The postpartum period can be tumultuous, whether it’s your first baby or your fourth. Not only have you given birth, but you’ve been birthed as a mother and there is a shift in our physical, mental and emotional self. Hormones fluctuate, we’re exhausted and for many of us, the naked woman getting into the shower looks a little different than she used to!
Again, for many of us, it’s the physical changes of pregnancy and early motherhood that spur us into action. In our bid to lose weight, boost immunity and all the rest of it, we tend to forget our health is multifaceted and there isn’t just one thing that’s going to “fix” us.
What does it take to thrive in motherhood?
Pregnancy can leave us depleted, especially if we entered pregnancy with low nutrient stores e.g., we were already iron deficient or struggling to consume enough zinc or vitamin B12. Focusing on replenishing key nutrients is essential for our day-to-day and to prevent “normal” fatigue, niggles and hormone issues from turning into something worse.
Lay the foundation, get the basics right
Eating a wide variety of foods helps us meet our nutrient needs and is good for our gut health. In practice this can look like eating from each of the four food groups which were traditionally simplified as vegetables and fruit; grain foods; milk, milk products and/or alternatives; and meat and/or alternatives.
Just because you’re dairy-free, have Coeliac disease or don’t eat animal products doesn’t mean you can’t eat from a variety of food groups.
For some of us, regular grain foods might be pasta, rice and porridge whereas others are eating quinoa and pseudo-grains like millet and buckwheat. The main thing is we’re consuming foods that provide fibre, B vitamins and minerals like magnesium and zinc. Milk and dairy products are known for providing calcium, vitamins A and D so dairy-free alternatives will ideally be fortified with these nutrients.
Supplements can help
If you’re breastfeeding, you should continue to take a good quality prenatal multivitamin.
This is tailored to the specific nutrients you need more of when trying to conceive, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Especially important for breastfeeding mums is iodine, iron, omega-3’s and vitamin D. For vegan mothers, vitamin B12 will need to be supplemented.
Forget the food rules
Did you know, 95% of people who lose weight when dieting will regain that weight within 1-5 years. Diets don’t work!
Remove the goal to lose weight and you might find yourself moving your body in a way you enjoy (walking, Mums & Bubs classes) instead of smashing yourself in a gym class you hate. Lose the pressure to bounce back and you might be more willing to eat a variety of foods, including cheese, chocolate, burgers or any other food usually deemed as “forbidden”, “naughty” or “cheating”.
Remember, you don’t have to love every inch of yourself all the time. You don’t have to love your new “Mom bod” to take care of it and treat it with respect. Move your body because it feels good, eat a variety of foods (including those that make you happy!) and ditch the food rules.
Emily Parks, The Balanced Mama Project