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Postnatal Healthy Eating Guide

 ------ 95875387Now you are a parent, ensuring that you eat a balanced diet may require more planning and time management. Whilst your maternal instinct will give your child the highest priority, you may require a more conscious effort to keep your diet and health at the forefront. Try to:

If you are breastfeeding, also try to:

“The biggest struggle I had in the first few weeks after baby Chloe was born was to eat properly.  She didn’t sleep much and I was always feeding her, changing her nappy or carrying her around to keep her happy. I was always tired and hungry and grabbing snacks rather than proper meals-or my hubby would bring home a take-away. In the end I wrote a rough menu of easy healthy meals for the week, ordered the groceries on-line for free home delivery and cooked with her in a baby carry pouch. ”

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Eat regularly

Facts

    • Eating three smaller meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and two or three healthy snacks (morning tea, afternoon tea and/or supper) each day will boost your metabolism, stops you from getting over-hungry (leading to unhealthy quick fixes) and ensure that you have enough energy for getting through the day, especially if your are breastfeeding.

Tips

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Eat a balanced diet

Facts

Optimum nutrition is obtained from a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, cereals, meat and dairy food. Food requirements in a balanced diet are different for women who breastfeed and those who do not, due to the increased demand for energy and nutrients during breastfeeding. 

Tips

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Choose carbohydrate with a low GI ------ 1621218

Facts

    • Carbohydrates with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) (external) should be eaten at every meal and snack.
    • Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is the main energy source for cells, especially the brain.
    • GI refers to the time it takes for the glucose in the food you have eaten to be absorbed into the blood stream. Those foods with a lower GI are better for you as they provide a slower, sustained release of glucose (energy) into your blood.
    • The benefits of low GI include feeling less hungry, more energetic and reducing your chance of developing diabetes.

Tips

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Choose reduced-fat options

Facts

    • There are healthy fats (unsaturated fats such as found  in avocado, nuts, olive oil ) and unhealthy fats (trans and saturated fats such as found in full cream dairy, fat or skin on meat and chicken, coconut and palm oil).
    • Both healthy and unhealthy fats are concentrated sources of energy and therefore when consumed in excess will result in weight gain. 
    • It is best to minimise your saturated fat and control your unsaturated fat intake to reap health benefits such as reduced risk of high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, and a healthy weight.

Tips

To reduce saturated and trans fat intake: ------ 69664900

    • Choose foods that are less processed – this will reduce your trans fat intake
    • Trim fat off meat before cooking
    • When cooking, try to bake, stir-fry and grill instead of frying, use minimal added fat (oil sprays are a good option for browning) 
    • Eat reduced-fat dairy foods (cheese, milk, margarine, yoghurt). Reduced-fat milk has more calcium as well as less saturated fat than full cream milk.
  • Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats by:
    • Using avocado, pesto or tahini instead of butter
    • Eating nuts as a snack (almonds, brazil, walnuts are best)
    • Using vegetable cooking oils such as canola, sunflower or olive oils instead of butter
    • Including 3 fish meals per week (e.g. salmon, sardines, tuna etc).

More about fats in food  (external, Heart Foundation)

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Balance food intake and physical activity

Facts

    • Weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy, you will be heavier than your pre-pregnancy weight after having the baby 
    • Ideally you will have gained a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy making your task to lose the baby-weight much easier. 
    • The energy and nutrient demands of full breast feeding are high and this is not the time to reduce your food intake. Wait until your baby is established on solid food before you attempt to lose weight.

Tips ------ 98374355

    • Make sure you balance your energy intake with energy output through exercising. 
    • To get an idea of how much exercise is required to burn off the energy from particular foods see the Food and activity calculator (external) (e.g. it takes 2 hours of brisk walking to burn off the energy from one serve of pad thai!). It will even show you healthier food choices with recipe links.

See more information about healthy weight and eating in the postnatal period.

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Eat safe foods

 Facts

    • Listeria is no longer a concern after delivery but the key rules for food safety still apply to keep you and your family safe from food poisoning.

Tips

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Drink plenty of water ------ 32838391

Facts

    • Water is required for all body functions.  Even mild dehydration can reduce physical and mental performance and increase fatigue. 
    • Fluid requirements are increased when breastfeeding because of breast milk’s high water content. 
    • Fluid requirements increase with body weight, physical activity and climatic conditions such as high temperature, high altitude, and low humidity.

Tips

  •  
    • Aim to drink an extra 700-1000 mL of fluid (three to four cups) to replace the fluid lost through breastfeeding. 
    • Choose water over sweet beverages such as soft drinks and fruit juice, which are concentrated sources of sugar.  See Soft drinks calculator (external)
    • When breastfeeding have a water bottle handy and make it part of your routine to sip as you feed. 
    • Boost your fluid and calcium intake with two cups of low fat milk per day. 
    • Limit tea, coffee and cola drinks due to the caffeine content and diuretic effect (increase of urine output).  Tea with meals also reduces iron absorption.
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Avoid drinking alcohol ------ 53033992

Facts

    • Alcohol consumption when breastfeeding is not advised as alcohol is transferred into your breast milk within 30-60 minutes and will be at the same concentration as in your blood. 
    • Alcohol may decrease the flow of your milk and thus reduce the supply to your baby. 
    • If you breastfeed your baby when there is alcohol in your blood stream, your baby may fall asleep quicker, but often have a less restful sleep and wake sooner. 
    • Drinking three or more  alcoholic drinks daily whilst breastfeeding may have lasting effects on your baby including delayed achievement of their developmental milestones. 
    • Low-level drinking (such as one or two drinks per week) is likely to be of low-risk however evidence cannot ensure nil risk.

