Healthy eating and drinking in the early days
Caring for a new baby is an important job. Healthy eating will help you get the energy you need to care for your baby.
For good health, you need a wide variety of foods every day from the 5 healthy food groups:
- Vegetables and legumes – men need 6 serves a day, and women need 5 serves a day.
- Fruit – both men and women need 2 serves a day.
- Cereals and grain foods – both men and women need 6 serves a day.
- Foods with protein, including meat and meat alternatives – men need 3 serves a day, and women need 2½ serves a day.
- Dairy or dairy alternatives – both men and women need 2½ serves a day.
It’s also important to drink plenty of water– 8-10 cups a day for women and 10 cups a day for men. It’s OK to have juice, cordial or soft drink sometimes, but they’re high in sugar. Water is best.
If you’re breastfeeding, your body needs extra fluids and nutrients, which you can get from a healthy breastfeeding diet.
Healthy eating tips for new parents
In the early days, you might have less time for shopping and preparing snacks and meals.
Here are tips for quick, easy and healthy eating options:
- Prepare meals in bulk and freeze them – for example, casseroles and soups. You could even do some cooking and freezing before your baby arrives.
- Use frozen vegetables when you don’t have time to prepare fresh vegetables.
- Keep your fruit basket full.
- Have yoghurt, nuts, vegetable sticks and hummus on hand for healthy snacks during the day.
- Buy prewashed salad mixes or bags of prechopped vegetables.
- Make meals that can be eaten hot or cold and at any time of day – for example, frittatas, sandwiches or wraps.
- Shop online and use grocery delivery services.
- Accept offers of meals from friends and family.
Some quick and healthy meals ideas include:
- shop-bought roast chicken with a prewashed salad mix
- boiled eggs or baked beans on wholegrain toast, with a side of vegetables or salad
- stews of vegetables, lean meat or chickpeas, stock and tinned tomatoes, done in a slow cooker during the day and ready for dinner
- ‘everything’ fried rice
- easy pizza.
Check out our family recipes section for more quick, tasty and healthy meal ideas.
Physical activity tips for new parents
Exercise can increase your energy levels and help you feel good. Movement is what matters – 30 minutes or so a day.
It might be easiest to make physical activity a part of everyday activities. For example, pushing your baby’s pram to the shops to buy things for dinner gets you out of the house and keeps you active too.
You could also learn a few exercises that you can do from home, follow workout videos on YouTube, or go for walks or runs. This means you won’t need to travel to a gym.
Another option is baby-friendly exercise classes in your local area. Your child and family health nurse, neighbourhood house or community centre might have information.
It’s important to give your body time to recover after your baby is born. Healthy food and gentle exercise make for a sensible approach.
Sleep and rest tips for new parents
When you’re well rested, it’s good for you and good for your baby. But it can be challenging to get enough sleep and rest in the early weeks and months of your baby’s life.
These tips can help you get to sleep more easily and sleep better:
- Aim for a regular bedtime routine.
- Avoid screens in the bedroom.
- Avoid foods and drinks with caffeine close to bedtime.
And these tips can boost your energy, even if you’re not getting as much night-time sleep as you’d like:
- Nap during the day.
- Exercise and eat well.
- Make time for yourself.
You might need to adapt your daily routines and expectations of yourself to make more time for rest.
Medicine, alcohol, smoking and vaping
If you’re drinking alcohol, taking medicine, smoking or vaping, it’s important to think about how your choices affect your baby’s health and wellbeing, as well as your ability to care for your baby safely.
Check with your doctor or pharmacist about any medicine that you or your partner take. Some medicine, including herbal tonics or tablets, has side effects that could make it hard to care for your baby. This might include anything that causes drowsiness, affects your balance or affects your reflexes – for example, when driving a car.
Australian guidelines say that drinking is bad for your health. By limiting yourself to no more than 4 standard alcoholic drinks in a day and no more than 10 standard drinks over a week, you’ll reduce your risk of harm.
Smoking or vaping
It’s best for you and your baby to be in a smoke-free and vape-free environment.
Children exposed to second-hand smoke from smoking or vaping are at an increased risk of early death and disease from various causes. For example, smoking puts your baby at higher risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleeping accidents.
What you eat, drink or smoke is passed through your breastmilk to your baby and can affect your baby’s health and development. So if you’re breastfeeding, it’s safest not to drink alcohol, smoke, vape or use drugs.