Everybody says to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps,’ but what do you do about eating? It’s almost impossible to eat when they eat, and not even an option to eat when they’re not eating. These nutrition tips for new moms can help.
A major contributing factor to the depletion that affects moms is simply the fact that we’re not getting enough nutrients throughout postpartum. We don’t have the time – or enough hands – to feed ourselves, too. We’re left with cold coffee, warm smoothies, and the scraps of our toddler’s breakfast that we finally stuff into our mouths at 3 pm.
When we finally start thinking about how we feel and what we need, it can become overwhelming. We had a village throughout pregnancy, telling us what supplements to take, what nutrients to prioritize, what not to eat, what to make sure to eat.
And now? Now it feels like we’re on our own. We’re getting bombarded with advice on feeding a baby, with little-to-no guidance on nourishing ourselves best.
We know postpartum nutrition is important; we know we “should” be doing this-or-that to heal our postpartum bodies and fuel this new life, but the information out there is minimal and, worse, conflicting, making the whole thing just one more stressful task that we don’t have the capacity to navigate.
Eating while stressed – and being stressed about eating – inhibits digestion and absorption of nutrients, contributes to dysbiosis, plays a big role in inflammatory conditions throughout the body, and more.Olivia Kelava
Stress can be incredibly damaging to the body, and when you attach stress to food, it’s essentially a recipe for disaster. I always teach my clients that one of the key components of an optimal diet is that it’s as stress-free and enjoyable as possible. As a nutritionist working with new moms, a big part of my job is to bring some ease into nourishing ourselves.
My top six stress-free nutrition tips for new moms
When it comes to nourishing yourself as a new mother, it’s all about consuming the essential nutrients to heal postpartum and fuel motherhood. Ideally, you can achieve this without bringing more overwhelm into an already stressful life transition.
1. Make each bite as nutrient-dense as possible
Your time to eat is limited, and we’re often doing it one-handed on the go, so our food must pack a nutrition punch. I like to do this by using ‘boosters’ like nuts, seeds, spices, and herbs.
To boost your soups, salads, smoothies, oatmeal, etc., add ingredients like:
- Hemp hearts
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Fresh herbs
- Ground turmeric
- Nutritional yeast
These additional ingredients ensure that you’re packing your food with omega-3s, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and other essential nutrients.
And if you have the availability to make a batch of power balls (like these dark chocolate peanut butter energy-boosting bites) or muffins for grab-and-go snacks, then make sure you’re getting creative with adding as much good stuff into those snacks as possible.
2. Prioritize breakfast no matter what
Is breakfast always the most important meal of the day? Not necessarily. Every situation and person is different. But the vast majority of the time that I’m working with new moms, I’m encouraging them to put a bigger emphasis on breakfast and to load it up with protein and fiber.
Doing so will set hormones up for a successful day, help to stabilize blood sugar (and energy and mood), and keep you satiated for longer.
As a new mom myself, I also find that there’s really no way to predict how the day will go, so all the good intentions for lunch and even dinner might get thrown out the window. So, set up whatever system you have to, and lean on your partner to ensure that breakfast gets checked off the list each morning.
It can really help to have some easy and nutrient-dense breakfasts in your rotation that you make the night before. Easy options like smoothies, pancakes, chia pudding, and overnight oats are some of my favorites.
3. Create a go-to list of no-prep snacks
Make-ahead snacks that you can batch cook – like muffins, loaded cookies, and power balls – are great when you get the opportunity, but putting them on your to-do list can be overwhelming and stressful when you already feel like you don’t have the time.
Try creating a list of no-prep nutrient-dense snacks that you can keep on hand.
- Fresh fruit with nut butter
- A handful of mixed nuts
- Seedy crackers with hummus
- Avocado toast topped with hemp seeds
- Yogurt and plant protein granola
All you have to do is keep these simple snack items on your grocery list and check them off as they’re running low.
4. Ask for help and accept it when needed
While your friends and family can’t breastfeed for you. They can’t sleep for you. They can’t go to appointments for you, work out for you, or care for your baby the same way you can. They can make food for you.
They can cook, they can bring groceries, they can wash the dishes.
When somebody asks, “How can I help?” please don’t say, “I’m fine.” Step into your courage and vulnerability, and ask them to help. And, better yet, give them a particular food-related task to do.
I spend a good amount of time coaching my clients on asking for help because it goes against our nature as women to do so.
But, remember – if you are not well-nourished, and you end up feeling depleted, the nucleus of your family will begin to break down. You need to remember the importance of feeding yourself and accept the help that’s offered. Don’t say, “I’m fine.”
Say: “It would be beneficial if you could pick up something for lunch on the way over.”
Say: “I actually need these five things from the grocery store.”
Say: “I’d be so grateful if you could figure out dinner for tonight.”
Remember, the people around you are waiting for direction and they want to help.
Read next: How to Support a New Mom in Five Easy Steps
5. Count colors, not calories
It can be very tempting to count macros and calories after we’ve given birth so that we can start to get our familiar pre-pregnancy bodies back. But doing so is not in service of our best health and doesn’t allow you to accept your postpartum body.
Not only do we need to be nourishing ourselves during this time – eating enough calories and enough nutrients to heal and fuel – but also adopting a restrictive mindset can be very stressful on both our bodies and minds.
I always encourage my clients to avoid counting calories and to count colors instead. Getting creative with adding more and more color into your meals is a great way to ensure that you are eating a diverse diet (and therefore a nourishing, nutrient-dense diet), in direct opposition to the restriction and deprivation resulting from measuring food intake.
6. Detach guilt and shame from the foods you eat
This is a big one. Remember what I said about how stress affects the body?
Stress = inflammation = a whole host of other problems.
In fact, guilt, shame, and stress about eating a chocolate bar are undoubtedly more damaging to the body than any ingredient in that chocolate bar.
We need to detach guilt and shame from the foods that we eat. This is true always, but never more important than in the early stages of motherhood when it’s crucial that we eat.
Yes, there are many nutrients essential to optimal healing and recovery; yes, there are certain foods that I would recommend over others to promote your best health throughout postpartum. But obsessing and stressing is counterproductive, and not eating is the least productive of all.
Final thoughts on nutrition tips during postpartum
Remember that food is fuel, and it is to be enjoyed. Put some of these stress-free nutrition practices into place so that you have nourishing, nutrient-dense options on hand as much as possible.
Listen to your body and cultivate that mind-body connection that lets you know what you need. Ask for help when needed, and, most of all, prioritize nourishing yourself, whatever that looks like for you.
More nutrition support for new moms
Olivia Kelava is a Mom and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist in Vancouver, BC. She specializes in postpartum wellness, as well as stress and burnout, helping new moms to prioritize themselves and create lasting healthful changes in their diet and lifestyle.