Healthy eating and drinking in the early days
Caring for a new baby is an important job, and it needs a lot of time and energy.
In the early days, you might have less time for shopping and for preparing and cooking snacks and meals. But eating well helps you keep your energy up to care for your baby.
For good health, you need to eat a wide variety of foods every day from five main food groups:
- vegetables – 6 serves a day for men and 5 serves a day for women
- fruit – 2 serves a day for men and women
- grain foods – 6 serves a day for men and women
- protein – 3 serves a day for men and 2½ serves a day for women
- reduced-fat dairy – 2½ serves a day for men and women.
It’s also important to drink plenty of water – 8 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 the healthiest choice.
You can find out more by talking to an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) or by checking the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.
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
Here are a few tips for quick, easy and healthy eating options:
- Buy prewashed salad mixes or bags of prechopped vegetables.
- Prepare meals in bulk and freeze them – for example, casseroles and soups.
- 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.
- Make meals that can be eaten hot or cold – for example, frittatas. You can also pack these into containers for outings.
- 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
- slow-cooked stew – put vegetables and lean meat or chickpeas into a slow cooker early in the day with some stock or tinned tomatoes for a warm meal ready by the evening
- ‘everything’ fried rice
- easy pizza.
Even if you’ve gone back to work, you can do a lot to help out with healthy meals in the early weeks. Perhaps you could pick up some healthy takeaway, like sushi, salads or soups, on your way home from work, or do some cooking on the weekend for you and your partner to have during the week.
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 pick up some things for dinner gets you out of the house and keeps you active too.
You don’t need to join a gym to exercise. Learn a few exercises that you can do from home, follow workout videos on YouTube, or go for walks or runs. Then you won’t have to worry about the travel time involved in going to the gym.
Some women worry about losing their ‘baby weight’. 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.
Medication, alcohol and smoking
If you’re drinking alcohol, taking medication or smoking, 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 medications that you or your partner take. Some medications, including herbal tonics or tablets, have 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 harmful to your health. By limiting yourself to no more than four standard alcoholic drinks in a day and no more than ten standard drinks over a week, you’ll reduce your risk of harm.
It’s best for you and your baby to be in a smoke-free environment.
Children exposed to second-hand smoke 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.
This can affect how well you sleep, so try not to have it late in the day.
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 best not to drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs, including marijuana.