There are plenty of old wives tales about what new mums should and shouldn’t eat. For example that breast-feeding mothers should drink beer (or milk) to help them produce more milk. That’s false. Not only that, but a new mum doesn’t need to eat any special or different foods. But of course many new mums are walking a delicate balancing act between wanting to breast feed and wanting to get back to their pre-baby bodies.

Whether a new mum needs ‘extra’ calories depends on a number of factors including.

  • Her pre-pregnancy weight and size.
  • How much weight she gained during pregnancy.
  • How active she was before the birth, and how active she can be after.

Breastfeeding gives most women a huge appetite. Although mums who have had a difficult birth and those with postnatal depression may find their desire to eat is diminished.

Losing the baby weight

Most women are able to lose their baby weight gradually and comfortably and shedding about 500g to 1kg a week won’t usually affect her ability to breastfeed. It’s recommended that women wait until they’ve had their postnatal check up. Between six and eight weeks after the birth. Before launching into a diet plan.

Our maternity nurses say that a varied diet is key to effective weight loss. So those faddy ideas about how new mums shouldn’t eat onions or should drink Guinness are just that – faddy ideas. Good foods include oily fish, nuts and legumes, lean proteins like chicken breast, fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrain carbs like wholemeal rice and wholemeal bread. Slow release energy foods like bananas, porridge and scrambled eggs on toast will all provide a feeling of fullness and satisfaction. Offer a full range of nutrients and stop the temptation to snack on sugary foods for a quick hit.

Diet and exercise for new mothers

While some mothers can find it frustrating to be still in their ‘fat pants’ a few months after their birth. It’s important to avoid rigid diet plans because each woman’s body requires a different time, different nutrients and different approaches to exercise to adjust to the post-baby world. Trying to rush the process can leave a new mother fatigued or even lacking in essential vitamins and minerals.

Today our maternity nurses work with a range of new mothers from Olympic contenders who are back in training two weeks after birth through to mums who’ve had challenging births and require help at home for several months. Whilst athletes may be getting diet and exercise advice from their coaches. The average mum may feel a bit lost. However GPs and practice nurses often have suggestions about diet and exercise. An experienced maternity nurse is well placed to help a new mum begin the journey back to optimum weight and activity.

Gentle exercise – stretching and yoga, is a great place to start with a weight loss journey. Ensuring a woman always has good posture when breastfeeding also helps. Not only because everybody feels slimmer and more poised when they stand tall, but because our spines benefit from extra attention at this time when joints and tendons are more elastic.

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