The three months after your baby’s born are commonly known as your fourth trimester. Focusing on eating well after birth, or during the fourth trimester is really important. It will help your body recover from birth, restore hormonal imbalances and replenish depleted nutrient stores – this is especially important if you’re breastfeeding.
It’s a really good idea to have filled up your freezer with healthy, easy eating, pre-made meals during pregnancy. This way, you’ll have loads of healthy nutritious food to enjoy in your fourth trimester. And, believe us when we say, the last thing you’ll want to be doing is cooking!! If you give birth in the winter months, try to stock up on warming stews and soups – rather than mainly eating cold meals.
Looking after a new baby is tiring…ok, exhausting! So, you’ll want to try to eat foods that maintain balanced sugar levels – rather than sugary, starchy foods that give you a short-term boost, followed by a dip in energy levels. Plus, if you continue to eat in a way that supports your blood sugar balance during this time it will help your postnatal mood too! When our blood sugar levels become unstable, anxiety and depression will feel much worse. See Why is it important to balance my blood sugar levels? for more information.
We’re sorry to say ladies…but the first few days after your baby arrives, you are going to sweat. A lot. It’s something new mums are rarely told about, but many experience – especially at night! It will usually be for the first six weeks or so. And, as you sweat more you’ll need to drink more to replace the lost fluid. Dehydration is no good for your energy levels, and will affect your mood. So we advise drinking at least six large glasses of water – more if you are breastfeeding, as you’ll need it to boost your milk supply. See Breastfeeding superfoods for more top tips on what’s great to eat when you’re breastfeeding.
Omega 3 fats
Whilst research on this topic is not conclusive, there is significant evidence to suggest that having healthy levels of EPA and DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) reduces the symptoms of postnatal depression. There are higher incidences of postnatal depression in countries where women don’t eat much oily fish and small studies have shown that where blood levels of DHA are increased, the risk of mothers developing postnatal depression symptoms is reduced. Therefore, we suggest getting at least a couple of portions of oily fish in your meal plans, and continue to supplement with Omega-3 fatty acids in your fourth trimester.
During the third trimester babies build the iron they need, taking it from your iron stores. Even if you’ve had good iron levels in pregnancy, they can be depleted when you give birth, due to normal blood loss. Again, you need iron to maintain healthy energy levels – essential for looking after your new baby! So do eat plenty of iron-rich foods. Red meat is the best source of iron, but also dark green leafy vegetables and pulses. See Foundations of a healthy diet: part two for more suggestions of iron-rich foods.
Zinc may have a positive effect on, and reduce the risk of, postnatal depression as it supports the production and moderation of hormones. Getting enough zinc in your diet is also vital to support a healthy immune system and promote healing after birth. Hopefully, zinc rich foods have already become a staple of your diet – Brazil nuts, ginger, oats are just a few to think about.
During the first few weeks of your baby’s life you are likely to experience considerable changes in your hormonal which can feel like an emotional roller-coaster. Vitamin E is traditionally used to promote hormone balance, so eating foods rich in vitamin E, such as avocados and almonds, after your baby’s birth can help restore a feeling of calm. Vitamin E is also effective at helping wounds to heal, another postnatal benefit!
See Foundations of a healthy diet: part two for more detail about which foods are rich in these different nutrients.
Turmeric & Ginger
Turmeric and ginger are both powerful anti-inflammatories which support the immune cells and promote healing after birth. Both can be easily incorporated into your diet – simply add a spoonful of turmeric to your rice, quinoa or couscous as it cooks. Add a few slices of stem ginger to a bowl of natural yoghurt, or brew up a batch of fresh ginger and lemon tea.
Information provided by Bump and Beyond Nutrition.