Eating for Energy.

Food and Nutrition for Tired Mums.

I am a nutritional therapist and have also just had my third baby in 4 years. What that means is, I have been sleep deprived for 4 years and have been through the entire gamut of different types of tired.

But as a nutritional therapist, I have a very deep connection to the relationship between what I eat and how I feel. And I am aware that I have a lot of tools and habits that have helped me navigate this hard period of life. I have also learned a lot going through it.

So I would like to share with you some of my experiences and tools to feeling better and less exhausted and depleted during a taxing physical time in a woman’s life.

 Hopefully they are helpful for you also!

There are lots of factors involved in understand what and how you need to eat for energy after you have a baby but the two biggest ones are: Are you breastfeeding and to what degree you are sleep deprived.

Sleep deprivation really changes the stakes significantly. It makes the difference between tired, exhausted and sheer survival mode. And you will eat differently as a result. Nobody automatically reaches for the kale when they are running on fumes. But if you have a good nutritional base in place, then everything feels better. Even the hard days.

You have to actually prioritise eating.

It’s work. You have to think about it and you need to think about it ahead of time. Ideally, you should know the day before, what you will eat the following day.

At the latest, you should know at breakfast what you have for lunch and dinner.

If you think about what you will eat at midday, or 2 pm when you’re hungry/starving AND tired, you are more likely to eat something that fills a hole and perpetuates your fatigue. Tea and toast is lovely, comforting and you wont be hungry afterwards, but it doesn’t meet your nutritional needs and that will leave you feeling tired and make depletion worse.

Just this single step is enough to make a big difference in how you feel.

Set a reminder on your phone to prompt you. Ask for help with this from other people. Have them check in with you for accountability or just a reminder.

You might need help with food.

New mums are not really designed to be preparing food for themselves. Ideally you would be in bed, with female family members bringing you delicious food many times per day while you focus on caring for your baby!

But most of us don’t live in that kind of tribal/village situation any more.

To adequately nourish yourself you either need to be super prepared ahead of time and fill the freezer before the baby is born, or you need to ask for help from your mum, siblings, friends or other half.

Ask people to prepare meals and food for you to have in the freezer. But also, be specific about what you need. Most people think to prepare dinners but you could also really benefit from lunches, breakfasts and snacks being batch prepared for you and in the fridge and freezer for ongoing nourishment. See below for specific recommendations.

If you don’t have family around you, then ask for help from facebook. Here is something that is wonderful about this day and age….. mum’s are a universal tribe. If you let your local facebook mum group know that you’re struggling, someone will help you and be happy to do it! You can pay it forward when you get the opportunity later on.

You can also consider paying a local teen or au pair for help.

What to actually eat?

To eat for energy, don’t think about what to restrict, instead you need to think about what to add in and in particular what to add in first.

The three primary things to eat for post-partum energy specifically are:

Protein.

Chicken, fish, eggs, chickpeas, lentils and beans, nuts and seeds (including nut butter), red meat. Easy protein sources include packs of ham and smoked salmon, tins of fish, precooked chicken, pots of hummus or bean salad. You can boil 12 eggs at a time and keep them in the fridge, or make a massive omelette and eat it cold over a couple of meals or days.

Healthy Fats.

Oily fish, nuts and seeds, nut butter, olives and olive oil, coconut and coconut milk, egg yolks, liver, avocado.

Veggies.

Green leaves, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bell peppers, fennel, snap peas and mange tout, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, sweet potato, root veggies. Buy frozen veg bags, buy stir fry and soup packs and mixes from the supermarket. Buy those wonky-veg boxes from Lidl.

So when you’re thinking about what to eat, choose your protein first, then think about what veggies and fats you have to hand that you can add. The fatty food and veggies also make quite good snacks so if you don’t eat them with you meal, then snack on them later.

You’ll notice I don’t mention carbs. This is not because I don’t think you need to eat carbs. Far from it, carbs are super important for energy. However, you’re likely to be eating adequate carbs as we tend to really crave them during times of fatigue and depletion, and I think it’s more helpful to just add in the above foods for energy specifically and the carbs will take care of themselves.

What I will say is, don’t try and cut them out in a bid to lose the baby weight.

