June 25, 2019
A common occurrence after a baby is born is that the mother forgets about herself and pours her entire heart and soul into taking care of her new tiny joy. But you are still important! And taking care of yourself can impact your recovery, your mental health, and your child. Give yourself the gift of health, starting with a healthy diet.
The First 6 Months
However you choose to feed your baby is the right choice! Are you breastfeeding? Wonderful! Are you using formula? Amazing! As long as your infant is getting fed, that’s the goal!
No matter how you’re feeding your child, there are certain measures you can take to assure your health goes in the right direction. Either way, it’s important to eat healthy foods, but if you’re breastfeeding there are a few other considerations.
The Breastfeeding Mom
If you are exclusively breastfeeding or pumping, your little bundle of joy is depending on your body to thrive. Your ability to produce enough breast milk is not only dependent on baby’s nursing frequency but also the foods you’re eating. Let’s talk about how to establish a healthy intake of nutrients.
Generally speaking, a nursing mom needs about 500 kcals more per day than normal in order to feed the demands of her baby. Don’t forget to drink enough as well! It’s totally normal to drink and eat WHILE you are actually breastfeeding - it’s a draining experience for mom. You will need an abundance of proteins, carbs, and fats in order to keep you both fed.
During times of what is referred to as “cluster feeding”, you may need even MORE calories! Your hungry infant may nurse for literal hours at a time during these periods and if you try to unlatch, you’ll certainly hear how displeased your baby is. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and have food and drinks close to you at all times.
During breastfeeding, moms need more iron, calcium, vitamin C, and a good overall multivitamin. In fact, you can continue using your prenatal vitamins. Avoiding too much caffeine is also a good idea, as is cutting out or severely limiting alcohol intake. Remember, this won’t be forever, you can certainly enjoy more coffee and cocktails when your breastfeeding days have subsided. Not only is this important for the baby, but caffeine and alcohol are known to be dehydrating which is counterproductive when you’re producing breast milk.
Drinks with electrolytes are really wonderful for keeping your thirst at bay so stock up on liquids such as coconut water. It’s recommended to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day, even more if you feel like it. Keeping refreshing drinks handy will make it much easier to remain hydrated and feel like you’re not being sucked dry!
Food for Thought
You must be hungry, momma! Proteins, carbs, and fats are the nutrients that, in varying amounts, make up every food. Protein is the most satiating, carbs provide tons of energy, and fats help keep hormones regulated.
Most babies have no problems with which foods the mother eats. However, some have food sensitivities, which may cause gassiness and irritability, and a small percentage of babies have allergies. Common allergens include milk/dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, and wheat.
The extra 500 calories a day you’ll need is probably not as much food as you’d think. A plain bagel with cream cheese is around 500 calories, for example. It’s important to add in healthy fats (like olive oil and avocado), meaning fats that aren’t mainly saturated fats (extra butter, lard, cream, fatty meats). That doesn’t mean you can’t eat them, it just means moderation is key. Focusing on foods with less saturated fat is more beneficial.
As with most things in life, moderation really is key in terms of what to consume. If you are craving something, eat it! Maybe don’t eat 5 brownies, just have 2. Split a dessert with your friend. Substitute steamed veggies for sauteed. Add fruit to your breakfast. Limit calorie dense dressings on salads. Moderating your behavior will help you make better food choices all while still hitting your food goals for the day.
The Formula Mom
Congratulations, mom! You have a baby who is healthy and thriving, but what about you? Are you healthy and thriving? You need to take care of yourself, too! Your needs aren’t that much different than the breastfeeding mom - you need your energy, you need your hydration, and you need your vitamins.
As a matter of fact, let’s reiterate some things. Stocking up on fats, like cheese, nuts, avocados, and eggs, will help your hormones a bit. Carbohydrates, like whole grains, fruits, and veggies, provide energy needed for just getting through the day because let’s face it, you’ll need all the help you can get in the energy department. Proteins, such as lean beef, fish, poultry, and pork, will keep you full and keep your cells functioning and regulating throughout your entire body.
Keep taking your prenatal or take a multivitamin that’s well-rounded with plenty of vitamin C, vitamin B, iron, and calcium. Your body will thank you.
What Else Is There?
There is YOU. I know it’s difficult, but let’s not talk about the baby for a minute. I know, it’s hard, but try and think about yourself for a short read.
Childbirth, whether vaginal or c-section, is a life-changing experience. The way we treat our bodies after childbirth is incredibly important. Our hormones are going nuts in various ways and it’s different for each mom, but everyone experiences it.
If you’re experiencing postpartum depression, anxiety, psychosis, or anything you believe is impacting you and your family, please talk to your doctor openly. Family and friends are a great sounding board especially if any of them are moms who can relate. Support groups, either online or in person, can be beyond beneficial. If you are having issues, it’s paramount you get the help you need and deserve.
How can your diet help with any of this? Well, it can help to a degree. Medical conditions are best handled by a medical professional, but there are some things you can do at home to support your new self.
Deficiencies in certain vitamins and nutrients may prolong or increase the instance of postpartum issues. Vitamin B, essential fatty acids (such as DHA/EPA), zinc, iron, selenium, and vitamin D, are some which are used to help combat postpartum issues. Making sure the foods you eat are full of these is something you can control which may help you.
You’re Doing Great, Mom!
Keeping healthy after baby can be a daunting task. Take time to read labels, and don’t forget it’s okay to give into cravings. You are still important and your health is beyond important. Taking small steps towards your health is best for you and baby. You are worth it and you deserve it!