Being a new Mum is one of the most exhilarating but exhausting times of a woman’s life.
You’ve got this precious new bundle of joy who depends on you for their every need, but at the same time your own needs are greater than ever. Here are my five top tips to help you stay optimally nourished during this time.
Words: Louise Keats.
Louise is a food and nutrition writer, cookbook author and magazine columnist. She is passionate about cooking with whole food ingredients for optimal health and wellbeing.
1. Eat up
While most women realise that their calorie demands go up during pregnancy, what many of us don’t know is that they increase even further while we’re breastfeeding. Energy requirements vary across individuals, but you need around an extra 2000-2100 kJ (about 500 calories) per day compared with pre-pregnancy requirements, as well as almost 1.5 times the protein. So Mummas, despite what some Instagram models might have you believe, this isn’t the time to go on a major weight loss regime! Your little one really needs you to eat up and nourish yourself right now, so that you can be your best you and your breastmilk can be as plentiful and nutritious as possible.
2. Whole foods are king
Diet trends will come and go, but if there’s one thing we can all agree on it’s that real food (that’s not from a factory) is good for us. The best diet you can have after birth is one mainly comprising a wide variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, including plenty of plants, and minimal processed foods. Getting some probiotics and prebiotics into your diet – from natural food sources like kefir and raw sauerkraut – will also help to keep your gut healthy. In Australia, the recommended daily serves of vegetables increases from the usual five up to seven and a half for breastfeeding Mums to help meet the extra demands on you right now.
3. The better your food, the better your breastmilk
The nutrient content of your breastmilk varies according to what you eat. Plus, if your diet isn’t up to scratch, your body will sometimes take from your own stores (like drawing from the calcium in your bones) to give to your milk production. Getting plenty of iron, iodine, zinc, calcium, omega 3 fats and vitamins A, B12 and D is particularly crucial. Nutrient-dense foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, shellfish, oily fish, pasture-raised meats and eggs, and different coloured vegetables should be top of your shopping list.
4. Water really matters
Breastmilk is mostly water, so it’s now more important than ever to drink those eight glasses of water a day – more if you feel thirsty. If you notice you’re constipated in the weeks after giving birth or that your wee is dark yellow, it’s likely a sign you’re not getting enough water – drink up! And sorry to say it girls, but the safest option for breastfeeding mums is not to drink alcohol at all, particularly in the first month of your baby’s life. Alcohol has been shown to interfere with babies’ sleep and impede their development. If you decide to drink after your baby’s first month, stick to one to two standard drinks in a day, and go for mostly alcohol-free days. If you want to check how long it takes for alcohol to clear from your milk based on your precise weight and height, you can use the ‘Feed Safe’ app developed by the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
5. Boosting your supply
If your milk supply is low, you might like to try some natural galactagogues (foods that can help increase breastmilk production), like almonds, oats, fennel, fenugreek and chickpeas. But it’s important to know that the research on these is still inconclusive and individual outcomes vary, so don’t blow your grocery budget on them. And be sure to also chat with your doctor about any milk supply concerns you might have.