Nutrition can be really hard when you're a new mom. So many things in your life are changing — your daily routine, how much sleep you get, and, of course, all of the processes that happen in your body to help you heal and support your baby. Since your baby still depends on you for nutrition if you’re breastfeeding, it’s just as important to pay attention to what you’re feeding your body during the postpartum period as it is during pregnancy. Even if you're not nursing, your body still needs a constant supply of the right nutrients to support you during this time in order to recover.
BALANCING YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
When it comes to eating and managing your energy levels as new mom, the key is balancing your blood sugar. Just like I teach all of my clients, it's best to focus on eating balanced meals that focus on fat, fiber, protein and greens since these are the key nutrients that will keep you from riding the crazy roller coaster that is blood sugar highs and lows. Combined with sleepless nights, and everything else that comes with new mom life, that roller coaster will make it really hard to feel your best or lose the baby weight.
YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO
Honestly, there's not really a huge difference in how you should eat when you're pregnant versus after your baby is born. I know for me personally, I was craving carbohydrates when I was pregnant and I tried to satisfy those cravings with better-for-you options. At the end of the day, during your pregnancy (and after!) you want to support your body and your baby by eating well.
6 NUTRITION TIPS
Here are 6 nutrition tips I've found helpful post-pregnancy and that I teach all of my new-mom clients:
1. Ditch processed carbs for nutrient-dense, low-glycemic carbs
When you're pregnant and not feeling well, a lot of the times you’ll crave carbs and starchy foods. After you have your baby, you're probably going to feel really hungry between breastfeeding and not sleeping as much. Being hangry and tired isn’t fun, but don't let that make you turn to things like pizza, sandwiches or other carb-heavy meals because those will send your blood sugar out of control.
When you're craving carbs, focus on slow carbs like sweet potato and squash. These types of carbs are rich in fiber and will help you feel satisfied and calm your cravings. In general, you want to choose carbs that are lower in net-carbs (carbs minus fiber) and high in fiber since those types of carbs are more nourishing and balancing. When you’re super busy (and what new mom isn’t?), some examples of quick-grab products I recommend are paleo Barely Bread, Jillz Crackers, and Flackers. These high-fiber options have a minimal effect on your blood sugar and are made from only a few whole-food ingredients.
2. Be smart with snacking
I usually like my clients to avoid snacking and instead eat satisfying Fab 4 meals every 4-6 hours, but things can change after you have your baby. Breastfeeding and lack of sleep can really turn on hunger. Plus, your body is still healing from giving birth and it needs lots of nutrients to do that. Hence the increased appetite. Listen to your body and your hunger signals, and if you need a snack, then have one! The last thing you want to do is stress your body more than necessary.
Now that I'm breastfeeding, I’m 10 times hungrier than when I was pregnant, so I certainly know how snacking can help support your energy levels. The key to making snacks work for you is to try to lean on protein and fat. It's really important that you're getting the majority of your calories from healthy fats (like avocado and almond butter) that are going to satisfy you, and a good amount of protein as well.
To give you an example of my current eating routine: I still wake up and have my Fab 4 smoothie, but now if I get hungry mid-morning I might have a hard-boiled egg, too. For the most part, I can still get from breakfast to lunch without snacking, but it's the time between lunch and dinner that I definitely feel like I need food. Something that I've been doing to satisfy that need is eating Jillz Crackers topped with avocado. Or, if we have some rotisserie chicken in the fridge, I’ll eat a bit of that. If I’m on the go and a bar would work better, I like the Bulletproof bars or the new Almond Spice and Peanut Butter Primal Kitchen protein bars. I also have containers of nuts in my kitchen, so if I need to I grab a handful of nuts I can after nursing.
3. Stay hydrated
It's really important to drink a lot of water when you're breastfeeding, not only for your body but also to help you produce milk. Dehydration will make you feel more tired and sluggish, and can really be a problem when it comes to nursing. I always aim for drinking half of my bodyweight in ounces, and anytime I breastfeed, I fill up a glass of water first and drink that while I'm breastfeeding.
4. Take your supplements
It's super important to keep taking your prenatal vitamins even after your pregnancy because when you're breastfeeding your body can become depleted of its natural stores of nutrition while trying to feed your baby. That’s when you're going to suffer. Preventing deficiencies is the best way to help rebalance hormones post birth and support the production of prolactin, the breastfeeding hormone.
Another supplement you'll want to keep taking, or add to your routine is Omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil supplements. Omega 3's are amazing for brain health and inflammation, both things you (and your baby) need.
5. Keep gut health in check
In the end of your pregnancy your gut bacteria really changes. A lot of it can come from eating poor quality foods when you're pregnant. The gut bacteria becomes more proinflammatory and we also become insulin resistant due to hormonal fluctuations. Both of these contribute to gaining weight. Another issue that can happen after delivering a baby is yeast infections, and those can even get passed to your baby through the nipples while nursing.
This is yet another reason to continue to watch sugar and carbohydrates. Loading up the fiber will keep the digestion going and feed the good, healthy bacteria in your gut. Also, it's a good idea to repopulate the healthy bacteria with a probiotic. Especially postpartum, when you're passing those healthy probiotics to your baby as you nurse. And, if you're not breastfeeding, you should definitely consider a probiotic for your baby.
6. Turn to flax meal over oats to support milk supply
A trend that is really popular with new mamas right now is the lactation cookies and bars that claim to support milk supply. Most of these cookies and bars are basically desserts that are filled with sugar and carbs. I tell my clients to avoid these products because even though they may "work" and help increase milk supply, it's only because your blood sugar spikes when you eat those products, and there are definitely better ways to promote this without having to deal with the aftermath of blood sugar chaos.
Something you can do that's much better for your blood sugar, hormones, and energy levels is add flax meal to your diet. I use 3-4 tablespoons every morning in my smoothie. If you're currently using oats to help with supply, I would say aim for swapping out bowls and bowls of oats with a few tablespoons of oats to your smoothie. Make sure you’re using real, gluten-free oats not quick oats. Then, work toward fully switching out your oats for flax meal since they are much easier on your blood sugar and insulin levels.
The science isn't really strong on what helps support breast milk production unfortunately, so I would say if you're feeling low on supply, lean on the teas that contain fennugreek and flax meal.
And, of course, always consult with your doctor on major changes in your diet and nutrition.