Food for thought for new mothers

Published: February 6, 2013
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A well-planned intake of the right nutrition can provide mothers with stamina and can help ward off the baby blues. PHOTO: FARAH S KAMAL

Motherhood is one of the most sacred blessings for women, yet it can be a challenging phase of their lives. It is not uncommon to hear new mothers say,

“I am so depressed; I can’t seem to lose weight!”

However, a well-planned and balanced intake of the right nutrition can provide one with stamina and can help ward off the baby blues.

New mothers should focus on food and eating habits that can help them:

1. Ensure that their child is nutritiously nursed

2. Fight depression

3. Lose weight

4. Fight fatigue

Energy boosters: 

Our mood is regulated by a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is known to increase happiness and make one’s mood better.

To increase serotonin levels, enhancing your mood and maintaining active energy levels, meals with complex carbohydrates mixed with proteins are great.

A mother can eat small portions of food throughout the day that contains high fibre, such as cereals (oats and bran flakes) raisins, low fat milk, humus, grilled chicken, or a sandwich or roll with broiled chicken breast on whole-wheat toast or chapatti.

These make a great start to the day after sleepless nights.

Vitamin B3 or ‘Niacin’, is important for metabolism. It is found in foods like lean beef, chicken, dried beans (dark coloured ones) and kidney beans.

Vitamin E, besides being a proven antioxidant, helps build stamina and boosts energy levels. This vitamin can be found in nuts and dry fruit, especially almonds and sunflower seeds. Additionally, try to eat olives and vegetable oils as they provide the much required B3.

For a list of vitamins and their benefits click here.

Depression demolishers:

Zinc: This vital metal, if regularly consumed in food, helps regulate brain functions, controls irritability and depression. Zinc can be obtained from seafood, yoghurt, beef, and eggs.

Vitamin C: This is another energy booster for nursing moms. Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, peas, spring onions and citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit are rich sources of Vitamin C. Just sipping a glass of fresh juice during the day can cure the dip in energy levels and can go a long way for new mothers.

For a list of healthy foods and their benefits click here.

Weight busters: 

Intake of dairy products, like yoghurt and low fat milk, is crucial for all new mothers. These ‘miracle foods’ make up for the calcium taken from your body during pregnancy and help your body for the process of lactating post-pregnancy. Apart from the needed calcium, it provides Vitamin A, D and proteins as well.

Mothers should try to include four to five servings of low fat dairy products in their daily nutrition. The use of cottage cheese in salads and sandwiches is recommended, with an additional intake of at least three glasses of milk every day. Keep a big jug of unsweetened lassi (yoghurt drink) in your fridge to drink throughout the day and add yogurt to your cereal and fruits.

Often new mothers cut down on carbohydrates and fats in pursuit of getting back into shape fast. This may impact her adversely if she is nursing and can lead to excessive exhaustion.

Eating healthy carbohydrates will not only help lose weight but will also uplift the mood. Brown rice, whole wheat bread, chapattis and sweet potatoes are all sources of healthy carbohydrates.

Nutritional nursing: 

Nursing helps your baby grow in a healthy way and boosts their immune system. Moreover, it is also good for weight loss for the mother. If you are nursing, you need 500 calories more than non-nursing mothers, but you lose 800 calories as result of nursing!

A food that is considered a powerhouse for a nursing mother is fish. Salmon is rich in a fat called Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). DHA plays a big role in developing the baby’s nervous system, its primary source being from the mother’s milk. Though it is already present in the milk, adding it to your meals is very good for the quality of milk.

Extra protein is required for all nursing mommies. Eggs are vital because they are rich in vitamins, especially Vitamin D, which adds essential fatty acids to breast milk. That, in turn, makes the bones of both the mother and the baby stronger.

Eggs can be used in salads, sandwiches, and curries or can be consumed just plain boiled.

Food containing vitamin B-12 is another important requirement and can be obtained from lean beef.

Apart from trying to balance a healthy diet post childbirth, mothers should also drink plenty of water. Dehydration is one of the top reasons behind tired new mothers. Sodas and caffeinated beverages are not amongst healthy liquids and their intake should be avoided.

For a list of foods for breastfeeding mothers click here.

With that I wish all mother’s good luck. It is an exciting time, so enjoy it the best you can.

Read more by Farah here

Farah S Kamal

Farah S Kamal

An education and development consultant, who is currently leading the iEARN programs in Pakistan. Photography is her hobby and passion and she tweets @fskamal (twitter.com/fskamal)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.