Disclaimer: The information in here is general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.
As a Mother you need to eat in order to fuel your body. You need energy and good health to keep up with everything you have going on. If you are breastfeeding, your body has slightly different needs, just because your body is working to produce breast milk. So here are some tips that you may find helpful in keeping up your energy, supporting your immune system and breastfeeding.
Tips for busy Mums
1. EAT BREAKFAST!
Yeah I know, breakfast time is usually the crazy part of the day, especially if you have kids in school or childcare or you work or both. But it really is the most important meal of the day as it starts the digestive system and starts to fuel your body and brain for the day. If you think about it, you probably ate your last meal 12 – 14 hrs ago — what could your body be possibly be running on??
So eat something, preferably something nutritious. Quick and easy is the key to success here. Try:
- a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon – sip it while you’re getting ready for the day
- Make a smoothy with some natural yoghurt, milk, some oats, some berries (I like strawberries and blueberries, can use frozen in the off-season), some chia seeds and some raw almonds — great for when drinking while on the go
- Try some toast (ideally at least a whole grain bread) with a good smear of avocado and a squeeze of lemon juice
- For protein (more filling and more sustained energy), add a hard-boiled egg to the avocado toast, or u can eat the eggs on the go with your hands too!
Do some research and experimenting, find something that works for you, both in taste, preparation time and is easy to eat given your morning routine.
2. Eat your 3 Meals a Day
Don’t skip meals. You are busy and no doubt quite active. Your body and brain needs energy and nutrients. If you skip meals you will at some point “hit a wall” you will struggle to think straight, your attention span will resemble that of your 2-year-old and you will reach for the quickest, easiest thing to pick yourself up. That quick and easy pick me up will likely not be very nutritious and will only give you a short-term boost, leaving you to crash again and repeat the cycle. So please make time to eat meals rather than snacks.
3. Drink Lemon Water or At Least Water
Aim to drink 2 – 3 L water a day. Add some slices of lemon or a squeeze of lemon to it, to add flavour — this has the added benefit of giving you some vitamin C (which can help reduce the duration of a common cold) and it can help your digestive system get moving.
Water helps in waste removal (blood and urine), keeps blood the right consistency to help it move around the body, keeps our solid waste soft so we can eliminate it from our bodies (poo), regulates body temperature (sweat), keeps membranes moist and lubricated along with acting as a cushion in joints and shock absorber in the eyes and spinal column. It also helps our skin stay hydrated and healthy looking. We lose 2 – 3L of water a day, even more on hot days. Now if we are dehydrated to some degree and chronically, it will show in our skin condition, we will feel tired (our waste elimination will slow down so it will build up in our body resulting in you feeling sluggish), among other symptoms.
4. Snack on Raw Almonds and Pistachios
Raw almonds contain Magnesium and B vitamins that help the body convert food to energy. Insufficient B vitamins can lower concentration, increase irritability and Pistachios are a good source of protein, fibre and good fats, so make a healthy filling snack. The fact that you have to shell them means you will eat them slower too, so you will feel fuller before you have reached the point of over eating.
5. Do Meal Plans
I have been a recent convert to meal plans, I find them helpful for a number of reasons:
- If I sit down for 30 mins at the beginning of the week and plan dinners and some lunches for the week, I don’t have to think about meals for the rest of the week. I just look at the plan and prepare accordingly.
- I can buy almost everything I need for the week in one shop. I don’t have multiple trips to the shops during the week to buy food for dinner – saving time – I’m not tempted to buy other things I don’t need at each trip – saving money.
- I can pre-plan and choose healthier meals and balance the difference types of foods we should be eating during the week. I can have a vegie day (My husband is a carnivore, so any more than 1 day a week and I’ll have mutiny), 1 or 2 fish meals a week, meat days, chicken days. When its laid out in a plan I can see it and know where I need to adjust etc.
- It helps me define my shopping list. I know what meals I’m making for the week, so I know what ingredients I need. I just need to see if I already have them and add them to my list as necessary.
6. Beat the sugar cravings
I have been trying to break my chocolate/sugar cravings since I gave birth to my little girl nearly 18 mths ago. They hit at night when I am tired and at my weakest and is possible the worst time for me to eat a block of chocolate!
There is a study1 that shows that the intake of simple sugars impacts the ability of white blood cells to engulf bacteria. The effects peaked between 1 and 2 hrs after eating the sugar, but the effects were still significant 5 hrs laster. So if you’re eating sugary foods frequently throughout the day, you are impairing your immune system constantly.
So I have tried a few things that seem to help, which may help you.
- Eat some natural yoghurt, with some fruit or berries in it. I keep some frozen strawberries in the freezer, which are good when it’s not strawberry season. I some times add a little honey, although I find I need that less and less now as I quite long the natural tang of the natural yoghurt. I think it’s the freshness and tangy-ness that gets me through the craving – or it could just be all in my head!
- Try some dark chocolate, like 70-80% dark chocolate . I can’t eat a lot of it, maybe a couple of squares at most. I get some sugar and the strength of the cocoa stops me eating the whole block. According to Dr Shawn Somerset, nutritionist and Associate Professor of Public Health at Australian Catholic University (ACU)2, dark chocolate is meant to be good for you with all those good flavonoids.
