Thrive Breastfeeding Holistic Health Newborn & Infant

Coconut Oil and Breastfeeding

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Written by Jennifer Saleem

What a lovely set of coconuts! Stop for a second and give that some thought. I know I am not the only person who honestly sees the similarities between coconuts and breasts. I mean, seriously.

Coconuts. Breasts. Coconuts. Breasts. Same general shape. Come in all sizes. Produce milk.

There is a reason the coconut and the breast are so similar! Both contain life-giving properties for nursing mothers and their infants!

The unique composition of human breast milk contains about 45 to 50% saturated fat, about 35% monounsaturated fat, and 15-20% polyunsaturated fat. An important component of breast milk is medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). The MCFA, lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid, comprise about 20% of total saturated fatty acids found in breast milk.

Fun fact: Lauric acid is the most plentiful MCFA found in mother’s milk and coconut oil. And the ratio of lauric acid to other MCFAs in human milk is identical to that in coconut oil.

The MCFAs in coconut oil improve the absorption of nutrients already existing in the mother’s diet. The MCFA enables the absorption of minerals, magnesium and calcium, some of the B vitamins, the fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, K and beta carotene, and some amino acids. Pancreatic enzymes aren’t even necessary to digest them. These nutrients are of course passed onto the nursing infant through the breast milk.

For these reasons, it is important that a mother’s breast milk contain as much medium chain fatty acids as possible. According to research, when a lactating woman adds foods rich in lauric acid to her diet, the amount of lauric acid available in her breast milk increases substantially to levels three times the original level and nearly double the amount of capric acid. A single meal with coconut oil can significantly affect the breast milk fatty acid compositions for 1 to 3 days with the maximum increase occurring during the first 10 hours.

To further support this, in The Coconut Oil Miracle, author Bruce Fife states that “when nursing mothers eat coconut products (more specifically coconut oil) the levels of the MCFAs in their milk increase significantly. For instance, eating 40 grams (3 tablespoons) of coconut oil in one meal can temporarily increase the lauric acid in the milk of a nursing mother from 3.9 percent to 9.6 percent after 14 hours. If the mother consumes coconut oil every day, the MCFA content will be even greater.”

Another very important function of MCFAs is that they protect the baby from harmful microorganisms. Infants’ immune systems are immature and incapable of adequately defending themselves. The infant’s immune system is heavily supported by the antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic properties of these vital MCFAs in coconut oil. In fact, without these unique saturated fats, an infant would probably not survive long. It would become malnourished and highly susceptible to a myriad of infectious diseases. This is why MCFAs are added into all baby formula on the market. Unfortunately, it is inferior to the MCFAs found in breast milk.

Coconut oil does not just benefit a breastfeeding infant or child. The MCFAs in coconut oil also help to regulate blood sugar levels in the mother while providing her with a stable source of energy. Since MCFAs are not stored and instead are burned off in the form of energy, this will only help a new mother to continue losing any unneeded extra baby weight. And as mentioned before, they will help the mother more effectively absorb the nutrients her body needs. If you are planning on becoming pregnant or already pregnant, get a head start on creating a rich supply of breast milk by adding coconut oil into your daily diet! Pregnant females store fat to assure successful lactation. Any lauric acid and capric acid in the diet becomes part of the adipose fat stores. The milk fat of a lactating mother is made up of these stores as well as her current diet. So make sure that you are consuming as much coconut oil as you can during pregnancy and of course, during your entire breastfeeding relationship.

Coconut oil has an added bonus when used during breastfeeding. Since coconut oil is antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory, it can be used to heal and then protect damaged and sore nipples. Since it is safe for all ages, you don’t have to worry about wiping it off (causing further irritation) before breastfeeding. Baby will benefit from any residual coconut oil on your nipple.

About the author

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Jennifer Saleem