Postnatal Nutrition - Where to start?
During pregnancy there is so much information on what to eat and what to avoid.
Postnatally the focus shifts to the baby; how much milk do they need? Am I
producing enough? What essential nutrients does the baby need to grow and
thrive? But what about you? Having gone through a full pregnancy and birth, the
physiological stresses on the body are huge. A brand new mum needs all the
nutrients to replenish and support her bodily systems in order to function and look
after both the baby, and herself. Here is some guidance on where to start:
Vitamins and Minerals
In the last trimester, your baby takes what it can in order
to get ready for their entrance into the big wide world; great for baby, but leaving
you somewhat depleted. You’re going to be low in vitamins and minerals,
especially zinc and magnesium, so try and include vitamin dense foods like,
berries, dark leafy greens such as cavolo nero, kale and broccoli in your diet.
Smoothies are a great, easy way to give your body a powerhouse of nutrients.
You can pre-bag up the ingredients and pop them in the freezer for a quick go to
when time is short.
The sunshine vitamin! Vitamin D regulates so many essential systems in the
body, your immune system especially. Post birth your immune system needs all
the support it can get. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
(NICE) recommends that pregnant and lactating women take a vitamin D
supplement of 10 micrograms (or 400 units) daily. Unfortunately the amount of
Vitamin D required for our systems can’t be found in food alone, it’s the sun we
need and as the UK doesn’t have a lot of that, supplementation, especially in the
darker months is really important.
A lot of mums experience low iron during pregnancy, and going through birth will
also deplete stores. Being low in iron will leave you feeling fatigued straight off
the bat. You can ask your doctor to check your iron levels (Haemoglobin and
Ferritin), and make sure your diet includes iron rich food sources such as leafy
greens, darker meats and lentils.
Also known as Essential fatty acids, these are needed in pregnancy for foetal
central nervous system growth and development, especially DHA. Every cell in
your body needs good fats to be able to communicate with each other properly.
Postnatally, these good fats allow for good quality breast milk too. You find them
in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and anchovies as well as in olive oil,
avocado and a good nutter butter. Energy balls are quick to make and can be
kept in the fridge for when you need that boost.
My goodness, absolutely yes to carbs, you’ll need the energy! I remember being
pretty much fuelled by tea and toast in those early weeks with a newborn, getting
through each day with quick fixes of simple carbohydrate foods; a piece of cake
here, a flapjack there. However the simpler the carbohydrate the more stress it
puts on your bod. Yes, you’ll get a quick rush, but your blood sugar will soon
crash and you will find yourself reaching for a quick Hobnob or bagel again before
too long. Carbs are really important postnatally; they fuel your energy levels for
longer, keep up your milk supply, and can give you a variety of vital nutrients. But
we need slow release carbs, helping to balance our blood sugar which is key to
getting through those late nights and early mornings. Recommended carbs
include sweet potatoes, oats, brown rice, butternut squash and fruit. A bircher
muesli made the night before is a great way to set you up for the day.
Many parents of babies and young children pretty much rely on their coffee or tea
fix to stay upright some days, with the need for the instant fix that your cuppa
gives you in those early weeks quickly becoming a habit. However the boost you
feel from caffeine is a cortisol (hormone) response, which means it puts your
body in an internal stressed state, impacting on sleep, mood and milk supply.
Caffeine also blocks the absorption of the minerals your body needs, as
described above. I’m not saying you should say no to caffeine completely; 1 or 2
cups a day is ok and there are some good quality decaf options out there. Some
decaf options I really like are Decadent Decaf and Clipper Tea. These brands
don’t use nasty chemical solvents to strip away the caffeine so you get a clean
Nutritional Therapy with a focus on natural healing to optimise your wellbeing.
Working together on this positive journey towards feeling your best self.