If you would like specific, personalised guidance then I encourage you to seek professional advice, see below.

My three personal favourite foods for post-partum energy are:

Soups, Smoothies, Snacks.

I aim to eat 2 out of the three of these per day post partum, if not all three. Sometimes I have a soup or smoothie as a meal eg breakfast or lunch. Sometimes they are a snack between meals or on the go.

The added benefit here is that all of these can be batch prepared and in the freezer to hand for convenience when you need it.

The freezer is your friend.

For example I make up my smoothies in ziplock bags and I do 10 or 20 at a time. I include any protein powders, nuts seeds, mint, green leaves etc. EVERYTHING goes in and then I just add water or milk to blend. Total life saver for a busy and tired mum.

I freeze hummus, energy balls, cookies and flapjacks in individual portions so I can grab and go.

I have nuts and seeds portioned into snack sized pots ready for my 3pm snack.

I have or buy veggies prechopped or ones that can be easily eaten whole. Celery dipped straight into a jar of nut butter requires minimal prep. As does a whole carrot dipped into a pot of hummus. Both of these are good foods for energy and make you feel much better than toast and butter.

Are you eating from hunger, hormones or emotions?

Being tried, hormonal or emotional makes you make different decisions about food.

Do you need a hug or a nap?

It is really ok to have a cuppa and some cake or a muffin because it’s a pleasure. And when you do that, enjoy it fully and don’t give it another thought. I fully encourage this!!

It’s less healthy to be inhaling a cake or packet of biscuits every day because you’re tired, depleted, stressed, sad or lonely. And all of these things are really common, even quite normal in new motherhood!!

Ask yourself HALT: Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?

Cake and Coffee.

While I am all about adding in, not taking away. I do think it’s important to be clear that caffeine, refined carbs and sugar make you feel better in the moment, but they make you much more tired tomorrow.

I am certainly not saying do not have those things but do be aware of your relationship with them.

If you have had no sleep at all the night before, then you may need a couple of coffees to get through your day. But if you’re not able to function without your coffee in the morning, then you will likely be amazed to discover that your coffee is actually making your fatigue much worse. You will struggle today without it for sure, but tomorrow you will wake up feeling like a new person.

Note, if you need to detox from coffee then this will take a week. Try some green tea in the meantime to bridge the gap. Don’t go cold turkey, no new mama needs that.

It’s also interesting to note that caffeine metabolised much more slowly in babies than adults, so cutting out caffeine might be helpful for having a calmer baby. It’s certainly worth a try!

Stay on some supplements.

You may feel better having more nutritional support during this time.

  • Your prenatal – I recommend if for the full year after birth, or until you finish breastfeeding. Whichever is longer.
  • Fish oil
  • Ashwagandha
  • Magnesium

Please check with your doctor or health care provider regarding supplementation. Especially if you are taking any prescription medications, had complications with pregnancy or birth or have a diagnosed medical condition.

See your doctor!

Have your thyroid, B12 and iron tested post partum at around the 6 month date, especially if you are suffering with excessive hair loss and ongoing fatigue.

Don’t be overwhelmed

Take one step at a time. Don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough. What is the first step you can take. What can you add in?

And if today has been a bad day, give yourself a mental hug and don’t beat yourself up about it. Tomorrow is a new day.

Resources

Free Meal Plan with recipes for busy (and tired) mums.

https://www.robynpuglia.com/free/

Articles

Podcast Episodes

Books

  • The Postnatal Depletion Cure. Oscar Serrallach
  • The Fourth Trimester. A post partum guide to healing your body, balancing your emotions and healing your body. Kimberley Anne Johnson
  • The First 40 days: The Essential Art of Nourishing The New Mother. Amely Greeven
  • The little book of self care for new mums. Alexis Stickland

More about me:

https://www.robynpuglia.com/about-robyn-puglia/

Work with me:

https://www.robynpuglia.com/courses/foundations-of-health/

Recommended Nutritionist:

Local Sevenoaks Mums who are also nutritionists that I highly recommend.

Jenny Gough
https://www.jenniegough.com

Kat and Val at The Health Boost
https://www.thehealthboost.co.uk

Caroline Sherlock
https://www.eatdrinklivewell.com/our-story/edlw-profile-caroline-sherlock/