The first few months of living with a newborn are a blur. Days are no longer marked by the predictable pattern of sleeping seven to eight hours at night or eating three square meals a day. Instead, the fourth trimester is marked by survival tactics and a strong sense of love that powers you through your baby’s every feeding, crying, and cuddling.
While it may seem you don’t have even a second for yourself, doing your best to take care of yourself truly benefits everyone. Get as much rest as you can, ask for help when you need it (or just want it), and fuel up with nutritious foods. Doing so not only improves your physical health but impacts your mental and emotional health as well.
Eating a balanced, varied diet gives you the energy you need to keep up with your baby’s needs and tackle each challenge with a clearer mind — especially if you’re short on sleep! Choosing healthful foods should not add more stress to an already full plate, but rather serve as a form of self-love and respect.
Keep things as simple as possible and focus on a few key groupings of foods which can be met in a variety of ways depending on your dietary preferences. As always, don’t sweat the small stuff and what you do should be done in kindness toward yourself. Listed below are a few categories of foods to incorporate into your meals and snacks as much as you are able along with a few suggestions of what to try.
No matter your birth experience, your body needs time, rest, and optimal nutrients to heal. Incorporating protein and zinc-rich foods into your meals and snacks will help promote the healing process. In fact, just as in pregnancy, protein needs are increased during recovery. Luckily, many protein-containing foods also contain zinc, which means not a lot of extra planning to do. Choose lean meats, eggs, beans, nuts, and lentils at most meals and snacks to meet your protein and zinc needs.
Try: Hummus & veggies, bite-size energy balls, roasted chicken
If there’s something new moms could really use it’s more of, it’s energy. Taking care of a new baby is amazing and exhausting, so when it comes to eating, try to make every meal and snack count. Your body needs energy from food to sustain itself and perform at its best. Choosing foods that are energy and nutrient-dense ensures you are getting what you need even if you don’t have much time to eat during the day. Energy-dense foods include avocados, nut butters, and full-fat dairy products. Pair with a fiber-rich food to stay full and satisfied for hours.
Try: Full-fat yogurt with strawberries, avocado toast, trail mix
Proper hydration helps to keep your body running smoothly and can affect your digestion, energy levels, and your skin as well as help you avoid the unpleasant side effects of dehydration — fatigue, headaches, etc. Keep a water bottle by your side as much as possible, and don’t feel bad about setting a baby down so you can grab a sip or refill the bottle. Hydration is especially important for mamas who choose to breastfeed as dehydration can also affect milk supply.
Try: Fruit or veggie-flavored water, soups, fresh or frozen produce
Perfection with eating, and in all areas of your life, does not exist. Simply do your best and remember each meal and snack is a chance to decide what’s best for you at that moment. Sometimes that’s a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit; sometimes it’s the cookies your neighbor dropped off when you got home from the hospital. Eat what you can, when you can and move on.
Lastly, some of the best advice we personally received as new parents: never turn down free food. If someone wants to cook or bring you a meal, let them. And enjoy every bite.