Tips

From the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) Alcohol and breastfeeding: a guide for mothers (external) pamphlet:

    • Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for women who are breastfeeding as there is no known safe intake. 
    • If you do choose to drink, wait until your baby is at least one month old and limit your intake to two standard drinks, but not every day
    • Breastfeed before you have alcohol and ensure you express enough milk prior to consuming alcohol to last until your milk is free of alcohol. (See the ABA pamphlet for waiting times based on mother’s weight and number of drinks).
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Avoid smoking and other drugs

Facts

With a child it is important to avoid smoking and other drugs. Drug-use (whether legal, illicit or illegal) can negatively affect the health of your baby:

    • Drugs (including tobacco and alcohol) and some medicines can reach your baby through your breast milk
    • Drugs that impair your ability to function and therefore your parenting skills which can negatively impact on your baby's welfare
    • Drugs and tobacco that create smoke when used will impact on your baby when:
      • You smoke and handle your baby afterwards exposing them to smoke through your breath, trapped on your clothes, in your hair and skin; and
      • Someone smokes in an area where your baby is or will be in the next 5 hours (smoke lingers in the air and on furnishings). See Passive smoking and babies (external).

Tips

  • You can minimise the harm on your baby from drugs by:
    • Informing yourself of the effects on your baby of using legal drugs (e.g. alcohol, tobacco and caffeine), illegal drugs and/or illicitly using legal drugs and medications. For more information see parenting as a drug user (external)
    • Quitting smoking and encouraging people around your baby not to smoke. For some great support ideas to help quitting smoking download the ‘Smoking and Your Baby’ tip sheet from Having a baby in WA (external)
    • If you are breastfeeding and unable to quit smoking at this time, harm minimisation measures can be taken – see breastfeeding and smoking (external)
    • Checking the safety of any prescription or over-the-counter medications with your doctor, pharmacist or call NPS Medicines Line (9 am-5 pm AEST) on 1300 633 424. For more information see King Edward Memorial Hospital drugs and breastfeeding and Breastfeeding and prescription medicines (external)
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Monitor caffeine intake ------ 37377577

Facts

    • Only about 1% of caffeine consumed by a mother enters her breast milk, reaching a peak level about one hour after consumption. 
    • Most breastfeeding mothers can consume a moderate amount of caffeine (eg a few cups of coffee or cola each day) without it affecting their babies. 
    • Newborn babies process caffeine slowly and may show more sensitivity to caffeine consumed in breast milk than older infants (6 months) who have better developed caffeine processing.  

Tips

    • Limit your intake of strong coffee or soft drinks high in caffeine in the first few weeks of breastfeeding.
    • Monitor your breast fed baby for effects of your intake of different levels of caffeine. Your baby may become unhappy, jittery, colicky and/or sleep poorly with your increased intake. Let this guide your intake.
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Be careful of the mercury content of certain fish

Facts

    • Mercury affects the nervous system and sufficient exposure during pregnancy can slow the baby’s development in infancy and early childhood.
    • Mercury occurs naturally in air, water and soil. It is usually low in foods but accumulates more so in large predatory species of fish
    • Levels are highest in larger predatory species of fish because mercury, in the form of methylmercury (external), is absorbed by algae at the start of the food chain.  Algae is then eaten by smaller fish who are eaten by larger fish, and so the process goes on.
    • Fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, important for the development of your baby's central nervous system, as well as being a good source of protein, vitamin B12, iodine and other minerals therefore choosing the safest fish to eat may be beneficial.

Tips

    • The Australian recommendations for fish intake when breastfeeding are:
      • To eat two to three serves per week of a variety of fish
      • To limit the types of fish that are higher in mercury (shark/ flake, broadbill, marlin, and swordfish) to one serve per fortnight and consume no other fish during this time
      • To limit the intake of fish with a slightly raised mercury level (orange roughy/ sea perch and catfish) to one serve per week and consume no other fish during this time.
      • All other fish can be consumed as much as you like (e.g. canned or fresh tuna, salmon, snapper) as long as you are not consuming the higher mercury types mentioned above.
    • Nearly all of the canned tuna in Australia is now made from a smaller (and more sustainable) species of tuna called 'Skipjack' caught mainly in the Western Central Pacific Ocean.
    • Being smaller in size and shorter-lived than other tuna makes them significantly lower in mercury and safe to consume on a regular basis by pregnant women.
    • Do make sure to check the packaging on the tuna products you purchase as a small number of brands do still use the larger (and less sustainable) tuna species, such as 'yellowfin', which can be higher in mercury.

Mercury in fish VIDEO (external, FSANZ)

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Consider infant allergies

Facts

    • The Australasian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) recommends no maternal dietary exclusions during breastfeeding even with a family history of allergies such as peanut, egg, fish, soy, cow's milk. Read more (external)
    • The only time that it is recommended to exclude certain foods from your breastfeeding diet is when your baby has had a severe allergic response (e.g. anaphylaxis or delayed/chronic allergic syndromes) to a food introduced during weaning.

Tips

    • Any maternal dietary exclusion should be supervised by a Dietitian (external) and only be for a short time frame.
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>> Diet Whilst Breastfeeding >>

>> Diet When Not Breastfeeding >>

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