging and does not only bring benefits to the mother. Breastfeeding is very time-consuming and can be mentally and physically exhausting to have a baby glued to your breast all the time, especially with the lack of sleep that comes with it.

Breastfeeding can also be very painful and uncomfortable, especially at the beginning of breastfeeding, and can lead to problems such as cracked nipples or milk engorgement. Using the correct breastfeeding position, ensuring proper attachment and taking proper care of your breasts can help minimize the risk of these problems.

Already at the hospital, after the birth, asking for help from a midwife is a way to get tips and advice early on when it comes to breastfeeding, which can help with future problems.

common questions and answers

What does breastfeeding do to the hormones?

Breastfeeding has a significant effect on the hormones in a woman's body. Two main hormones central to the breastfeeding process are prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin and oxytocin have a crucial role in regulating and facilitating the breastfeeding process by stimulating milk production and the expulsion of the milk from the breasts. These hormonal changes are an important part of the physiological adaptation that occurs in a woman's body during the breastfeeding period.

Breastfeeding also keeps the hormone estrogen low, which can affect the mother through dry mucous membranes, low sexual desire and poorer bone density. If the mucous membranes still feel dry after the end of the breastfeeding period, we can warmly recommend sea buckthorn oil rich in omega-7, which lubricates the mucous membranes from the inside. Read more about our product Membra Femin Forte here . Even sex drive can take time to return, it is common and highly individual. If you feel that your body needs a little help on the trot after the breastfeeding period, we have developed a product specifically for sex drive - Good Sex .

How are you affected by breastfeeding hormones?

Lactation hormones play a critical role in regulating the breastfeeding process and promote both the physical and emotional health of mother and child. The hormones contribute to creating a close and loving contact between the mother and the child during its first months of life, which is important for the child's development.

Why does breastfeeding make you tired?

It is very energy-demanding to breastfeed, which of course contributes to fatigue, but also due to lack of sleep, hormonal changes, lack of nutrition and stress. Prioritizing rest, nutritious food and seeking support if you need it is important to manage fatigue and provide the best support for the child.

How much weight do you lose while breastfeeding?

Weight loss during breastfeeding varies from person to person and depends on various factors, including your body composition before pregnancy, your diet and exercise habits during breastfeeding, as well as how much breast milk you produce and how much energy is required for breastfeeding.

Some women may experience a gradual weight loss while breastfeeding due to the extra calories burned to produce breast milk and feed the baby, while others gain weight. It is important to note that weight loss is not guaranteed for all women and that there are variations in how much weight is lost.