NUTRITIONAL NEEDS FOR NEW PARENTS AND THE NEW LITTLE ONE PART ONE: THE NEW PARENTS
You don’t have to look very far to find research speaking to the many health benefits of breastfeeding your new little one. In addition to containing all of the nutrients needed, breast milk also contains antibodies that will help to protect your little one from bacteria and infections.
The reality, however, is that not every new Mom will choose to breastfeed and not every new Mom will be successful when it comes to breastfeeding. Rest assured that your formula fed baby will not “suffer” any ill effects due to your choice and/or inability to breastfeed; your little one’s iron- fortified formula will provide the needed nourishment to support his/hers growth and development just fine. Your little one will also have been provided a good dose of immunoglobulin (antibodies) from you during the labour process.
Whether you are a new “breastfeeding” Mom, a new “formula-feeding” Mom or a new Dad, becoming a new parent is not only incredibly exciting but it is incredibly stressful. Becoming a new parent brings with it many sleepless nights, new worries and stressors and a whole new routine to settle into; a routine that can make it very difficult to get adequate sleep, prepare healthy meals or even find the time to sit down relax and eat a meal.
In order to meet the additional demands of new parenthood and care for your new little one it is imperative that you are taking care of “you”.
Meeting Your Nutritional Needs:
Eat a variety of nutrient-dense, natural, good quality foods ensuring that you are incorporating plenty vegetables: 5-10 servings daily (1 serving = ½ cup)
Asparagus, onions, beans (yellow or green) peas, beets, peppers (green, red, yellow, orange) Broccoli, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, cabbage – green, radishes, cabbage – red, turnips, carrots, spinach, cauliflower, squash, Swiss chard, sprouts, sweet potato, collard greens, tomatoes, corn, snow peas, romaine lettuce, cucumber, kale, parsnips, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, white potato.
Dark green leafy vegetables are the most nutrient dense and should be eaten once or twice a day. Choose raw vegetables whenever possible, and experiment with live sprouted foods for even more nutrients.
Avoid refined, processed and pre-packaged food items: these are high in sugar, sodium and often contain additives and preservatives
Avoid caffeine and sugar as much as possible, not only will these interfere with your much needed good quality sleep but they also deplete your body of needed nutrients
Choose organic when possible to avoid pesticides and herbicides (among other toxins)
Ensure adequate protein: Required Daily Intake based on body weight: Multiply your weight in pounds by .36g. Example: .36g x 150 lb. = 54g of protein a day (for a sedentary adult). If you are active multiply your weight in pounds by .7 to find out your daily requirement. (Example: .7g x 150 lb. = 105g of protein)
Eat some with every meal and snack: Chicken, fish, yogurt, eggs, milk, cheese, tofu, beans + rice, beans + bread, veggie burger, almonds, peanut butter, seeds, cereal + dairy, legumes + seeds. (The paired foods represent complete vegetarian protein sources)
Choose complex carbohydrates: 5-10 servings daily (1 serving = ½ cup)
Slow burning and full of valuable nutrients and fiber. Whole grains such as brown rice, barley, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread and crackers, beans, lentils, rye bread, whole grain muffins, corn tortilla chips, popcorn, pancakes and waffles made with whole grain flour, whole grain cereals.
Avoid simple carbohydrates with the exception of fresh fruits, which should be limited to 3 servings per day due to the high natural sugar content
Ensure adequate healthy fats are incorporated into your diet: 3 servings a day (1 serving = 1 tsp.)
Olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil (do not heat), butter (in moderation) Nut butters (1 serving = 1 tablespoon)
Ensure that you are well hydrated, on average 8-8oz glasses of good quality, fresh water per day
Consider adding a Probiotic – helps boost immune system and provides friendly bacteria
Consider adding a calcium/magnesium supplement, considered essential to human health
Consider adding a Multi vitamin/mineral complex as an added measure to ensure that you are not depleted in any one area. Be sure to choose a good quality, whole foods supplement
Consider adding an Omega-3 supplement, thought to protect against heart disease, inflammation, certain types of cancer and diabetes and is critical for proper brain development and neurological function in developing babies
IF YOU ARE BREASTFEEDING THE FOLLOWING IS ALSO PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT:
Be mindful when using herbs: acceptable herb choices include – alfalfa, blessed thistle, dandelion, fennel, horsetail, and raspberry. Those you should avoid include – black walnut, sage and yarrow as they decrease volume of milk
Mother’s milk tends to be low in vitamin C, D, and Iron so choosing food items rich in these nutrients is important
Mother’s who eat garlic increase their baby’s desire for milk and cause them to nurse longer. Garlic is good for both baby and mother.
