If you’re reading this with a bundle of joy in your arms right now then chances are you know how it feels to be completely exhausted, to have emotional wobbles, and frequent aches and pains.
Low energy, mood swings and sore muscles/joints are complaints I hear from new mums ALL the time, and it makes sense right?! Broken sleep, constant feeding, and carrying an increasingly heavy baby around everywhere, whilst recovering from pregnancy and birth is no mean feat. Team that with hormone fluctuations, the feeling of constantly having to meet the needs of others before your own and leaving behind your old identity (not to mention the old global pandemic we’ve found ourselves in the midst of)? It’s a wonder that mamas of babas get through the day at all!
Here’s 9 simple tips for improving these symptoms, written by nurse, nutritionist and mum of two, Katy Bradbury.
TOP NUTRITION TIPS FOR INCREASING ENERGY
- Drink more water! Water is honestly the nectar for life for any new mum and the importance of hydration cannot be emphasised enough. Did you know that just a 4% loss of water in your body causes a 20% reduction in energy and focus, and a 10% loss can cause circulatory collapse. We rely on water to function optimally and when you barely have time to blink it’s difficult to replenish your stores, which can be particularly depleted if breastfeeding. Making sure you take a glass of water to bed with you to drink first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day. Keep a bottle of water with you round the house at all times so that if you get nap trapped you can still drink. Finally, try replacing any caffeinated beverages post 4pm with herbal teas to boost your fluid intake.
- If you’re eating sweet things (coffee and cake culture is an integral part of new motherhood right?!), combine with some protein or fat to buffer the impact of the sugar. I’m not saying you need to scoff a chicken breast with your Jaffa cakes, but a handful of nuts or seeds alongside your sweet treat will both give you a nutrient boost and stop your blood sugars from skyrocketing.
- While we are on the topic of blood sugars, not letting them dip too much is also critical. Sugar crashes are a terrible combination to add to the mix of being an already tired mother. Eating every 3-4 hours will help keep you on an even keel to get you through the days following those endless nights in new motherhood. Think energy balls, hummus, oatcakes, berries etc for quick snacks on the go.
A LIFESTYLE NOTE: When you’re sleep deprived and knackered it can feel difficult to get the motivation to exercise, but even going for a brisk walk or doing a short sharp burst of exercise will get your blood pumping and trigger the release of endorphins which can energise you, particularly when combined with some fresh air and sunshine.
TOP NUTRITION TIPS FOR BOOSTING MOOD
- If you’re thinking brain and nervous system health, then omega 3 fatty acids are the top priority. There is so much research coming out now to support the intake of DHA and EPA (the two main components of omega 3s) for improving symptoms of both anxiety and depression. The best food source of omega 3s is oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovy, sardine, herring) and this can be eaten 2-3 times per week. For vegetarian sources try walnuts, flaxseed and chia seed.
- Magnesium is another great mood boosting nutrient and plays a key role in neurotransmitter function (along with hundreds of other functions in the body meaning it’s a nutrient we burn through a LOT of). Magnesium is richest in nuts, seeds, dark green leafy veg, and whole grains.
- Finally, tryptophan is an amino acid which is a precursor to serotonin – the mood boosting neurotransmitter. Ensuring you have enough protein in your diet is crucial here, but in particular good sources of tryptophan include chicken and poultry, whole milk and full fat yoghurt or cheese, eggs and tofu.
A LIFESTYLE NOTE: Though the tone of this article is light hearted, many women do suffer with more serious bouts of anxiety or depression postnatally. If this is you, the single most important thing you can do is seek help. Confide in friends, family and health professionals to ensure you have a support network around you. And remember that self- care is not selfish or a bonus, it’s absolutely critical.
TOP NUTRITION TIPS FOR REDUCING ACHES AND PAINS
- Aches and pains means that there is inflammation going on in your body and one of the best ways to combat inflammation is by eating the rainbow (sadly I’m not talking about Skittles!) By including a diverse range of plant foods rich in colour, you’re feeding your cells antioxidants and polyphenols which reduce oxidative stress and drive inflammation down. Think berries, peppers, carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, spinach and beetroot.
- Getting good quality protein is again a really important factor here as this essential macronutrient is what builds us up when injured. Pasture raised meat, free range chicken and eggs, wild fish, whole milk products, tofu, beans, legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds and quinoa will all help those worn tissues repair. Beware that meat alternative products (despite being advertised as health foods) are usually ultra-processed and won’t do much to help you heal.
- Gelatin and collagen are also fantastic to repair connective tissue. These can be bought in powder form and added to things like smoothies, or made by creating bone broths which need to be slowly boiled in water and some apple cider vinegar for at least 10-12 hours to release these important nutrients. Use your broths as a base for your postnatal batch cooking including soups, stews and bolognese. Apologies vegetarians as there’s no animal-free alternative to this one!
A LIFESTYLE NOTE: The best foods in the world aren’t going to stop the fact that you have additional strains on your body in the form of carrying a baby around and probably having to sit/sleep in random positions! Strength training, yoga and pilates can all help keep the aches and pains at bay and my website contains a selection of trusted practitioners that I would recommend working with. Of course they all function online these days too so it doesn’t matter where you are.
As new mums we usually put ourselves last in the pecking order for whose needs are to be met, and I speak to so many frazzled parents who are on a one track road to burnout. Implementing these tips will really help to buffer whichever complaint you can relate to the most. Happy healing mamas!