Congratulations you’re a mum! Like pregnancy, the newborn phase can be joyous but exhausting.
You may feel like it’s Groundhog Day. Four hourly feeds, nappy changes, baby play time and the battle to get baby to sleep, clean the house, grab something to eat and baby is awake again. Round and round you go.
Unfortunately, women are under more pressure than ever before to bounce back to physical perfection quickly. However, it is important not to rush as post-natal adjustment usually takes months, not weeks, for most new mothers. Exhaustion and changes in mood are a common lament.
By looking after your own health, you can support your recovery from childbirth, optimise the nutrition you are delivering to your baby and be able to best care for you and your baby.
Diet and lifestyle adjustments are vital for the health of you and your baby but many new mothers are not getting the right nutrition to sustain good health.
Fruit and vegetables are packed with nutrients to power this time of your life. But a study by Deakin University found only 8 per cent of mothers met guidelines for combined fruit and vegetable intake in the first months after giving birth.[i]
Aim for 5 serves of vegetables every day.
The best ways to fight fatigue is by eating small meals regularly. Make sure the meals combine both protein and complex carbohydrates.
Only 10 per cent of women of childbearing age get the recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids, according to a 2016 study by the University of Wollongong.[ii] Omega-3s fatty acids – found mainly in fish and some nuts and seeds – are great for overall health. To get the daily recommended amount of omega-3 you should eat 2-3 serves of oily fish each week. For example, a can of salmon in water, can of tuna in water and a serve of fresh, silver perch.
Omega-3 fatty acids have shown benefits for mood and brain development in infants and children. Studies have found that people who consume omega-3s regularly are less likely to be depressed. [iii][iv][v] A study published in Plos One[vi] linked low levels of DHA with poorer reading, and memory and behavioural problems in healthy school-age children. Supplements are also available as an option for people who do not eat fish with marine-sourced omega-3s.
Our guts are home to trillions of bacteria that help with digestion, manage the growth of fungi and viruses, help with bowel function and protect us against pollutants and toxins. Good bacteria, otherwise known as probiotics, are essential to maintaining a healthy gut for you and your baby.
Give your tummy some loving with fermented foods like lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), fermented organic milks, various pickled foods, and fermented soy. Women and newborns who consume probiotics during pregnancy and infancy could reduce the risk of allergies by 50 per cent[vii], according to a UK study.
Sauerkraut, made from fermented cabbage, is low in calories and contains a species of bacteria known as lactobacilli; which helps digestive function and fights off harmful yeast in the body. A 2016 study[viii] found a two tablespoon serving of sauerkraut contained a recommended dose of bacteria beneficial for healthy guts.
A 2016 Australian study found early life nutrition in the unborn baby, infant and young child can have profound effects on long-term health.[ix]
Some additional recommendations during breastfeeding are:
Nursing women have unique nutritional needs that are not necessarily addressed by supplements you may have taken during pregnancy. Speak to your health professional about your particular needs.
One in three mothers did not meet the guidelines for physical activity, according to the Deakin University study.[i] You’re on the go all day with a new baby but it isn’t necessarily the right type of activity for your emotional or physical health.
Here are a few ways to support your emotional and physical health.
It is important to speak with your practitioner to ensure you are getting all the nutritional support you need for proper postnatal recovery and your baby's growth and development.
References available on request