Avoid honey and eggs for baby (can harbour harmful bacteria)
avoid seafood that is high in mercury and choose good quality fresh water fish instead of farmed fish choices.
It's important that you keep a food journal, recognizing those food items that you are consuming that may not be well tolerated by baby; if you suspect a food item that is problematic for baby, eliminate it from your diet for a few days and monitor how baby is responding to this change
PROMOTING GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE
We need ample, good quality sleep to help our body detoxify, heal and repair itself. Good quality, ample sleep is important to foster optimal health and wellness.
When we’re tired we tend to make fewer healthy choices throughout the day and reach for the quick-fix energy boost we need, often in the form of sugar-filled options and processed snacks.
When we’re tired we are unable to keep up with our daily demands, we do not have the energy required to engage in regular activity, we are less able to deal with daily stressors and our mood is negatively affected.
There are some simple, yet effective, strategies that we can incorporate into our routine that will help to foster good quality, ample sleep:
start with setting an intention of when you want to be in bed. For example, if you want 8 hours of sleep and you need to wake up at 6:00, plan to be ready for sleep by 10:00. This means you’ll want to start getting ready for bed by 9:30.
Eliminate/reduce caffeine and alcohol (these increase urination and can cause restless sleep) This is particularly important if you are a breastfeeding Mom... what you consume does get passed on to baby through your breast milk
Turn off electronic devices 1-2 hours before bed and avoid having a TV in your bedroom
Finish dinner 3-4 hours before bedtime
Sleep in a totally dark room (all sources of light off) or wear eye covers
Set your bedroom at a comfortable temperature
Exercise in the morning, afternoon or early evening (not late at night)
Take a soothing hot bath at night
Listen to soft music before bed to help wind down
Use relaxing breathing techniques or meditation
White noise at bedtime – a fountain or fan can help you fall asleep
Relax and read before bed
Yoga or Tai Chi or stretching at night to de-stress
Write down your worries and your "to do" list on a piece of paper before going to bed. (dump your brain of details, so you can relax).
Rely on your partner or family members when you first bring the new little one home, become comfortable asking for, and accepting the help of others
If you are a breastfeeding Mom, expressing milk can be a great way to allow you to get good quality, uninterrupted sleep that is so important for your overall health and wellbeing. Night time feeding can be shared with Dad or family members
If you are a formula-feeding Mom, accept the support of Dad and/or family members, allowing them to share in the night time feeding routine
If you are a Dad, offer to share in the night time feeding routine but be sure to foster your own good quality sleep as well; perhaps rotating the night feedings between Mom, yourself and other family members
EFFECTIVE STRESS MANAGEMENT:
An ongoing high stress level is not only harmful to your physical health and wellbeing but to your emotional and spiritual wellbeing as well…we are more than the sum of our parts…we are amazing, intricate and interconnected whole beings!
High stress levels can create a wide variety of physiological changes such as impairing digestion, decreasing beneficial gut flora populations, decreasing your metabolism, and raising triglycerides, cholesterol, insulin, and cortisol levels.
So, while you may think you can “handle it” as far as your stress level goes, we aren’t meant to be under constant stress; it eventually takes its toll. You may be doing everything right as far as diet, sleep and exercise goes but if you’re under continuous stress, you’re health is going to suffer the consequences.
Learning ways to effectively manage stress is imperative and is particularly important given the many new stressors that come along with bringing home your new little one:
Ensure that you are properly nourishing your body with plenty of good quality, nutrient-dense whole food items and adequate amounts of good quality drinking water
Engage in regular activity; find something that you enjoy (walking, biking, hiking etc.) and fit it into your weekly routine (at least 30 minutes 3x/week)
Practice relaxation techniques that work well for you and that you enjoy (deep breathing exercise, a nice hot lavender infused bath, yoga, tai chi, massage therapy etc.)
Take time to sit, breath and reflect on your day; enjoy the simple pleasures that fill your day
Take time to get out on your own and enjoy some “you” time, even if it’s only a 30 minute trip to your favourite café or friends house for a cup of herbal tea and conversation. Do something on a regular basis that provides you some “you” time outside of the house.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help; whether it be help preparing some healthy meals or help with laundry and other household chores, engage family members and friends and accept the help of others
Click here for Part Two: Nutritional Needs/The New Little One