If you are pretty close to welcoming your little one into the world, it is important to remember to nourish yourself to be strong for both you and your baby. In fact, giving birth has been compared to running a marathon in terms of impact on the body! So here are the best foods to eat to help you nourish your body for sustained energy and for better healing.
1. Before, during and after labour
- It is a good idea to eat little and often to keep your energy levels up at all time
- Listen to your body and eat something small when you are hungry
- Eating larger meals will make you feel nauseous
2. Days before D Day – gentle foods to ease digestion
Giving birth is a physical task that requires a lot of energy. If your digestion and transit are a bit slow, you may feel lethargic. Go for light meals and snacks that are easy to digest and that include complex carbohydrates, some protein, and healthy fat to stabilise blood sugar levels and energy. So for example, you could choose a small portion of brown rice or quinoa with oily fish like salmon and a nice range of cooked vegetables. Or you could go for a sliced apple with almond butter as a snack.
3. During labour – energy-releasing foods
Eating during early labour might still be possible and will provide you with well needed energy. You may not feel like it but if you do, go for healthy portable options like no added sugar energy bars like Nakd bars, dried fruit and nuts mix for a quick burst of energy, fresh fruits like bananas and apples or why not have a little pouch of apple compote. It is a good idea to purchase plenty of these to include them in your hospital bag so that you don’t have to rely on the hospital food. You never know how long you will need to stay in hospital for.
There are certain foods that should be avoided during labour. These include acidic foods like oranges and fizzy drinks which can be irritating for the digestive tract as well as high sugar high fat foods like cakes and pastries as they will make you feel tired and nauseous.
4. The first meal after giving birth
So, your baby has arrived and your new life as a parent is about to start. As well as getting acquainted with your precious little one, it is also time to nourish yourself. The quicker you replenish your body of valuable nutrients the easier the recovery.
Whether you had a natural birth or a C-section, your body will love soft, warm, comforting foods. They are easy to digest and your body will not have to work extra hard to absorb the nutrients.
The best first meal after giving birth would be either a chicken soup made with organic chicken and plenty of vegetables or a lentil or chickpea stew with warming spices such as ginger and turmeric. Both spices have anti-inflammatory properties to help with healing. A good quality chicken broth is healing because it contains collagen from the bones and nourishing with healthy fat and protein. You will find more healing recipes for new mums here. All these recipes can be made in advance and stored in the freezer for when needed.
5. The 4th Trimester Diet and beyond
During your pregnancy, your baby will have used up some of your nutrient reserves and the
4th trimester is the time to replenish those reserves. This is particularly the case for calcium, B6 and folate. Research shows that a lack of vitamin D, for example, is linked to the risk of postnatal depression.
- Although you may be keen to lose the weight gained during pregnancy, cutting out food groups to lose this weight is not recommended for the first few months. It’s time to focus on nourishment and healing. Nutritional deficiencies and imbalance can slow down the healing process and can potentially cause health issues later on.
- If you breastfeed your baby, it is advised to add 500 calories to your existing diet but everyone is different. What is important is to eat regularly to help you feel good throughout the day. A balanced diet should include a minimum of 2 portions of fruit and 3 of vegetables a day (particularly green leafy veg rich in vital minerals), wholegrains, iron-rich proteins such as meat, eggs, fish, beans and lentils, low-mercury oily fish and healthy fats. Eating the rainbow will help you get most of the nutrients your body needs and will also expose your baby to varied tastes if you breastfeed.
- It is so easy to forget to eat when you are busy with baby or you may simply feel too tired. Eating little but often can help sustain your energy. If you are up at night, try to have protein-rich snacks handy. Oatcakes with hummus, a handful of nuts or wholemeal bread with almond butter are all filling and nutritious.
- Post-natal constipation is pretty common for various reasons. To help things moving, drink plenty of water and you can also try including kiwi fruit (two whole fruits before breakfast), prunes, figs, flaxseed oil or aloe vera juice in your diet. Taking a magnesium supplement can also help. I recommend having regular short baths with Epsom Salt as it contains magnesium and it is a lovely way to get some well-deserved “me time”.
- It is also recommended that you carry on taking your prenatal vitamin supplement to replenish your vitamin and mineral stores fully. If you still feel tired while eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids, it is worth visiting your GP or your local nutritionist to identify any nutrient deficiencies.
Should you need more information about what to eat during the 4th trimester and beyond, go to my profile where you can download my free guide “I just had a baby, what should I eat?”. With meal ideas, a high energy shopping list and much more valuable information, you will feel strong and rejuvenated to enjoy your time with your baby.