Why to eat well for you and your baby

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We've teamed up with Mum Plus One to provide you with much-needed support to navigate life during the first year of your baby’s arrival.

You've just become a new mum and you're busy looking after your newborn baby.  Thinking about what (and when!) you should eat and drink is probably proving to be a challenge…. Nutritionist and wellbeing coach Monica Durigon explains why good nutrition is especially important for new mothers and shares the following tips to keep you healthy and your baby happy.

 

In this article, Monica explains that for physical and mental wellbeing, nourishing your body after having a baby is just as important as nourishing your body during pregnancy.  Foods you choose have a direct influence on your energy level and your mood. The right diet will also help you recover after giving birth, help you to produce breastmilk and will influence your hormones too.

Looking after you

 

Pregnancy and childbirth requires a tremendous amount of energy and puts a lot of stress on the mother's body. Caring for a newborn, especially as a new mum, is demanding and very tiring.

 

During the first few weeks at home with your new baby, your focus should stay on your health, energy, hormone balance and mental wellbeing.

 

Monica offers some valuable advice, "Be kind to yourself, rest whenever you can and allow room for recovery. Weight loss should not be your main priority. Nourishing your body, resting, and gentle movement/exercise will balance your hormones. When your body is healthy and rested, you will find that weight-loss will happen naturally."

 

 I'm breastfeeding - what should I eat?

 

"If you are breastfeeding, you will need additional calories, about 400 to 500 more than a non-breastfeeding mum" says Monica. "Don't limit your food intake whilst you are nursing your baby, and don't worry if you are eating more than usual because breastfeeding can help women lose baby weight. Your focus must stay on the quality of food rather than the quantity."

 

Monica advises new mums, "To maintain a steady supply of milk, it is crucial that you enjoy healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates with each meal and that you avoid or limit to a minimum the intake of unhealthy processed and sugary foods. Remember that anything you eat finds its way to your baby through your breast milk!"

 

Monica's tips for foods to include in your diet - the following recommendations apply to all new mums, whether you are breastfeeding or not:

 

Healthy fats

 

You can get healthy fats from oily fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil and probiotic full fat yoghurt. Omega-3s from oily fish are essential for brain health and mental wellbeing.

 

Proteins

 

Good protein sources are beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, meat, chicken, turkey, fish and eggs.

 

Carbohydrates

 

Your carbs intake should come from various fruit and vegetables, and whole grains such as brown rice, buckwheat, rye, whole wheat, and quinoa. Your plate should look like a rainbow with green from dark green leafy veggies such as spinach, kale, cavolo nero and broccoli, green beans, leeks… red from peppers, tomatoes, beetroots…yellow and orange from peppers, melon, pumpkins, squashes etc.

 

For the first few months after giving birth, keep on taking the same multivitamins and minerals you used during your pregnancy, your body still needs optimal amounts of those micronutrients. 

 

 

And don't forget to drink!

 

It's not just your baby that needs to drink.  Monica explains,

"Staying hydrated is vital for successful breastfeeding, and you should drink about 3 L. of water per day. Optimal hydration is essential even if you are not breastfeeding because it affects all aspects of your body biology and your energy levels too.” 

 

Monica advises, “Avoid plastic bottles and use glass or stainless-steel bottles instead. If you drink tap water, buy a filtering jug. The plastic in bottles, even when BPA free, contains chemicals which may leach into the contents of the bottle. These chemicals can disrupt hormone signalling in the body which means that in the long term they might lead to developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune dysfunction.”1

 

Remembering to take on enough fluid throughout the day may be challenging when looking after a newborn.  Monica recommends, "Establishing some routines in line with your baby's schedule will help, for example, each time you change a nappy, drink a big glass of water, when you finish breastfeeding, drink a glass of water, and so on."

 

Will eating certain types of food affect my baby via my breastmilk?

 

Some mothers find that eating intensely flavoured foods like onion, garlic, or spices can cause their babies to refuse to feed or become fussy after feeding. 

 

Monica points out that all babies are different. "However, there are some common signs that your diet may be affecting your baby. These are eczema, bloody stools, vomiting, diarrhoea, hives, constipation, wheezing, congestion, abnormal fussiness and excessive gas. If this is the case, consult your doctor for advice."

 

Foods to avoid when breastfeeding

 

According to Monica, the foods and substances you have been avoiding during pregnancy are also best avoided or kept to a minimum during breastfeeding. She explains, "Caffeine and alcohol will be transferred to the baby through your breast milk even if a small amount is consumed. If drinking alcohol, avoid doing it close to your breastfeeding time and ideally have a 2-3 hours gap between your drink and breastfeeding.”2

 

Monica also advises, "Only eat small-sized oily fish such as salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel and avoid the large size fish that accumulate a lot of mercury and pollutants which are toxic to you and the baby."

 

Healthy snacking

 

Although the occasional cup of tea with a slice of cake is fine, if you need a regular snack between your main meals, choose a healthy and practical option, such as a portion of fruit with some nuts and seeds." says Monica. "Some fruit choices are better than others at keeping your energy balanced; berries are the best followed by apples, pears, plums and citrus fruit." 

 

She adds "Avoid relying on dried fruit and sugary snacks as your regular go-to snack as they will imbalance your blood sugar level. Although they might make you feel better immediately, the energy is short-lived, and you will be left feeling low and with more cravings for sugar."

 

As a new mum, it's easy to focus all your time and attention on your new baby. But it's really important to look after yourself too, which includes eating well and nourishing your body. The healthier you feel, the better placed you are to cope with the challenges that a newborn can bring. 

Your postpartum diet should be similar to how you nourished your body during your pregnancy, based on whole, natural, nutrient-dense food to provide you with energy and the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to recover and produce breastmilk.
- Monica Durigon

References:

1. https://www.richmondchironeuro.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/The-Problem-with-Plastics_v4.pdf

2. Haastrup, M. B., Pottegård, A., & Damkier, P. (2014). Alcohol and Breastfeeding. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 114(2), 168-173. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcpt.12149

 

Our expert

 

Monica Durigon - Nutritional Therapist

Meet our expert Monica Durigon who is a qualified Nutritional Therapist, member of BANT (British Association of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine), CNCH (Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council), IFM (Institute of Functional Medicine) and BSLM (British Society of Lifestyle Medicine).
 

She strongly believes that the dietary and lifestyle choices we make every day not only shape our body and influence our physical and mental health, but they ultimately affect our whole life. 
 

Monica has a particular interest in brain health and healthy ageing. She works in London and internationally and creates and delivers bespoke nutritional programmes, and wellbeing coaching to optimize health and performance one to one and to corporate teams.


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