Happy Mother’s Day! Today, children around the world are (hopefully) treating their mothers to a day of pampering, be it at a fancy restaurant, spa or even by serving them breakfast in bed. Today, the world appreciates just how much mothers do – they juggle their lives, their careers, their children’s lives as well as their homes. This popular song captures the essence of being a mother perfectly:
Of course, Super Moms take a little time to find their capes. New mothers often feel far from being super moms – they rotate between being sleep deprived, overcome with love for their new baby, surprise about how much their body has changed and worried about the responsibilities that they now hold. While we can’t do much to help alleviate your worries (you’ll get the hang of it, our mothers promise) we can give new mothers some tips about managing their diet so they can help their energy levels as well as ensure that their new baby is receiving adequate nutrition through breast milk. Here are three factors that the right diet can help a new mother with:
Nutrition for your Baby
If you are nursing, the amount of nutrients and vitamins that breast milk contains is pretty constant no matter what you eat. However (however), if your diet is not providing the nutrients required to go into the breast milk, your body will take these nutrients from your own stores leaving you weaker. So, it’s in the interest of both your own and your baby’s health to ensure you are taking in all the required nutrients that are found in breast milk.
One recommended food that breastfeeding women should have is salmon, which contains DHA, a type of fat that will help your baby’s nervous system develop. Additionally, some studies suggest that DHA may help prevent postpartum depression. The US FDA recommends you limit your daily salmon intake to 12 ounces per day to avoid the risk of mercury contamination. So, try swapping out salmon a few times a week with nuts, seeds, whole grains and dark leafy vegetables that also contain DHA. Eggs are also a good source of the fat.
While everyone knows the importance of folic acid during pregnancy, the vitamin is also beneficial post birth as it helps your baby develop. An increased intake of folic acid gets absorbed into your breast milk. Great sources of folic acid are lentils, dried beans, peas, nuts, avocados and dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, collard, okra, asparagus and spinach.
Additionally, every new mother needs to be sure to stay well hydrated throughout the day as dehydration can cause a decrease in breast milk production. Swap out a few glasses of water with natural juices and milk but stay away from tea and coffee; caffeine is absorbed into breast milk and can affect your baby’s sleep cycles.
As any mother would attest, the first few months after giving birth are a sleep deprived blur. Your infant is constantly wailing, demanding food, cleaning or simply attention. Even when he or she is sleeping, you sleep uneasily so as to always be ready to jump up with the slightest cry. To give you energy during these months, you need to ensure you are following an appropriate diet.
Water, for one, is essential. As we mentioned before, a dehydrated body will produce less breast milk. However, the body will first tap into your own fluids to produce the milk, which will drain your energy and leave you exhausted and irritable. In short – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Instead of reaching for sugar laden snacks in the hope that they will give you a boost of energy, eat fruits such as apples, mangoes, bananas and pomegranates. The sugar in fruits releases into your body gradually, protecting you from the sugar crash that is caused by foods with simple sugars. Additionally, fruits contain fibres that will help your digestive system.
Ensure you eat a good hearty breakfast each morning with lots of eggs, cereals and yogurt to give you a dose of energy for the day ahead. “A protein-rich, complex carbohydrate-rich breakfast is very important – and probably the opposite of what most people do,” said James Sears, the co-author of The Baby Book to BabyCenter.com. A new mother should also try eating smaller meals throughout the day (opt for five small meals instead of three) so as to constantly replenish energy levels.
While it’s not high on a list of priorities for a new mother, it is at the back of many minds. Pregnancy transforms your body and in order to start feeling like yourself again, you may need to shed a few kilos. Feeling good about oneself makes one a better caregiver, many experts suggest. However, resist the temptation to go on a crash diet; we’ve already outlined the necessity of eating properly for both you or your baby’s health. Instead, fill your diet with super foods with low calories.
Suhasini Mudraganam, the head nutritionist at Truweight, a Bangalore based holistic weight loss service that gives professional advice about diets and workout plans for workouts according to individual requirements said “A new mother requires maximum nutrition compared to any other stage of her life. Care should be taken to choose foods that are nutrient dense rather than calorie dense. Aim for a well-balanced diet incorporating variety of foods.”
Subsequently, Mudraganam suggests, incorporate low fat milk products such as yogurt and buttermilk into a new mother’s diet as these products contain vitamin D for better calcium absorption and probiotics for a healthy gut.
“Cut out processed and polished white carbs,” she adds. “Brown rice, quinoa, oats, millets, whole grain breads are nutrients dense and rich in fiber. Whole grains will raise the insulin and blood sugar levels gradually in the blood, which can avoid fat storage.”
Additionally, she recommends upping an intake of leafy greens, which are rich in calcium, iron, folate, vitamins and low on calories as well as an intake of lean meats and legumes which are sources of protein and will make a new mother feel full for longer.
For snacks, she recommends “Choose whole fruits or a handful of nuts and seeds that are rich in good fats and protein when hungry. Avoid snacks that have empty calories like biscuits, concentrated fruit juices, colas etc.”
So, if you’ve become a new mother, first off – congratulations and happy Mother’s Day! Second, don’t fret about low energy levels and excess weight; follow these tips and your new parenting experience will be enhanced greatly.