June 11 2024 08:55 AM

    I learned how to take better care of myself postpartum after recognizing the value of my nutrition.

    After I had our first child, I wanted to immediately lose the extra “baby weight” that I gained during pregnancy. So, I reduced my calories and carbohydrates as I was not yet cleared for fitness activity. I was also breastfeeding. However, my milk supply was not great and was a point of frustration. I remember Easter came and my mother-in-law made a fantastic meal including a great variety of baked goods. I gave myself a break from restricting my intake that day and truly indulged. The next day, I made a record amount of milk.

    With my dairy background, I should have realized this connection. But in the midst of postpartum and life changes, all I knew was that the differences in my body in the mirror were discouraging. Surely my extra body fat could fuel my lactation without needing more intake. Wrong. I did not intend to cause one problem while trying to fix another, but I am thankful I was able to figure it out pretty quickly. The restricted diet ended immediately, and my milk supply was then able to meet the needs of our son throughout his first year. Interestingly, while not limiting myself nutritionally throughout that lactation nor having too aggressive of a fitness routine, the weight did indeed still manage to “fall off.” But for me, it was slow and steady. I did not see my pre-baby weight until I neared that one-year mark.

    Optimal nutrition in dairy cows provides optimal lactation, and it was no different for me as a person. I should have known to eat like we feed our cows! Taking on a little less body fat in my pregnancy and a bit more nourishing, nutritionally complete food postpartum would have set me up for a much easier start to breastfeeding than the path I originally took. I kept this in mind with my other pregnancies and lactations, and it indeed was successful. Having experience, patience, and grace with myself was a total game changer in early motherhood. Eat like a cow, mamas!

    Erin Massey

    The author grew up on a Florida dairy farm, obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida and has spent her career in dairy processing. She now serves as business development manager for North America with Bunge. Erin and her husband live in St. Louis, Mo., with their three children. Her personal mantra is “Be Bold.”