When a baby is born, everybody becomes an expert, eager to share their unsolicited opinions: what’s best for the baby, the mom, what the baby should be eating, how much she should be sleeping, which toys are the most stimulating to insure acceptance into Stanford … among other things. New parents, especially moms, can feel everything from love and joy to being completely overwhelmed and terrified. (Greeting card companies usually skip over the latter feelings!)
In 2011, August was declared National Breastfeeding Month (NBM) to support breastfeeding as a “public health imperative.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life (Mayoclinic.org). There are many health benefits, both for the mother and baby, of breastfeeding.
Whether you breastfeed exclusively, combine bottle feeding with breastfeeding, or bottle feed your baby, as a new mother, you need to take care of yourself and your health. Your body has just gone through incredible changes, is dehydrated after birth, and will need lots of care!
Here are nutrition tips for all new moms to keep you and your baby healthy:
- Hydrate! During labor, a woman loses an incredible amount of fluids and blood. Make drinking (preferably water) a priority. (10 glasses a day). Put on a timer to remind you to drink. Or download water apps, like Waterlogged or WaterMinder. Upping fluid intake will also help soften bowel movements and keep you hydrated for breast feeding. Keep a glass of water next to you for breast feeding.
- Think healthy, not weight: It’s hard. During pregnancy women gain weight and often feel uncomfortable with the changes in their bodies. Now isn’t the time to diet. Instead, it’s time to focus on recovery (after birth) and taking care of that baby. This means eating good meals and high-energy snacks.
- Nutrition-packed meals with enough calories are a must! Meals and snacks need to go above-and-beyond. Breastfeeding moms need more calories. A woman breast feeding a single baby needs on average about 2700 calories a day and a woman breast feeding twins needs about 3200. About 500 calories more a day than normal for each baby. Again, as in point two, this isn’t the time to try to lose weight, instead focus on getting enough calories to nourish both your body and baby(ies). Your daily nutritional intake should look a little like this:
- Protein: 20 – 25% of all calories should come from protein. Lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, and seafood low in mercury. Tuna, king mackeral, tile fish, sword fish and other fish listed to have high mercury content can be eaten, but I don’t recommend more than 6 oz per week.
- Fats: 30% of all calories should come from healthy fats. Snack on almonds and walnuts. Avocados, olives, olive oil and fatty fish (be careful of mercury content).
- Carbs can take the rest of your diet. I recommend complex carbohydrates like whole-grain breads and cereals, barley and quinoa, fruits and vegetables, whole-wheat pastas and rice. Carbs are our bodies’ energy source and so necessary post-partum.
- Iron-rich foods like lentils, dark-leafy green vegetables and whole-grain products combined with foods high in vitamin C (to help the body absorb iron) are important as well as calcium found in dairy products, leafy-greens, or calcium-fortified or enriched cereals, soy products and more.
- Like with drinking water, get on an eating schedule. Set an alarm to remind you when to eat. I understand how hard it is. Who has the time? Take the time to nourish yourself after pregnancy.
The freight train of parenthood has hit! I understand. This is probably one of the most exhausting and overwhelming times in anybody’s life. Most moms say that first year is a blur of late night feedings and groggy pre-dawn wakeups.
This, too, shall pass. While it’s happening, though, do your best to stay healthy, eat well, rest as much as possible (I know!) and take care of your body and time to enjoy this beautiful human being you created.