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Giving birth is both joyous and exhausting. After the birth, you may feel very tired and with your hormones once again changing, very emotional. Physically, you may feel sore, especially if you have had stitches. You may feel that you don’t have the energy to look after yourself. It is essential that you do, so that you are able to look after, and enjoy, your new baby and the rest of your family.
Keep eating a healthy diet
It is very important to maintain a healthy diet. Not only do you need the energy in the short term to look after your baby, a healthy diet will have long term health benefits for you and your family. You may feel that you don’t have the time to cook, so try quick, healthy meals like baked potatoes with a variety of fillings (e.g. tuna fish or baked beans).
A healthy diet~
Bread, other cereals and potatoes (including breakfast cereals, pasta and rice). These foods should make up the main part of your diet.
Fruit and vegetables (including fresh, frozen and tinned varieties, salad vegetables, beans and lentils, dried fruit and fruit juice). Eat at least five portions a day (fruit juice counts as only one portion however much you drink in a day).
Milk and dairy foods. Eat or drink moderate amounts and choose lower fat versions whenever possible.
Meat, fish and alternatives. Alternatives include eggs, beans and lentils, nuts and textured vegetable protein. Eat moderate amounts and choose lower fat versions whenever possible. Try to eat at least one portion of oily fish (e.g. sardines or salmon) a week.
Foods containing fat and sugar . Eat sparingly, i.e. infrequently and/or in small amounts.
Your weight and shape~
Your body has undergone enormous changes over the last nine months and it is going to take time to get your body back into shape. It may take another nine months or longer. Immediately after the birth, your tummy will still be a lot larger than it was before you were pregnant. Eating healthily and exercising regularly will help, but don’t try to lose weight. Looking after a newborn baby can be very tiring and trying to lose weight after your baby’s birth can make it more tiring and hard work than it needs to be.
A healthy diet is especially important if you choose to breastfeed. Don’t try and lose weight. Breastfeeding is demanding and trying to diet will make you feel even more tired. Breastfeeding uses up the fat stored during pregnancy so will help you lose weight and get your shape back naturally. However, you will still need more calories to meet the demands of breastfeeding and your appetite may increase as well. The Department of Health advises you to have an extra 450 calories a day during the first month, an extra 530 during the second month and an extra 570 calories in the third month to meet the needs of your baby. Base your diet on the healthy eating guidelines (outlined above) and eat when you feel you need to, having smaller meals and snacks throughout the day rather than one large meal in the evening.
You are likely to feel very thirsty while you are breastfeeding, particularly during the feed itself. Try to drink water rather than tea or coffee.
You can now eat the foods you were advised to avoid during your pregnancy (e.g. cheeses and pate) because your baby is no longer in direct contact with your blood supply. However, whatever you eat and drink passes into your breast milk. Be aware that some foods and drinks may upset your baby and learn to avoid these if you can.
It is a good idea not to drink too much alcohol and try not to drink before a feed. The current recommendation is no more than eight units a week and no more than two units in a day. (A unit = half pint of beer, lager or cider; one glass of wine).
Caffeine may also make your baby irritable so keep intakes of tea, coffee and cola low.
Try not to smoke as nicotine will pass into your baby’s bloodstream.
If you, your baby’s father or any previous children have a history of hayfever, asthma, eczema or any other allergies, avoid eating peanuts and foods containing peanut products.
It is important to check with your GP or pharmacist that any over-the-counter or prescribed medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding.
If you are feeling tired, you probably won’t feel like exercising, but exercise can be relaxing, it will help your body recover, ensure you keep fit and will generally make you feel better. Check with one of your health care advisor before you start exercising after the birth.
Walking is ideal. It is on your doorstep, you don’t need to drive anywhere and you don’t need to find someone to look after your baby.
Swimming, post-natal exercise classes or exercise videos are some other suggestions. They will help to improve your shape and strengthen your muscles.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises
It is common to find it difficult to control your bladder after having a baby, particularly when you cough, laugh or sneeze. Daily pelvic floor exercises are essential to help with this problem.
