As a nursing mother, you need all the energy you can get—and if you can keep from getting sick, even better. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet, but a healthy lifestyle is your (not so) secret weapon for boosting immunity, especially while breastfeeding.
We know from research that breastfeeding is the most powerful way to build your baby’s defenses against disease. It’s pretty amazing for mom’s health too. Research shows that breastfeeding helps your uterus recover more quickly after delivery and it can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight more quickly. Women who breastfeed are also less likely to develop certain health problems like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and anemia.
Here are five ways to strengthen your immune system, and your baby’s in return.
1. Eat a balanced diet
Following a well-rounded diet will help protect your body against colds, flus, and other illnesses. Choose the following foods, all known to help with immunity:
- Daily breakfast (you know what they say!)
- Probiotics, found in yogurt and fermented foods like kimchi
- Protein sources like chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, and legumes
- Fruits and vegetables
- Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, etc.) are particularly loaded with vitamin C
- Onions, garlic, and turmeric
Whenever possible, opt for whole foods over processed foods. This means snacking on an apple or a handful of almonds instead of a bag of chips, at least most of the time. Your body will thank you for it!
There are a lot of supplements and herbal extracts out there that claim to boost immunity, but some may not be safe to use while breastfeeding or taking other medication. Be sure to check with your health care provider before taking any dietary supplement.
2. Drink plenty of fluids
Staying hydrated will help your immune system—and your milk supply, too. You can’t go wrong with water, whether you like it plain, sparkling, or with a slice of lemon for flavor. While you’re at it, limit sugary beverages like regular soda, which can suppress your immune system. Sip regularly throughout the day, even if it means taking umpteen bathroom breaks.
3. Catch some ZZZs
A good night’s sleep will help your body fend off any germs that come along. That may sound like a (literal) dream at this stage in your life, but try to work on a sleeping schedule that makes up for those middle-of-the-night feedings.
4. Get Moving
Exercise: Is there anything it can’t do? The same activities that help you release stress and lose weight after pregnancy are also good for keeping your immunity up. So carve out time for an online yoga class or take baby for a walk (and a dose of the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D).
5. Keep stress in check
Motherhood has changed your life in countless ways, and you’ve got a lot on your plate. Don’t let unnecessary pressures add to what can be an already stressful time. Focus on the positive to keep your mind off what worries you. Exercise can help here, as can meditation. And don’t hesitate to reach out to a family member, friend, or healthcare provider if you’re struggling.
A strong immune system can power you through the longest days of new motherhood, and before you know it, you’ll be running after a toddler. Take care of your body, and it will take care of you (and baby)!
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