Throughout pregnancy, your body was completely devoted to your baby. It is very normal to feel depleted after birth and looking after yourself now isn’t self-indulgent, it’s necessary.
Good nutrition gives you your energy back. The downsides of living with a newborn are well documented – lack of sleep, anxiety, and even depression. Add in fluctuating hormone levels and it’s no wonder so many women struggle to cope in those early days. Eating the right foods can help to enhance your mood, balance your hormones and get you feeling more like your old self. A practical and individual postnatal nutrition plan will help you to safely return to your pre-pregnancy weight while replenishing your reserves so you can feel your best again.
Nutrition While Breastfeeding
Striking the right nutritional balance when you are breastfeeding is really important for both you and your baby. Although your milk supply may not be affected by what you eat (some foods can boost your milk supply), your body will always put your baby first.
Your body will take the nutrients it needs for your baby’s milk from its own stores – this can affect your energy levels, general health, and wellbeing if you are not getting the nutrients you need from your diet.
This does not mean that you should stop eating certain foods (we all love cake!), it simply means that you should try to incorporate healthy choices wherever possible.
These breastfeeding superfoods will help your energy levels and prevent you from having blood sugar lows – which can make parenting that much harder. If you are finding it hard to cook meals, breastfeeding superfoods are nutritional powerhouses that offer quick alternatives.
16 Breastfeeding Superfoods
1. Almonds: Almonds are packed with protein and are an excellent source of calcium. You need 1,250 mg of calcium daily when breastfeeding.
2. Avocados: Avocados provide essential ‘healthy’ fats that will not only give you a necessary energy boost throughout the day but will also help balance your cholesterol levels. Alongside this, they are rich in protein, vitamin E, and folate – which all help in the healthy development of your baby’s central nervous system. You need 4-5 mg of vitamin E and 260 mcg of Folate daily when breastfeeding.
3. Homemade Stock: Homemade stock is an excellent source of collagen, coenzyme Q10, cholesterol, all minerals, and essential amino acids. It can be made up during pregnancy and frozen for use in a range of recipes, including soups. It is perfect in a cup, especially when you only have one hand free!
4. Brazil Nuts: Brazil nuts are a great snacking food for nursing mothers. They are full of selenium, vitamin E, and magnesium.
5. Brown Rice: Brown rice is a complex carbohydrate that will not only keep you fuller for longer but will also help regulate your blood sugar levels. In addition to this, it is an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, protein, and fiber. White rice does not offer the same health benefits, so it is important to stick to brown when you are nursing.
6. Chia Seeds: They might not be everyone's cup of tea, but chia seeds are an excellent source of essential fats, protein, calcium, and iron – all of which are essential for breastfeeding mothers. An easy way to incorporate them into your diet is on your cereal, with fruit and yogurt, or even in smoothies!
7. Coconut Water: Low in calories, naturally fat and cholesterol-free, and more potassium than four bananas – what’s not to love about coconut water?! It also contains calcium, phosphorus, and lauric acid. This is not the only reason we love coconut water, however. Indeed, it is brimming with electrolytes and is thought to be better at replacing lost fluids than sports drinks or water. Staying hydrated is really important when breastfeeding.
8. Eggs: Not only are eggs a quick and easy snack for sleep-deprived parents but they are also packed full of nutrients, including choline, vitamin A, B12, D, K, selenium, iodine, and protein. Plus, boiled eggs are great hot or cold, which is something new parents will learn to cherish!
9. Green Leafy Vegetables: Green, leafy vegetables, including spinach and broccoli, are not only nutrient-dense but are packed full of iron and folate, which helps your body build healthy red blood cells. They also contain calcium, magnesium, and are an excellent source of vitamin C, all of which are excellent for breastfeeding mothers.
10. Herbs: The following herbs have been traditionally used to regulate milk supply, and can be used in cooking:
- Blessed Thistle
- Caraway Seeds
11. Lentils or Beans (Legumes): With high levels of folate, iron, and fiber, legumes are a versatile food option for breastfeeding mothers. For example, you can put extra beans in chili or have hummus as a snack.
12. Natural Live Yogurt: Yogurt offers high levels of calcium, protein magnesium, and B vitamins. Additionally, live yogurt includes beneficial flora, which can help you and your baby maintain a healthy gut.
13. Organic Dried Apricots: Apricots can increase prolactin – the hormone used to make your body produce milk. They are a great snack and contain many essential nutrients including beta-carotene, iron, vitamins A and C, as well as plenty of potassium and fiber.
14. Salmon or Other Oily Fish: Oily fish is brimming with protein and DHA (part of the Omega 3 fatty acid), which are needed for the healthy development of your baby’s nervous system. Oily fish is also packed with vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones, learning, memory, and mood. It is advisable to eat two portions of oily fish per week.
15. Pumpernickel Bread: Pumpernickel bread offers you a low GI carbohydrate (slow release energy), fiber, B vitamins, and selenium. It is available in most supermarkets. Pumpernickel bread can be enjoyed toasted with peanut butter and banana, or avocado and marmite for a healthy snack.
16. Quinoa: Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, which helps your body absorb calcium, and therefore, is essential during breastfeeding. It is also an excellent source of fiber and protein, which is excellent if you are a vegetarian or vegan.