Looking after a newborn baby is demanding. Your body is also recovering from the rigours of pregnancy and childbirth and if you are feeding through the night, you may become exhausted. It is essential that you rest. It may be tempting to use the time when your baby sleeps during the day to catch up with chores, but it is very important that you have a sleep or rest yourself.
Coping with changes
Your life really will change dramatically. Try not to have unrealistic expectations of yourself. There may be days when you won’t manage to finish anything you started and days when you feel you can’t cope. You will have to learn to compromise, especially if you are a perfectionist, otherwise you will wear yourself down. You simply won’t have the time to do everything that you would like to do and will have to let things go a little.
Changes in your hormone levels may make you feel tearful, irritable, depressed and tired. Often, between three and five days after the birth you may feel particularly low and emotional. This time is referred to as the ‘baby blues’ and thought to be caused by sudden changes in your hormone levels. It should only last for a few days. Try to rest as much as you can, eat healthily and accept offers of help.
If you often feel depressed and despondent over a period of weeks or months, it is important to talk to one of your health care team.
Support and reassurance are essential, particularly in the early days and weeks. As well as your health care team (e.g. your health visitor) it can be beneficial and enjoyable to talk to other new mothers.
For advice about other issues, e.g. medical problems, sex and contraception, changing relationships and the strain parenthood puts on relationships, your health advisor will be able to advise you on sources of help. You may also find the following contacts useful.
Joyful Parenting: 64880286
To encourage you in your endeavour for conception, a radiant pregnancy and a healthy baby, the following information will assist you in getting off to a good start and give you some tips if ‘mum-to-be’ is suffering from some common ailments. So how much thought have you put to this? Many of us have heard that in order to have a healthy pregnancy, a woman and indeed her partner, need to look at diet and other influencing factors even before conception.
Pre-conception nutrition can be as important for baby’s well being, as what a woman eats during and even after her pregnancy. In fact, overall intake of foods, nutrients and toxins greatly influences the early development of the embryo – so much so that scientists now say that one can trace patterns of disease in adults all the way back to infant nutrition and the health of the mother during pregnancy. Since the male partner is responsible in about a third of infertility cases, it’s as important that he follows a healthy nutrition plan pre-conception, as the mother-to-be.
Improving Sperm Quality It takes 100 days for sperm to develop (74 to form and 20-30 to mature), therefore addressing sperm health three to four months before conception is of great benefit. Eating a healthy, wholesome diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables – especially dark green vegetables – wholegrains, oily fish, nuts and seeds and organic produce where possible, is vital.
Specific nutrients are discussed below. Firstly – drink more water – semen is made mostly of water (your whole body is in excess of 70% water).
Things to avoid:
Alcohol interferes with the secretion of testosterone, speeds up the conversion of testosterone into oestrogen, lowers sperm count and sex drive. Smoking increases the number of free radicals in the body which damage many cells and reduces sperm count and motility, and increases the number of abnormally shaped sperm. Caffeine may impair sperm production, cause chromosomal abnormalities and effect sperm motility. Toxins and Pollutants Pesticides and heavy metals are terrible for sperm. Since the start of the use of pesticides, male sperm counts have plummeted. Note: pesticides are designed to disrupt the reproductive cycle of the insect, fungus, or weed it is trying to kill! Eat Organic as much as you can! Also watch exposure to X-rays, solvents, paint products, toxic metals and toxic chemicals in your personal care products.
Although exercise is good for you, excessive amounts punish the body, may lower sperm count and temporarily reduce testosterone production. In this instance it’s absolutely essential to supplement the minerals the body is losing and counteracting the free radicals formed through exercise.
So much to eat, so little time! With all the excitement, exhaustion and long lists of to-dos, many expectant and nursing moms wonder how they will ever manage to work in all the extra meals, calories and nutrients recommended by the experts. Giving preference to nutrition-packed power foods is one way to help reach your daily quota.
Top 10 Power Foods
The following foods belong at the top of any mom’s priority list because they contain nutrients especially important for pregnant and lactating women—and they also can deliver a powerful nutritional punch to everyone at your dinner table, so now is the time to start incorporating them into your family’s meals for life.