Special tips for the Breastfeeding Mothers
If you are breastfeeding you may already be aware that you some additional nutritional requirements due to your body working to produce milk. Here are some of the requirements:
1. Eat A Few Extra Kilojoules
Breastfeeding women generally need 2000 Kj3 (approx. 480 calories) over and above their normal intake. As you are probably well aware, it is normal to store extra fat during pregnancy. These additional stores are used while you are breastfeeding and it is common for women to lose weight or fat during their breastfeeding period. So while you have some stores from pregnancy there is still a need to consume more energy through your diet. While its tempting and perhaps easier to get these extra Kjs from sweets and snack foods, these aren’t the best option. These energy sources tend to be lacking in any real nutrients beyond the Kjs and the energy is delivered quickly. Using more sustained energy release types of foods like complex carbohydrates (whole grain breads, nuts, quinoa, fruits, vegetables etc) also provide more nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals. A win-win!
2. Keep Hydrated
Breastfeeding Mothers will likely find they are more thirsty than they were prior to breastfeeding. Your body does use more fluid when producing beast milk. It’s generally good to aim to drink 2 L of water a day. And while all fluids do count, its best to make sure most of your fluids come from water.
Sugary drinks will provide empty Kjs.
Caffeinated drinks should also be limited while breast-feeding. The Australian Breastfeeding Association4 says caffeine levels peak in a Mother’s breast milk 60 mins after consumption and about 1% of the Mother’s caffeine consumption make it into the breast milk. The key with caffeine and your baby is that newborn babies apparently take a long time (about 160 hrs) to process the caffeine, but by 6 months of age this is reduced to 2-3 hrs. So with regular feeding and the longer time to process the caffeine newborns can build higher levels of caffeine over time.
Some Mothers find that baby can be more unsettled if they have consumed too much caffeine. Caffeine can have an effect on the let down reflex as well.
TIP: If you find it difficult to keep track of your fluid intake, try drinking a glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning, when ever you feed your baby, and with your meals.
3. Keep Up some Key Nutrients
Here as some key nutrients to be aware of in your diet while breastfeeding.
- Protein – Important for growth, maintenance and cell repair and especially important for growing babies. Good sources include: Meat, fish and chicken, Eggs, Cheese and yoghurt, Nuts and seeds, Legumes (such as, lentils, baked beans and split peas), Quinoa (a South American seed that has all the amino acids to make it a source of complete protein.)
- Calcium – Pregnancy depletes your calcium stores, so it important to replenish and maintain good calcium stores, as the body will use calcium from your bones when levels are low in your blood and over an extended period can lead to weak bones later in life. Plus ensuring you have a god supply of calcium in your blood for milk production is good for your baby’s bone and teeth development. Good sources include: Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt (these are the best source of calcium). If you are using dairy substitutes, look for calcium fortified options.
- Folate – Important for healthy growth and development. Good Sources include: leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts
- Vitamin A – Assists with vision, bone growth and formation of cells in skin and lining of the gut. Good sources include: yellow/orange vegetable, egg yolk, spinach.
- Vitamin C – Increases Iron absorption, act as an antioxidant, may reduce the duration of the common cold (some studies have suggested there is a reduction but contrary to popular belief, I can’t any reference to a study that has found that it will prevent the common cold). Good sources include: citrus fruits, strawberries, melons, tomatoes, capsicum, guava, kiwi fruit, fresh green herbs (e.g. 1 cup parsley has more than your RDI, try some tabouli salad)
4. Lactation Cookies
I found with 2 older kids and a baby, it was hard for me to rest and drink enough, to ensure my milk supply was good. I had trouble keeping track of how much I drank (even when I followed the tip above, I found I could rarely finish a glass since the older kids distracted me) and I was rarely sitting down longer than a feeding session allowed me. At this point I heard about lactation cookies. I found they helped (perhaps too well at one point, as one day I was feeling quite empty and wanted to boost it quickly, so I ate 2 at each feed in one day. Normally I would ave eaten 1 per feed or even just 1 at the morning feeds. Well I never did that again, as I ended up with Mastitis for the first time in 3 kids the very next day — I never want to feel that way again!). I used a recipe I found on the internet (just google lactation cookies recipe). I experimented with adding some fruit to them and chocolate chips (I wasn’t trying to kick the chocolate habit at that stage). I also found these cookies had a lot of fibre in them and helped me stay “regular”. If you find you have a low supply or even just low in the afternoon, these may be an option for you.
1 Albert Sanchez, J. L. Reeser, H. S. Lau, P. Y. Yahiku, R. E. Willard, P. J. McMillan, S. Y. Cho, A. R. Magie, and U. D. Register – Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition November 1973 vol. 26 no. 11 1180-1184
2 ACU News Bulleting, March, 2012 – Health benefits of chocolate unveiled
3 The National Health and Medical Research Council’s National Reference Values – Dietary Energy
4 Australian Breastfeeding Association – Breastfeeding and maternal caffeine consumption