|Esther Catherine, just a few days old, with Big Brother Caedmon|
Right after having a baby is a critical time to eat well. You're recovering from perhaps the most physically demanding experience of your life, during which you lost sleep, burned a ton of calories, endured pain (or at least very intense pressure, for you hypnpbirthers out there), and PUSHED A BABY OUT OF YOUR BODY. If you've had a c-section, you're recovering from major surgery. Your body needs to heal and be replenished. Your job now is to rest, eat well, and take care of your baby.
(If you're not sure what I mean by eating well, read this: What is "Healthy"?)
If you're breastfeeding, the food you eat is nourishing your baby, too, just as much as it was during pregnancy. The composition of breast milk changes depending on what you eat, and a nourishing diet will also help ensure an adequate supply. As with all stages of parenting, you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your child!
Ironically, the postpartum period is perhaps one of the most difficult times in life to eat well. If you don't have enough help, it's easy to rely on take-out and convenience foods when you are hungry and don't have the time or energy to cook. And if you DO have help in the form of meals delivered from kind friends, you don't have any say in the nutritional content of those meals. Here are a few tips to help.
Six Tips for Eating Well After the Birth of a Baby
1) Set up a meal registry. Sites like Meal Baby or Take Them a Meal make it easy to keep track of who is bringing meals when. You send out invitations to people who you think might like to help, and they can sign up for specific dates right there on the site. An added benefit is that you can list preferences and food allergies without having to tell each person individually. If there are certain things your family is not willing to compromise on nutritionally, you can kindly let people know.
2) Stock your freezer. Having a stash of casseroles, soups, and ready made meal components (like hamburger patties, meatballs, cooked and shredded chicken, soaked and cooked beans) can help out immensely in those first few weeks after baby comes. Putting directions right on the bag or container makes it possible for someone other than the new mommy to pull it out and put it in the oven. I recommend getting started stocking your freezer during your second trimester when you're feeling your best!
3) Adopt an attitude of gratefulness. Our family has a general rule that we eat what we are served. We are blessed that we don't have any food allergies, so we have the freedom to do this. If we are eating at someone's house or at a potluck, we eat the food and enjoy it, even if it's not something we would eat at home. Gratefulness for someone's hospitality trumps our personal preferences and our desire to eat healthy food all the time. The same goes for meals delivered to our home. We eat them, and enjoy them. And then we make sure to eat real, nourishing food the rest of the time.
4) Rely on simple meals and snacks. Send your husband or your mom to the store to stock up on simple, whole foods that that others can easily prepare for you. Here are some of my favorites:
- fried eggs with whole grain toast (and plenty of butter)
- oatmeal with maple syrup and butter
- whole milk yogurt with fruit
- fruit smoothies (you can prepare baggies of frozen fruit ahead of time)
- cheese and crackers (I like Ak-Mak for their simple ingredient list)
- hummus and pita (get some feta and olives and you've got a gourmet treat!)
- ice cream (I just happened to make some dark chocolate peppermint ice cream the day before Esther was born. We certainly enjoyed that in those early days!)
- tuna salad (Now is not the time for homemade mayo. How about Greek yogurt and olive oil instead?)
6) Finally, keep taking your supplements. Supplements are not a substitute for good food, but they certainly help ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need, whether your diet is great or not. Here is what I took while I was pregnant. And even though my baby is now on the other side of my uterus, I'm still taking them. When I remember, that is. :)