Yogurt for calcium and probiotics. Calcium needs increase during pregnancy. Consume any less than the recommended amount and your body will meet your baby’s calcium needs by pulling from your own supply. In addition to being high in calcium, yogurt is fermented, so it also provides beneficial probiotic bacteria, which promotes intestinal and immune health. In essence, probiotics help to maintain the natural balance of our “intestinal ecosystems.” Other, non-dairy sources of calcium include dark, leafy greens, sardines with bones, calcium-fortified orange juice, sesame seeds, almonds, dried fruit, corn tortillas, tofu and legumes.
Dark, leafy greens for calcium, fiber, vitamins and folic acid. Kale, collards and other dark, leafy greens are rich with calcium, fiber, vitamins A and C, and also rate high on the antioxidant scale. (Note: Due to their oxalic acid content, which decreases the absorption of minerals, spinach and Swiss chard are not thought to be a good source of calcium or iron.) And these dark, leafy greens optimize calcium absorption because of their phosphorous content. They are also an important source of folic acid, which is recommended in higher amounts for all women in their childbearing years to help prevent neural tube defects in their children. Other sources of folic acid include oranges, beans, asparagus, avocados and berries.
Eggs for vitamin A, iron and protein. Eggs contain important nutrients, including vitamin A, iron and protein. Protein needs increase during pregnancy, and adequate protein intake often helps to temper sugar cravings. Note that most of the nutrition in eggs is found in the yolk. For extra nutrition, look for eggs enriched with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid important for brain development.
Fatty fish for omega-3s. Salmon, sardines, black cod, anchovies, herring and trout provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are the primary components of brain tissue and are vital for brain and visual development. Studies have shown that women who eat fish during pregnancy have children with better visual acuity, higher IQ, better language and communication skills, and decreased rates of allergies and asthma. However, pregnant and lactating women should limit their intake to no more than 12 ounces (2 servings) of low-mercury fish per week, and should also avoid larger, long-lived fish with more dark meat (including tuna, shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish). Fish with dangerous amounts of mercury may harm a baby’s developing nervous system.
Lamb for B12, iron and zinc. Lamb is an excellent source of vitamin B12 and a good source of highly accessible iron and zinc. Zinc is important for growth and development because it is required for cell division, DNA/RNA synthesis and protein synthesis. Adequate zinc levels also ensure optimal bone growth in developing babies and are necessary for immunity. Vegetarian sources of zinc include legumes (especially adzuki, navy beans and split peas), nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and cashews), whole grains (fortified cereal and wheat germ) and fortified soy foods. It is best to eat calcium-rich foods and zinc-rich foods at different times for optimal absorption of each.
Berries for antioxidants and fiber. These colorful fruits top the charts with their antioxidant content and have been shown to help with brain, eye and vascular health. Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells from free radical damage. Berries also provide fiber, which is beneficial for pregnant women.
Sweet Potatoes for vitamins A and E. This is one comfort food that has an appealing nutritional profile. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (as colorful beta carotene) and a good source of vitamin E. By eating sweet potatoes with a little fat, you can increase the absorption of these nutrients. Eat the skin for added nutritional benefit.
Avocados for potassium, folic acid, vitamin C, lutein and “good” fat. Nutrient-dense avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as significant quantities of the antioxidant lutein, which has been shown to be beneficial for eye health.
Legumes for vegetarian protein, fiber, iron, folate, magnesium and zinc. Legumes (a plant food category that includes certain pods, beans and peas) are a good source of vegetarian protein and are rich in fiber. Many varieties are also an excellent source of iron, folate and magnesium. Legumes (especially adzuki, navy beans and split peas) are also a good alternative source of zinc for vegetarians.
Nuts for fiber, vitamin E and magnesium. Specific types of nuts have their own nutritional advantages. For example, walnuts have omega-3 fatty acids, and almonds provide calcium. Although nuts are high in fat, they contain primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, and have not been shown to promote weight gain when eaten in moderation (about a small handful five times a week).
Lactation consultants often advise that breastfed babies may develop a taste for whatever Mom eats because it is known that amniotic fluid and breast milk provide flavor exposure to baby.
