This guest blog is from the lovely Laura who is the founder of the wonderful The Pregnancy Food Company.
Preparing for baby to arrive often involves the purchasing of many items; clothing, cots, prams, wipes, nappies, changing tables…the list seems to go on and on, and on! But all too often I see mummies who have prepared everything for after the birth, except for one of the most important factors in post birth care - their own nourishment!
Conceiving, growing and birthing a baby should not be underestimated; it’s a gargantuan task for the female body - and one that uses many nutrients, not just from the foods mum is eating but also from her own nutrient stores. In fact, if the growing foetus doesn’t have enough access to specific nutrients such as calcium it will pinch stores from mum’s bones, and even fat from her brain. Mother Nature is all about providing for the next generation, but since we have moved on a bit now in modern day life, we have the tools and knowledge to successfully look after ourselves at the same time so we can enjoy (for the most part) Motherhood.
If we think of pregnancy and breastfeeding in terms of a bank account, where nutrient withdrawals are constantly being made, it makes sense to replenish these with an increase in deposits! Sometimes, what mum’s consider a normal part of post birth such as low mood, extreme fatigue, illness and slow healing, may in fact be due to a lack of nutrients.
A man called Dr. Oscar Serrallach has even gone so far as to label this as ‘post natal depletion syndrome’ which he says can last many years if not rectified, and presents itself in many of the ways I just mentioned. This syndrome is exacerbated if multiple pregnancies are carried in a short space of time.
So, how can we look after ourselves and prevent these issues?
In many eastern cultures they have traditions whereby mum is looked after and fed by her family whilst she gets to know her baby and establish breastfeeding. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have much of that over here, although I do think society is becoming more aware of how we need to treat our new mummies. There are a few things that mum can do for ‘self care’.
Preparing foods before the birth in the form of batch cooking and freezing is a life saver. Think along the lines of hearty, warming foods such as soups, cottage pie, fish pie, stews - cooking meat for a long time on a low temperature allows the nutrients to be more easily absorbed so something like pulled pork is great too.
Including a wide variety of different coloured veggies helps boost vitamin intake and fibre, which can help keep your bowels moving after birth. Without talking about poop for too long (!) it’s one of the main ways our bodies detox from chemicals and excess hormones so we need to be going once a day ideally. Adding in chia seeds, prunes and dates can help - as can a magnesium supplement.
Healthy fats are essential after birth for many functions in the body and are especially useful in the production of breastmilk. Good sources include fatty fish, avocados, nuts & seeds, cold olive oil and butter.
Wholegrains can help with breastmilk supply and boost energy levels too. I like to use jumbo oats or sourdough bread, staying away mostly from pasta and heavily processed carbohydrates.
Snack wisely! Snacking in the post partum period is a chance to get even more nutrients in between meals. Choose low sugar snacks such as boiled eggs, carrots & hummus, apple & cheese, nuts&seeds.
Investing in a good supplement is essential, and, if antibiotics have been taken after the birth its a good idea to take some probiotics too. We love Wild Nutrition supplements for general vitamins/minerals and for probiotics, source an ‘acidophilus’ type with at least 20 billion CFU.
Our bodies will produce the best breastmilk it possibly can, no matter what we eat. However, preventing nutrient depletion for mum and boosting certain nutrients in breastmilk for baby can never be a bad thing!
Whilst feeding on demand and regular full draining of the breast is the most effective method of boosting milk supply, we can also support this by having good hydration and including galactagogue foods such as oats, flaxseed, nutritional yeast and fennel. We sell lactation oaties and tea which make a delicious snack for hungry mamas!
There are certain nutrients that can be boosted in breastmilk through mum’s intake and this includes Vitamin A, essential fatty acids and Vitamin D. It’s a good idea to take a breastfeeding and omega 3 supplement to boost these nutrients, especially if vegan or vegetarian as food sources of these come from fatty fish, meats and eggs.
A few tips for prevent common issues after birth
Mastitis & blocked ducts
We can help to prevent the onset of mastitis through choosing foods that contain lecithin:
Thrush is a common issue when breastfeeding and can be very painful to feed. Certain foods can encourage thrush, so if you believe you have it or are more susceptible to thrush, it’s wise to avoid the following: Sugary foods/drinks. Simple carbohydrates (sweets, white bread etc) Yeast containing foods such as bread, mushrooms, Fruit juice, dairy and artificial sweeteners.
Acidophilus probiotics can help tackle gut bacteria imbalance which often occurs after a treatment of antibiotics. As can consuming prebiotics such as banana, artichoke, garlic, asparagus.
Urinary tract infections
Are also very common after birth. Avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine, aspartame and dried fruits if you think you have one. Increase water intake, vitamin C, unsweetened cranberry juice, and D mannose.
And finally, our top post partum superfoods!
So mummies, don’t forget to look after yourself as well as your little family, you are just as important.
to. If you need some support with your pre or postnatal nutrition visit Laura's website to find out more about her services.