So, at this milestone of 6 weeks for her, I realized I reached a milestone of my own. Two things happened that brought to light that I just might be starting to get a small hang of this mothering thing. 1) I actually made and ate a fresh salad and 2) I found the time to write this post!
Now, you might be thinking, what’s the big deal about making and eating a salad? Or finding time to hash out a blog post? Well, one of the things I didn’t fully realize before baby, was how little time I would actually feel I had to shop, prepare and eat food, or do anything besides cuddle, nurse, change baby and maybe catch a shower or some sleep. I feel like I’ve been in the twilight zone as far as meals and eating goes, and today I began (knock on wood) to turn a corner.
New parents are tired, worried, overjoyed, emotional and very, very busy meeting all of their baby’s needs. Yet, at the same time, as a mom who just finally made it out of 9 months of pregnancy, I know I was ready to start recuperating from labor and feeling better. Since eating can be a big part of feeling good and maintaining your much needed energy, I’m going to share some tips for eating well with a newborn based on what I’ve learned over these past 6 weeks.
1) You need protein often - most importantly this will help keep up your milk supply if you’re nursing. You need calories to produce milk and baby needs milk! It also helps you maintain your muscle and strength as you lose weight after pregnancy. Try easy grab n’ go proteins every 2-4 hours such as cottage cheese, Greek-style yogurt, nuts, nitrate-free deli meats, tuna salad (limit to once weekly while nursing due to mercury), roasted chicken (buy or make ahead and keep in fridge), milk, protein powder for smoothies. Combine a protein with an easy carbohydrate such as fresh or dried fruit, whole grain bread or crackers, or frozen banana in a smoothie with yogurt.
2) Keep dinner easy - at least in the beginning, don’t try to be wonder woman and make dinner every night. Let friends and family bring you meals, get some healthful take out such as Mediterranean food, fish tacos, or Mexican salads with rice and beans. You’ll burn out and be let down if you expect yourself to cook too much. I’ve had cereal with nuts or peanut butter and honey sandwiches many nights over these past few weeks.
3) Listen to and honor your hunger - you may feel increased hunger when you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding increases mom’s calorie needs by around 300-600 calories a day, plus you are healing from the delivery or c-section, and you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off learning how to nurture and care for your sweet baby. So don’t ignore your body’s hunger signals or you risk shutting down your metabolism and possibly even slowing your milk production.
4) Don’t OD on the caffeine - as much as you may feel you need that extra large Starbuck’s every morning, try to take it easy on the caffeine and stick to the amount you had during pregnancy. The biggest benefit here is that you will be able to sleep when your little one sleeps. If you don’t take advantage of the nap time, you could end up majorly sleep deprived and left just with jitters and headaches. Studies show some caffeine should not interrupt your infant’s sleep patterns or give tummy aches, but each baby and mom will be affected differently.
5) Eat fat - it’s vital for you and your baby to have healthy fats in your diet. Every day try to eat 2-4 servings of nuts, natural nut butter, fish, avocado, or olive oil. This helps maximize absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and also helps keep you satisfied and energized. These fats are a rich source of nutrients and calories which your body will appreciate as it’s healing, recovering, and feeding a growing newborn brain which grows 1% bigger every day! Brain tissue is largely composed of fat, so make sure to take a good quality omega-3 supplement that contains EPA and DHA which is readily passed on to your newborn through breast milk. If you’re not breastfeeding, feed your baby a formula that is fortified with DHA.
6) Don’t stress about your eating - no stress is good stress, so in the beginning it’s perfectly fine if you find yourself eating cookies and milk for breakfast and leftover pizza for lunch or just grabbing turkey slices out of the fridge with your free hand. Give yourself the time you need to even make simple meals come together. The bottom line is you need nourishment and calories - your body and baby will survive if you don’t have fruits and vegetables at every meal (or every day for that matter!) I know that for me, my entire mind was just consumed with meeting her needs and answering her cries and I didn’t even think about food for the first couple weeks. Keep taking a good quality prenatal vitamin, iron supplement and omega-3 daily to make up for any gaps in your diet. Everything will fall in to place as you learn how to be you in this new life of yours. Try some of the simple meals at the bottom of this post to get some balanced meals in.
7) Keep food in your diaper bag - I think almost every time I left the house the first few weeks I realized I was starving because my mind had been totally caught up in getting the baby ready to go on time that I forgot to feed myself. Keep almonds, dried apples and Larabars in the bag so you can get some calories and nutrition in when you need it. Sitting in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office might be the best time for your breakfast!
Quick, Nutritious Meals for Eating Well with a Newborn
- High fiber cereal with milk, nuts and fruit
- Protein smoothie: water, plain Greek-style yogurt (protein and calcium), frozen pineapple (for Vit C), banana, natural peanut butter (fat), hemp protein powder (for omega-3 and fiber)
- High fiber store-bought muffin or whole wheat English muffin with almond butter
- Cottage cheese, fruit, nuts and granola
- Peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with honey and cinnamon
- Nitrate-free deli meat sandwich with cheese or avocado
- Organic store-bought soup or chili with salsa and tortilla chips