Time is precious when you’ve had a baby. The last thing you want to do is spend time cooking and preparing complicated meals. However, just as in pregnancy, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting all the appropriate nutrients to keep both you and your baby healthy and to get you through those long sleep deprived days.
Research tells us that the nutrition a baby receives from the point of conception through to their 2nd birthday can positively affect their growth and development both now and in the future. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, your family eating habits will set the trend and when your baby begins their weaning journey they will be introduced to these habits too.
Wow – that really puts the pressure on hey? Well fear not new Mums, it’s never too late to make a few changes to your eating habits and I am here to help you!
Follow my top tips for eating well with a new baby to keep you well nourished and to get your baby off to a great start.
1. Including foods from the 4 main foods groups is a great way to ensure you get a variety of nutrients in your diet. Here’s how you can do it….
Fruits and Vegetables
• Aim for at least five portions per day – a portion is around 80g
• Tinned fruit counts but should be tinned in juice not syrup
• Tinned vegetables should be in plain water not salted or sugared water
• Fruits and veggie sticks are great for snacks. Dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, dates and figs are a good option if you’re craving something sweet to hit the spot.
Breads, Rice, Potatoes and Other Starchy Foods
• Include foods from this food group at each meal time
• Choose wholemeal or wholegrain varieties wherever possible e.g. brown rice, wholewheat pasta, brown, wholemeal multigrain or seeded bread, oats, quinoa, bulgar wheat, wholemeal pitta or tortilla wraps. The extra fibre can aid constipation and improve digestive health.
• For snacks, something like oatcakes, Ryvita, wholemeal wraps or a slice of wholemeal toast will also help to boost your fibre intake and keep your digestive system healthy.
Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other non-dairy sources of protein
• Aim for these foods at least twice daily. They are a good source of protein but also contain iron (especially red meats)
• Try to include fish at least twice each week. One of these portions should be oily fish e.g. salmon, herrings, mackerel, sardines, trout
• New Mums should limit shark, swordfish and marlin to once per week
• If you’re prone to low iron levels or suffered with this during pregnancy it’s especially important to include these foods in your diet wherever possible. Red meats are a great source of iron and are easily absorbed by the body, but fish, eggs and poultry also all contain some iron. For vegetarian sources of iron go for beans, pulses, lentils, nuts and seeds at least 2-3 times every day.
Milk and Dairy Foods
• Aim for at least 3 portions daily e.g, milk on your breakfast cereal, cheese spread with oatcakes as a mid-morning snack and a yoghurt for dessert after lunch.
• Choose semi skimmed milk, low fat yoghurts and reduced fat cheeses
• Cheese with a mould rind or blue veined cheeses which should be avoided during pregnancy are now safe to eat even if you’re breastfeeding
2. Don’t forget about drinks
• Aim to have regular drinks throughout the day especially if you are breastfeeding.
• Water, milk and a small glass of pure fruit juice are good options
• Alcohol will pass through the breast milk to the baby and should ideally be avoided. If drinking alcohol aim for no more than 1-2 units once or twice a week and ideally avoid alcohol for at least 2 hours before breastfeed
• Caffeine can also pass to the baby when breastfeeding and may cause the baby to become unsettled. Avoid or limit tea, coffee and other drinks containing caffeine
• Continue taking a Vitamin D supplement. All breastfeeding (and pregnant) women are recommended to take a vitamin D supplement (10mcg) every day to support good bone and teeth health. If you’re breastfeeding your baby is also recommended to have a vitamin D drop (8.5-10mcg) daily. Drops for your baby can be bought from most pharmacies and can be dropped onto your nipple just before feeding. Many brands are available. Ask your pharmacist or get in touch if you're unsure.
4. Be realistic
Not every day will go to plan (new baby or not!) and no doubt you’ll become very efficient at eating one handed with a baby firmly snuggled into the other! Nutritious food doesn’t have to have to be complicated food nor does it have to be beautifully presented. It needs to be appetising and practical for you to prepare and eat. These simple non-cook meal ideas cover the key food groups mentioned above and take no time at all to prepare making them perfect for hungry, sleep deprived mummies
o Scrambled egg on toast (add smoked salmon for a dose of omega 3 fats if you like) with cherry tomatoes and avocado slices
o Beans on toast with grated cheese
o Pitta bread pizzas, top with ham, cheese and sliced peppers or whatever toppings take your fancy
o Cheese and spinach omelette served with a crusty bread roll
o Peanut Butter and banana sandwiches with a drizzle of honey
o Mixed bean wrap (tinned mixed beans are ideal) with carrot and celery sticks
o Wholemeal bagel spread with hummous and grated carrot
5. Don't be afraid to ask for help
When friends and family visit after the birth of a baby they might ask if there's anything you need. My advice, after having 2 babies of my own, is to speak up and ask them to bring you some good old home cooked food. Freezer friendly dishes are all the more welcome and if they can send someone to do the washing up afterwards too they're definitely a friend for life!