For many women, breastfeeding can be physically depleting as their nutrition literally is drained from the bodies, but competing demands for their time and attention can make it difficult for them to refresh their stores by following a healthy balanced diet.
At the same time, breastfeeding can be emotionally exhausting as women grapple with concerns about whether they are providing the quality and quantity of milk their child needs to thrive while also meeting professional and social obligations.
With guests Natasha Bonhomme, the founder of Expecting Health, a national initiative focused on maternal and child health, along with Wendy Colson, lactation consultant, neonatal nurse and the founder of Boobie Bar, this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast looks at how food and beverage manufacturers can help mothers address some of the challenges related to breastfeeding and nutrition.
A better understanding of the importance of breastfeeding
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed children for their first six months of life, and if possible an additional six months of breastfeeding while supplemental foods are introduced.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in 2014, about 81% of American women initiate breastfeeding, but Colson reports that for several reasons, about a third will not continue the practice for six months.
She explained top among these reasons is difficulty with babies latching, followed by US employment laws that often lead to moms returning to work before they finish breastfeeding and finally because women struggle to produce sufficient milk.
With regards to the first two challenges, Bonhomme explained the government and many non-profits have aggressively worked to lower barriers and increase breastfeeding success.
“There has been a really big push to have women in the US be able to have access to lactation consultants particularly in those first few weeks to be able to see what are things that can be done, either techniques or strategies, to help moms really be able to maintain breastfeeding,” she said.
“There also is a push in a work environment to be able to provide a space that is comfortable and works well for women who are pumping,” she added.
How industry can address breastfeeding women’s needs
As for addressing struggles with milk production, Bonhomme notes this is a challenge that needs to be tackled from multiple fronts, including with clear messaging from health care providers, the government and the food and beverage industry around the importance of a healthy diet for mothers.
For example, seafood offers many benefits to pregnant and lactating women and their children – a message that Bonhomme notes FDA recently tried to clarify through revised consumption guidance, but which hasn’t quite filtered all the way down to the consumer level. With this in mind, she encouraged industry players in the seafood category to help spread the agency’s revised guidance and help consumers more easily eat seafood – either with easy to open pouches and premade meals or by providing recipes.
Another way that Bonhomme says food and beverage manufacturers can help lactating mothers improve their diet and the quality and quantity of their milk supply is by offering more convenient, healthy products that are formulated specifically to meet their needs.
“Having things that you can eat with one hand or that are very easy to pick up is really key when we look at the barriers to healthy eating,” she said.
Boobie Bars fill a void
Boobie Bars are a good example of a product that checks these boxes and is formulated to help boost lactation.
“Everything [in Boobie Bars] was chosen for a reason – nothing was by accident,” Colson said. She explained: “It is an oat based bar because oatmeal has been used for centuries because of the high zinc content, the high fiber content, it has been used as a galactagogue, which is a food or medicine that is known to increase milk supply.”
The bars also have coconut oil, which is high in lauric acid like that found in breast milk and claimed to serve as an antimicrobial. In addition, the bars have fenugreek, turmeric, shatavari and other key ingredients.
Colson says the bars’ format also give the brand a competitive edge over many of the supplements and teas that already are on the market and support lactation because they are easier to consume on-the-go and feel more natural.
Aside from teas and supplements, Colson says the competitive market for lactation-boosting products is wide open. However, she predicts more competition will enter the market soon since entrepreneurs are always seeking a new niche.
Moms need specialized products for more than milk production
Colson notes there also is significant white space for products designed to help ensure new mothers’ diets overall are well-balanced and contain the nutrients they need to recover, support their child and continue with their lives. With this in mind, Colson said her company earlier this year launched a protein powder for mothers called Boobie Body.
The protein is a complete superfood shake that can easily fit into new mothers’ busy lives and help compensate for missed meals. It has a plant-based protein so as to avoid the potential of hormones from a mammal being added to a mom’s already influx hormones, Colson said.
For industry players interested in joining Colson in this space, Bonhomme recommends they find more information about what the segment needs by visiting www.healthychildren.org and www.expectinghealth.org.
She noted: “I think it is important for industry players to see the types of information that is out there and that families are seeing and really thinking about how their products fit into that.”
Industry players can also learn more about the importance of breastfeeding and the marketing opportunities surrounding it at FoodNavigator-USA’s upcoming Summit on Food For Kids this fall in Chicago. Visit us online at www.foodnavigatorusasummit.com for more information and to register.