One of the most challenging things when you have just given birth is remembering to look after yourself. Suddenly you have this new baby who is totally dependent on you and you seem to spend your life constantly tending to its needs whether feeding, changing, soothing or entertaining, all on very little sleep. Your welfare becomes the last thing on your mind. But it’s really important that you do look after yourself or your energy levels will drop and you will be at higher risk for post natal depression, and exhaustion can affect your milk supply.
To keep your energy levels up you must try and eat every 2 -3 hours. This might seem like an impossible task, but it needn’t be a gourmet meal, just a regular intake of food. Go out and buy lots of snack foods such as fruit, nuts, seeds, oatcakes, hoummous, pitta, mackerel pate, peanut butter, olives and grab yourself a snack as often as you can. Have bowls of olives and nuts scattered throughout the house if necessary. If you go without food for more than 4 hours your blood sugar levels drop and this will leave you feeling lethargic and low.
Whenever you eat make sure that you have both protein and carbohydrates. Protein slows down the release of energy from a meal, meaning that you feel fuller for longer and your energy levels are more consistent.
By keeping your blood sugar levels even, by eating regularly and combining protein and carbohydrates, you are much less likely to have cravings for the kinds of foods that sap you of energy such as sugary snacks (biscuits, cakes and chocolate). These should be kept to a minimum as they contain little in the way of nutrition and cause your blood sugar levels to peak and crash, leaving you with erratic energy levels.
Stimulants such as tea, coffee and energy levels disrupt blood sugar levels too. Try to cut down on your stimulant intake and you’ll be amazed how much energy you have naturally. (Do this slowly though as the withdrawal can be awful). Instead drink herbal teas which can be calming, and some of which encourage milk flow, like fennel.
Water is essential for good energy levels. Every cell in our bodies requires water to function. It also helps flush out toxins, which is especially important if you were given medication or an epidural during your birth. A good water intake is also vital when breastfeeding. Dehydration can often be a contributing factor to poor milk supply. Whenever you are feeding, fill up a pint glass with water before you sit down to feed, and aim to have finished it by the time your baby has finished feeding. Dehydration also contributes to feelings of tiredness.
If you are breastfeeding remember that your calorie intake should be higher than in your final trimester – you should be having an extra 500 calories a day. It takes a lot of nutrients to produce good plentiful breast milk, so make sure that you are eating enough and that what you are eating is nutritious. Choose wholegrains over white refined foods for example brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta, oats, nuts and seeds and plenty of fruit and vegetables.
And finally on a totally non nutritious note: take ANY offer of help!
If you would like more advice on any of the points mentioned in this article or would like to find out how nutrition can support you with any health issues you might have, contact Emily Fawell on 07967 639347 or email Emily@4wellpeople.co.uk. Go here for more information on nutritional therapy.