Good nutrition helps fuel a speedy recovery from childbirth, while maintaining the abundant energy and optimum health necessary for top-notch mothering. It is also crucial to successful breastfeeding. While neglecting nutrition essentials when you’re breastfeeding won’t necessarily reduce your milk supply, at least not for a couple of months (even women who are severely under-nourished can often produce milk for a while), it may affect the nutritive value of your milk and shortchange your own body nutritionally. Whether you decide to nurse, or not, these nine basic principles can serve as a general guide to eating well during the postpartum period:
- Make most bites count. Though the bites you take aren’t shared with your baby as directly in the postpartum period as they were during pregnancy (and aren’t really shared at all if you’re not nursing), it’s still important to make as any of them as possible count towards good nutrition. Careful food selection will help ensure a plentiful supply of quality breast milk, enough energy to survive speedier return to pre-pregnancy shape. Of course, as long as you’re taking in your shape of nutrients – and not taking in a surplus of calories that might make weight loss elusive – treat yourself now and then to bites that feed only your cravings. You’ve earned a little indulgence.
- All calories are not created equal. No matter who in the family you’re feeding, the 2,000 calories in one typical fast-food meal aren’t nutritionally equally to the 2,000 calories in three well-balanced meals. Consider, too: the 235 calories in a silver of fostered devil’s food cake are undeniably delicious, but so are the 235 calories in half a ripe cantaloupe mounded high with chocolate frozen yoghurt – and once (guess which) offers a bounty of nutrition, while the others offers nothing but calories. The same hold true for the 160 calories in ten French fries – nutritionally lightweight when weighted against the 160 calories in a baked potato topped with grated Cheddar cheese and steamed broccoli.
- Starve yourself, cheat your baby. Missing meal isn’t potentially harmful (as it was when you were pregnant), but a consistency irregular eating schedule can cut into your own reserves, leaving you lagging. If you’re breastfeeding, severely inadequate nutrition – such as might develop on certain fad diets (juice fasts, for instance) – could in time seriously reduce your milk supply.
- Stay an efficiency expert. To keep your postpartum weight going down and your nutrition up, it’s still important to select foods dense in nutrition in relation to their caloric content – turkey over smoked sausage for lunch, pasta with vegetables over pasta with cream sauce for dinner. If your problem is losing too much weight, look for foods high in both nutrition and calories but low in bulk, such as avocado and nuts, but stay away from foods like air-popped popcorn that fill you up without filling you, or your nutritional requirements, out.
- Carbohydrates are a complex issue. And complex carbohydrates, refined, are just the kind you want to concentrate on postpartum (and beyond for a lifetime of good nutrition for yourself and your family). Whole-grain breads, cereals and cakes, brown rice, dried beans, peas and other legumes provide fibre (as important now as during pregnancy to ensure regularity) and plenty of vitamins and minerals. They also give you a longer-lasting energy boost than refined carbs do.
- Sweet nothings are exactly that. The average Briton consumes almost their entire weight in sugar each year. Some of this comes right from the sugar bowl, sprinkled and cereals and fruits or stirred into coffee or tea. A fair amount is taken, not unexpectedly, in cakes, biscuits, sweets, pastries and pies. But a surprising proportion comes from such unlikely sources as soups, salad dressings, breakfast cereal, breads, hot dogs, luncheon meats, and processed, caned or frozen main courses and side dishes.If your sugar intake is just average, you’re consuming over 800 nutrition-less or empty calories a day. For a new mothers who want to make sure she gets her Daily Dozen without gaining a dozen pounds in the process, having sugary treats occasionally won’t create nutritional havoc, but consuming a great many empty calories a day can.
- Eat foods that remember where they came from. Foods that are highly processed lose a lot of their nutrition along the way. These foods also often contain unhealthy excesses of saturated fat, sodium and sugar, as well as artificial colours and other chemical additives, none of which can occasionally contaminated breast milk. The closer the food you eat is to its natural state, the better for your baby – and for you.
- Make good eating a family affair. Include the whole household in your good eating, and your baby will grow up in a home where good nutrition is natural. This way translate to better long-term health (and longer life) not only for you, but for your spouse and your children as well.
- Don’t sabotage your diet. Though you may enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage even if you’re breastfeeding, too much alcohol can definitely affect you and your baby adversely, as can any amount of tobacco or illicit drug use.