Getting adequate nutrition in the months succeeding the birth of your newborn is no walk in the park on a warm summer’s day with a peaceful, angelic baby. However, good nutrition is paramount for postnatal recovery from pregnancy and labour. It is also essential to fuel your body for those long days and long nights that often merge into one.
Here I share my top tips to optimize postnatal nutrition:
1. Preparation is paramount. Prepare home-cooked nutritious meals long before the baby arrives! Really do it! Don’t just think about it. Put time aside with your partner to do a good cook-up and freeze several lunches and dinners. I know it can be hard to spend hours on your feet towards the end of your pregnancy, so take it one meal at a time and enlist help. Make extra batches during the week and freeze half. Good freezer meals include soups, sauces for quick and easy meals (e.g. butter chicken), lasagne, Shepard’s pie, etc.
2. Discover healthy take-away options. You’ll be surprised what great cafes will do take-away such as healthy salads. However, they can be pretty pricey and with a new baby, the expenses quickly add up.
3. Avoid hitting the fad diets or overly restricting nutrient intake. After the baby arrives, you may feel the pressure or desire to quickly regain your post-pregnancy weight. However, breastfeeding mothers require substantially more calories in order to support lactation. Inadequate calories may adversely affect your milk supply. Instead of getting caught up in societal or self-inflicted pressures to lose the ‘baby weight’, be gentle with yourself and praise your body for the amazing miracle it has achieved. You just created a life!
4. Stay well hydrated. Producing breastmilk requires additional fluids. Indeed, 70% of breast milk is water. There is no one figure for how much you should drink. When you feel thirsty, don’t delay. Perhaps grab a glass of water each time you sit down to breastfeed or carry around a pump bottle filled with filtered H2O.
5. Focus on easy, practical meals made from whole, real foods. Pregnancy, labour and the sleep deprivation that follows having a new baby can leave you nutritionally depleted. Focus on meals that are nutrient-dense to ensure you are getting adequate nutrition. Some foods to consider include lean red meat, fatty fish, leafy greens, mushrooms, kiwi or orange coloured fruits and vegetables, seeds and legumes.
6. Continue your multi-vitamin and mineral supplementation. Breastfeeding women require additional traces of specific nutrients such as iodine and folate. It can sometimes be difficult to meet these requirements through diet alone. It is always best to speak to an appropriate practitioner about your specific needs.
The birth of your baby is an extraordinarily exciting time. It is also an extremely challenging time. Pregnancy, labour, birth and nursing a newborn can leave you feeling quite literally ‘depleted’. And nutritional depletion is indeed common! It is important to fuel your body with sufficient calories and nutrient-dense foods in order to optimise recovery and balance your energy levels.