One thing you’ll notice about these power foods is that many of them are vibrantly colorful. When faced with unfamiliar choices on a restaurant menu or buffet, an easy way to get a good dose of the recommended nutrients is to decorate your plate with a rainbow. As a general rule, have at least three natural colors on your plate at each meal.
From conception through breastfeeding, remember your baby is getting a share of everything you eat or drink. Your best bet to ensure you are making wise choices is to follow your health practitioner’s advice along with these general guidelines that apply to most pregnant and nursing moms:
Take a prenatal multivitamin with no artificial additives, colors or flavors, beginning before you conceive if possible and continuing through breastfeeding.
Drink plenty of water, preferably filtered.
Avoid or limit caffeine according to the latest guidelines.
Avoid alcoholic beverages.
Choose organic foods and beverages to reduce exposure to pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizers.
Boost your protein intake with meats, poultry, eggs, dairy products, tofu, beans and nuts.
Be aware that undercooked meat, poultry and fish, as well as unpasteurized dairy products and juice may contain potentially harmful bacteria.
Steer clear of high-mercury seafood. The FDA provides specific guidelines for which species should be avoided or limited.
Get your DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), the essential fatty acid found in fatty fish and fish oil, that is vital for a baby’s brain and nervous system.
Eliminate hydrogenated fats, which can inhibit the utilization of omega-3 fatty acids vital for brain development.
When exhaustion or morning sickness strike, there are many natural ways to relieve discomfort. Start by eating something—such as crackers—before you get out of bed. Ginger or ginger tea can also help promote a calm stomach. Eating small meals and small sips of fluid all day, including plenty of fiber and water for healthy digestion, can also help sustain your energy and keep many pregnancy symptoms at bay. Be sure to exercise, per your health practitioner’s recommendations, and get plenty of rest and relaxation.
Some herbal teas or supplements, depending on stage of pregnancy or nursing, may also be comforting and helpful for morning sickness and other concerns during pregnancy and lactation, but be sure to consult with your practitioner before consuming any herbal supplements. Some must be used with care and others avoided all together at certain times from conception through breastfeeding.
Tips for Nursing Moms
While breastfeeding, keep the following special suggestions in mind:
Don’t limit nutrient-rich foods to lose weight. Despite your longing for that pre-pregnancy body, now is not the time to cut calories. Your diet is vitally important to your baby and to rebuilding your nutrient stores.
Certain foods eaten by moms can disagree with some breastfed babies. If you experience problems, experiment with eliminating: broccoli family veggies (including cabbage and cauliflower), eggs, milk, soy, peanuts, citrus fruits, gluten-containing foods, spicy foods or chocolate.
Many herbs promote the secretion and flow of breast milk. Look for herb teas specific for nursing mothers.
Natural Choices Inside and Out
During pregnancy and nursing, it’s also wise to scrutinize products you use on your body and in your home. Natural choices are generally the best bet for avoiding potentially harmful substances.
Remember that body care products (skin, hair and oral products) are absorbed into the body at varying concentrations, and your baby may be exposed to them. Choose products that are as natural as possible, avoid synthetic scents, and dilute products containing 100% pure essential oils in equal parts with unscented varieties.
Aromatherapy may also be helpful to relax and relieve pregnancy discomforts, but only 100% pure essential oils provide benefits and synthetic scents may be harmful. Before using essential oils, always consult your practitioner, and research varieties and usage specific to your stage of motherhood. For example, during pregnancy, avoid essential oils of cedarwood, citronella, marjoram, myrrh, rosemary, rose, clary sage, lemon balm and peppermint. Essential oils are highly concentrated and should never be used directly on skin.
Keep in mind that other products you use around the house can also contain toxic ingredients that you may not want to come in contact with during pregnancy. This includes household cleaning products and air fresheners, lawn and garden products, paints, glues, new carpet and cigarette smoke. To play it safe, many parents choose to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals present in many of these products when the baby’s endocrine system is vulnerable and major organ systems are developing. This can be especially important during the first trimester. But don’t stop there! Why expose your child—or yourself—to these things at any age when there are plenty of safer alternatives?
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