Healthy Mum, Happy Baby

In an age when information overload is the norm, it’s often hard the find the correct path to fitness and healthy living. There are so many conflicting opinions that it’s easy to become confused about what you should be doing for yourself and your family

As a father myself, I feel for you. Luckily, I’ve had the benefit of spending the majority of my life sorting fact from fiction when it comes to training and nutrition and so to start my series of exclusive features, I will be focusing on post-natal nutrition and postnatal training tips.

Child birth, I’m told, is one of the most painful and difficult things a human being can go through, and having witnessed the birth of both of my children I have no reason to doubt this. Add to this the large number of women who also breast-feed and who are suffering from lack of sleep and we begin to realize how much good, nutritious food a breast feeding mother needs.

As you know, breast milk is highly nutritious and it is recommended that babies be breast fed for ‘at least’ the first six months with further breast-feeding and introduction of foods for up to two years.

Breast milk is made up primarily of proteins (Whey 60%, Casein 40%), fats (primary calorie source), vitamins (A,D,E,K, C, B2, B3, B5), Carbohydrates (lactose) antibodies and colostrum. We can see that to produce such a highly rich and nutritious source of nourishment for the baby takes a lot of work and energy from the mother so, unfortunately, not all breast milk is created equal. In short, it depends on what the mother is eating.

A breast-feeding mother’s diet needs to be highly nutritious and contain as a base the following foods:

● Coconut oil

● Avocados

● Hemp seeds

● Olive oil

● Nuts such as almonds (but soaked in water overnight)

● Free range organic meats and poultry, especially liver

● Wild fish

● A wide variety of organic vegetables and salads

● Fruits especially berries, melons, pineapple and papaya

● Super foods such as cacao, maca and acai

● Probiotics

● Bee products such as bee pollen and honey

● Carbohydrates in the form of sweet potatoes, brown and wild rice, lentils and red kidney beans

If a breast-feeding mother doesn’t have enough of the right fats in the diet along with all of the other nutrients then there is a cascading detrimental effect on the body.

In order to produce breast milk the body will start to rob the brain of its essential fats, which in turn means that the brain will not function optimally and depression and other mentally related ailments may occur. Calcium and other minerals will also be taken, resulting in issues such as loose teeth and osteoporosis.

Skin cells are also made up primarily of omega 6 fats, which means, that the one million cells that are regenerated every second do not have the correct building blocks. The result is poor regeneration, making for wrinkles and a lack of elasticity throughout the body and skin. So a great nutritious diet is not only vital for the baby but also for the long-term health of the mother.

An organic diet is always best but wherever possible and in terms of supplements I always advise that people juice and add super foods to their existing diets. Juicing vegetables and certain fruits adds enzymes, vitamins, minerals and amino acids to our diets which, because of over farming and certain non-organic farming practices, don’t deliver the nutritional content they did 100 years ago. Super foods are also an amazing way to supplement our diets. Raw Cacao (raw chocolate) has a tremendous array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In fact, it has the second highest number of antioxidants of all super foods. So we now begin to understand that our food mostly needs to be raw, not over cooked, wherever possible free range and organic and as varied as possible.

The next phase in looking and feeling good and secondary to nutrition is training. It’s often advisable to start training after being on a nutritional plan for several weeks, ensuring that one is strong enough to be able to do so.

The best way to start working out is to do the most natural thing first, and that’s walking. Go back to walking as soon as you feel comfortable – work your way up to 45 minutes to an hour a day. Introduce the pram, which will add some resistance to your muscles as soon as you feel able to do so.

Walking is such an underrated form of exercise and, just because you don’t feel a burn or get a pump, it doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. In fact you’ll get a great increase in blood flow to all major muscle groups, tone up the legs, and increase blood flow to the brain. Oxygenating the brain will make you feel better and lead to greater enthusiasm.

As a word of caution, due to the levels of elastin in the body in the postnatal phase; take care when stretching or performing yoga, as it is still possible to overstretch certain ligaments.

Individuals who have been highly active before their pregnancy will be able to return to activity much more quickly. For those of you who have never exercised before, this is a genuinely good time to start, but remember that slow and steady is the key to success. You should ensure that you don’t burn yourself out so that you can maintain your energy levels and deal with any sleep deprivation.

You will have noticed that I haven’t introduced abdominal exercises here, there is a reason for that, and I will cover that in an article dedicated to that subject. Don’t worry, we’ll get those abs working too – one step at a time though!