Having recently had a baby, nutrition and breastfeeding has been one of those topics I’ve been keeping on top of. I didn’t have much baby weight to lose but wanted to make sure I got back to a healthy weight whilst looking after my baby and providing good quality breast milk. Here’s a round up of my research and top tips.
Make sure you drink throughout the day. It can be easy to forget when you are running round looking after a baby! My top tip is to have a drink of water every time you breastfeed and to keep bottles of water next to the chair/bed where you usually feed. The best way to tell if you are well hydrated is to look at your urine! If it looks dark or too yellow then you need to drink a bit more. Aim for 2 litres or so a day.
How much should I eat?
Although your body needs some extra calories in order to produce milk this isn’t an excuse to eat cake all of the time 😉 I know it’s tempting!
You will probably have laid down some fat stores in pregnancy and the body will use up those if you let it. Eating too many high sugar, high fat snack will not help you shed those pregnancy pounds. The best advice is to eat according to appetite. I had to snack during the nightfeeds in the early days of mummyhood but now I’m back to a normal intake of 3 meals 1-2 small healthy snacks a day with the occasional treat of course! Make sure your diet is well-balanced including:
- Plenty of fruit and veggies
- Wholegrain carbs such as wholemeal bread, pasta, rice, potatoes
- Lean protein including fish, chicken, beef, pork, pulses and beans
- Dairy foods a few times a day – milk, yoghurt, cheese.
If you are finding it hard to get the time to cook then sandwiches, beans or egg on toast and jacket potatoes cooked in the microwave are quick and easy choices. Another top tip is to cook and freeze meals. I always cook double when I make up things like a chilli or fish pie then I have an instant home cooked meal for later in the month.
Are there any foods to avoid?
Most foods are absolutely fine. It’s best to limit oily fish to 2 portions a week and fish such as shark, marlin and swordfish to once a week. This is due to the pollutants that can build up in them.
Take care with caffeine as this will pass into your milk to the baby. If possible stick to decaff tea and coffee or limit yourself to 2 cups of caffeine a day. The same can be said with alcohol, it will pass through to the baby. It’s advisable to drink very small amounts perhaps 1-2 units once or twice a week.
Peanuts should also be eaten with caution if there is a history of nut allergies in the family.
Exercise is absolutely fine as long as you have been cleared by your GP at your 6 week check. Take things slowly and build up your strength and fitness over time. Walking with the pram is a great way to do this and I found it wonderful for getting the baby to sleep as well! I built in a 30 minute walk every day around the time I knew my baby got sleepy. As time goes on you can start to think about increasing things and have a look for ways to exercise with other mums and babies. There may be post natal exercise classes around (for example I run a post-natal pilates class, see: www.pilateswithpriya.co.uk). I also found that I could exercise with the baby in a sling doing squats and lunges or I now have the baby playing on the floor or in her door bouncer whilst I workout. She thinks it’s great fun to watch or even join in!