Any woman who’s given birth knows how truly life-changing the experience is. This tiny bundle of joy is suddenly demanding all your attention, and any sense of routine often goes out the window! It’s important though for new mums to take time for themselves in the emotional weeks and months after giving birth. Choosing the right foods is crucial, as you want to ensure you’re getting all your required vitamins and nutrients – something that’s extra important if you’re breastfeeding your little one. Jennifer O’Callaghan is a nutritional therapist, health and wellness coach at Pure Results Bootcamp, a fitness retreat set up by Irish broadcaster, fitness guru (and new mum) Kathryn Thomas. The pair have plenty of advice when it comes to selecting the right foods at this exciting life stage.
“After having your baby, you shouldn't stop thinking about your own nutritional needs,” Jennifer begins. “Your body needs the right vitamins to get back on track after delivery. Moms who are breastfeeding also need to continue to take their baby's nutritional needs into consideration.” Sleep deprivation is usually something that comes with the territory, meaning new mums don’t have much time to whip up healthy meals. “When you’re tired,” says Jennifer, “choose foods that require little or no preparation. Maybe look at doing some online shopping if this will help save time. Try one-pot dishes too, so that you have enough food cooked for two days.”
For Kathryn, it’s important to have healthy snacks on hand too. “Lack of sleep, combined with breastfeeding, means I feel really tired from about 6pm onwards, almost like I’m hungover! This is when I need a sugar hit, so I’ve made sure to stock the fridge with homemade protein balls. I also make my own homemade granola, full of roasted seeds and nuts when I get the chance. I eat blueberries like they’re going out of fashion – again, it helps in some way with the sweet cravings that crop up.”
Tiredness in these weeks and months may also be caused by low iron levels. “New moms are often exhausted,” says Jennifer, “and may need a more iron-rich diet. They might have lost a fair amount of blood during the birth, and some mothers can suffer with anaemia afterwards too. A lack of iron can drain your energy levels, so try to look at increasing foods like lean red meats, spinach, egg yolks, and green leafy vegetables. Having Vitamin C-rich foods with them helps in the absorption of the iron – try citrus fruits, tomatoes, kiwis, and broccoli.” Kathryn is following this advice at the moment. “I had low iron levels during the latter stages of my pregnancy,” she explains, “and after giving birth to my daughter, Ellie. As well as taking iron supplements, I’m eating red meat twice a week, and lots of green leafy veg, like spinach and broccoli."
Calcium is another essential when it comes to post-partum nutrition, according to Jennifer. “Women need appropriate amounts of calcium in their diets at all stages of life,” she says, “and new mothers are no exception. Try your best to include dairy products, dark leafy greens, broccoli, almonds, sesame seeds, and figs in your diet.” Omega-3 fatty acids are another must, she adds. “You’ll find them in salmon, sardines and trout, flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds.”
Need some more inspiration? Jennifer recommends the following quick, nutritious snacks:
- Fresh fruit and nuts
- Raw vegetables with hummus
- Melted cheese on wholegrain / spelt toast
- Oat cake / rye cracker and cottage cheese
- Apple and nut butter
- Natural yoghurt with sunflower seeds
Irish Life Health members get a 5% discount for Pure Results Bootcamps. Log in to our member area to claim your discount.
Speak to your doctor or nutritionist if you have any concerns about your health or diet, and let them know if you’re considering taking a supplement.