It’s a whole new world for your baby, but also for you as a new mom. As you transition from pregnancy to breastfeeding, keep these tips in mind to help you bloom in your new role and thrive in motherhood.
1. Nourish your body well.
Every process in the body requires energy – all your organs need energy to function properly, your muscles need energy to move, and your cells use energy to transport and metabolize nutrients. It’s no surprise that lactation requires extra energy, too. Breastfeeding mothers require about 450-500 more calories than women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding to maintain an adequate milk supply.
A balanced diet focused on lean protein, whole grains, and a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables puts you on the fast track for a well-nourished body and baby. However, it’s important to be aware that some nutrient needs shift in the transition from pregnancy to breastfeeding. Here is a quick summary of the main changes and a few tips on how to meet your needs:
- Choline. Choline is vital for infant brain development, and choline needs are higher during breastfeeding than any other time in a woman’s life. Rich sources of choline include egg yolk, chicken, salmon, liver, and almonds.
- Iodine. Iodine needs also increase during breastfeeding. Iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function, which supports skeletal, nerve, and brain development in infants. Low-mercury fish, seafood, and dairy products can help you meet your iodine goal.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for your baby’s growth and development. However, breast milk does not typically supply enough of this nutrient to support healthy vitamin D levels in exclusively breastfed babies. This leaves two possibilities: vitamin D drops for your baby, or vitamin D supplementation for you. Research found that mothers who took 6400 IU (160 mcg) of vitamin D daily were able to provide enough vitamin D to their babies through their breast milk.
For a more detailed nutrition guide for breastfeeding, check out these Theralogix articles: “Good Nutrition for You and Your Baby While Breastfeeding,” and “New Mom’s Guide to Breastfeeding Nutrition.”
If you’re having trouble maintaining a balanced diet, consider a high-quality lactation supplement to ensure you meet your needs and pass essential nutrients to your baby through your breast milk.
2. Stay hydrated.
You may find that you’re thirstier than usual while you’re breastfeeding – that’s pretty normal. Drinking fluids when you’re thirsty is typically enough to keep you hydrated as a breastfeeding mother, but you may find it helpful to keep a water bottle nearby as a gentle reminder.
While water is considered a top-tier hydration beverage, other fluids and foods with high water content can help you stay hydrated. Foods actually contribute about 20% of your daily water intake. Focus on plenty of fruits and vegetables like strawberries, watermelon, cucumber, and tomatoes. Try to limit sugar-sweetened beverages, but feel free to shake up your routine with sparkling water, fruit-infused water, milk, or 100% fruit juice (in moderation). Coffee and certain teas can still be included but be conscious of your caffeine intake while breastfeeding. Try to stay under 200–300 mg of caffeine each day – that’s about 2–3 cups of home-brewed coffee.
There’s no evidence to support that drinking water in excess increases a lactating mother’s milk supply, so there is no need to force yourself to drink gallons per day. Drink when you’re thirsty and monitor yourself for symptoms of dehydration. The color of your urine is a good indicator of your hydration status – pale or transparent yellow is the goal. If it’s darker, it may be time to take a few sips of water.
3. Support your overall wellbeing with physical activity you enjoy.
Pregnancy brings a lot of changes to your body, and it can be difficult to adjust postpartum. It’s okay to want to work on your physical fitness and feel good in your body but remember, you are way more than your pre-pregnancy appearance. You carried a tiny human for nine months and brought life into the world. You’re an incredibly strong mother now.
It’s time to rebrand exercise.
Physical activity supports mental health, bone strength, heart health, quality sleep patterns, and so much more. One study found that parents who exercise for immediate benefits like stress management or revitalization are more likely to exercise consistently compared to parents who exercise for appearance-related goals.
Take some time to find your reason for exercise. Once your doctor gives you the green light, participate in physical activity that you enjoy and reap the benefits on your stress levels, energy levels, and mood. Include your little one when you can – try taking a walk with your baby in a carrier, going for a jog with baby in the stroller, or crushing a home workout with baby on a blanket next to you. As your little one grows up, you’ll be a great role model, exemplifying a healthy relationship with exercise and how to take care of both your body and mind.
Need some tips for incorporating exercise as a new mom? Take a peek at this article from Theralogix: “Exercise Tips for New Moms.”
4. Rest when you can.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps.” You’ve heard it over and over. Take it to heart – you can’t function well without adequate sleep.
A recent survey revealed that 68% of parents slept at least 7 hours per night before their baby was born. That statistic dropped significantly to only 10% of parents after their baby was born. Most babies don’t sleep through the night until they’re at least three months old, and breastfed babies tend to wake more often. Frequent overnight feedings help your baby stay nourished and comfortable while helping you maintain an adequate milk supply, but they can deprive you of much needed (and deserved) sleep.
A full night of rest may seem far out of reach, so take every opportunity to rest during the short periods that your baby sleeps. Accept help when friends and family offer, lean into your partner for support and read these tips for managing baby sleep struggles.
Every stage of parenthood will bring new challenges – the chaos of this transition from pregnancy to breastfeeding too shall pass. Plant these lifestyle tips in your daily routine and watch yourself grow and flourish as a new mom.