Pregnancy and childbirth is powerful and life-changing, transforming a woman’s life from the inside out. Here are a few key nutrition tips for creating a healthy foundation for your newborn from the very start of motherhood.
BY: CRYSTAL KARGES, MS, RDN, IBCLC
The process of bringing a child into the world and all that it entails is an experience that is unmatched. Physically, emotionally, and mentally – the process of becoming a mother is a selfless investment and giving of oneself to this labor of love.
As mothers, there is never a more important time to start with you. This will ensure that your child is receiving the very best start at life as a result from your own self-care and wellness. During a time saturated with change, transformation, and selfless day-to-day sacrifices, it becomes all too easy to put your own needs on the back burner. However, it is precisely during this time that self-care and nurturance is of the utmost priority.
Here are a few key tips to nourish and create a healthy foundation for you and your baby:
1. Give yourself time to recover from childbirth
It takes approximately nine months to grow and develop a baby. The process of recovering from the radical changes occurred over this time period should be expected to take just as long. Physical and emotional healing from the creation of life is no easy feat, nor is it something that should be expected in a matter of days or even weeks.
Proper nutrition is a crucial element to restoring your body and maintaining your overall wellness, allowing you to not only heal from the experience of pregnancy and childbirth, but in serving as a key foundation to your ability to flourish as a mother. Adequately feeding yourself can seem nearly impossible in the midst of diapers, sleepless nights, appointments and more, and cooking. In fact, that might be thrown out the window altogether! Simplifying your approach to nutrition can enable you to optimally care for yourself during this important time of your life.
2. Aim for simple, key building blocks
Not only is your body recovering and healing from childbirth, but breastfeeding also puts additional demands on your body that must be met by adequate nutrition. Feeding your body might feel like an afterthought compared to the needs you are meeting around the clock for your newborn, but good nutrition does not have to be a complicated thing.
The key building blocks of nutrition that your body needs can be broken down into carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. All provide sources of energy and nutrients that your body needs during this time period. Building meals on this framework can simplify the process of eating. Here are examples of foods that fall into these categories and ways to build a meal or snack that is providing your body with nutrients needed:
- Whole-grain breads
- Grains (such as rice, oats, quinoa, and couscous)
- Starchy vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, squashes, corn and potatoes)
- Dairy products
- Any animal based products, including poultry, fish, and meat
- Cottage cheese
- Oils (such as olive oil and coconut oil)
- Peanut and other nut butters
- Salad dressings
- Whole eggs
3. Plan and prepare ahead for meals and snacks
Often when we think of meals and snacks, we become overwhelmed at the thought of structuring something with multiple components. Keeping meals simple will make it more likely for you to put it together, even when pressed for time or while holding your newborn. Eating frequently throughout the day can also ensure you are consistently providing your body with good sources of nutrition.
Many dishes can be put together with little preparation, which is helpful when caring for a newborn. Purchase food items that are semi-prepped, like fresh chopped or peeled fruits, vegetables, salad kits, and soup bases can help you minimize food prep time. Keeping simple foods like this on hand will be key during this phase of your recovery.
Consider utilizing grocery delivery services to minimize effort of shopping, or enlist family members and friends to help cover the shopping duties. Other ideas for maximizing effort in the kitchen might include batch cooking (making additional portions of meals to use for later), using crock pots, and freezer cooking.
4. Aim for progress, not perfection
The last thing you need on your plate at this point is added guilt or stress. Food is not meant to be a stressful thing and in its basic, most simple form, is meant for nourishment and pleasure. Your body just created a miracle and deserves to be treated with respect and care. Proper nutrition is a tangible means of doing such, but this by no means need to be a “perfect” thing. Enjoy eating when you can, feed your body good food often, and remember that your efforts in self-care are an extension of love to the precious being you created.
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Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a San Diego-based private practice dietitian helping others embrace their health for themselves and their loved ones. Focusing on maternal/child health and eating disorders, Crystal creates the nurturing, safe environment that is needed to help guide individuals towards a peaceful relationship with food and their bodies.