By Stephanie Greunke, Whole Mamas Program Director
Motherhood is a blessing, but it’s certainly not easy.
Mamas, you know the struggle. From the moment you get up (if you were lucky enough to get some sleep), you are constantly being bombarded with people needing things from you. You are surrounded by bottles, spit-up rags, piles of laundry, crying, tantrums, and hungry humans. Some days, you feel like you’re going to fall apart.
I get it. I had no idea how hard motherhood was going to be until I became a mom. What I do know is that your diet can make or break your experience as a mom.
Sound a little extreme? Maybe, but it’s the truth. Let me explain.
If you’ve ever completed a Whole30, you know how empowering it is to take control of your health. Towards the end of your 30 days, you feel the Tiger Blood and start to understand just how much certain foods affect your mind, body, and spirit.
While everything else in your life may feel completely out of your control, you know that you have the power to choose the most nourishing food for your body and that feels freaking awesome.
Fast forward to your first few days as a new mom. People are bringing you casseroles, and chocolate, and cookies, and more cookies. You’re sleep deprived and have no energy to cook, so even though you know you’d feel better without that dairy, sugar, and gluten-filled treat, you have it anyways. That “one piece” turns into the whole batch and now you’re in the sugar-shame spiral.
Sound familiar? It happens to the best of us.
So, is the solution to do a strict Whole30 immediately after your baby arrives? Maybe, but probably not.
You already have a million other things to worry about in those first few days (and even weeks) postpartum. But, what you CAN do is take control over your mental and physical health by following some of the rules outlined by the Whole30 program as well as information you know about yourself or found out about yourself by doing the program in the past.
Here are five reasons why following the principles of the Whole30 or doing a Whole30 (when it’s a good time for you) postpartum may be beneficial:
- Although motherhood may make you feel out of control, you are in control!
- You can boost your mental and physical health
- You can potentially mitigate health issues for your baby (if nursing)
- You model healthy behaviors for your family
- You can be the kind of mom you really want to be
You are in control
Remember the scenario above? When you’re busy trying to navigate life with a new baby, your life can seem completely out of control. And when you feel out of control, sometimes you just want to throw your hands up and give up on the healthy behaviors you’ve been rocking for years because it all just seems like too much. Don’t do that! The more you give up on your healthy habits, the more out of control you’ll feel. It’s a vicious cycle. Acknowledge that while you can’t always control your baby’s sleep, feeding schedule, or other life demands, you are always in control over the food you put in your mouth. Feeling the renewed sense of control can be extremely beneficial while you’re figuring things out in the postpartum period.
Find a happy medium so that you can continue with those healthy behaviors, without sacrificing your sanity. This could look like:
- Going gluten or dairy-free instead of doing a full Whole30
- Eating breakfast within an hour of waking
- Cutting back on added sugar
- Drinking plenty of filtered water throughout the day
- Having a fruit and/or vegetable at your meals
- Making sure your meals have a nice balance of protein, carbs, and fats.
- Making an effort to sit down for meals (or at least one meal) instead of snacking all day.
Once you master one of your previous healthy habits, move onto the next. By starting small and being consistent, you help these habits stick. You’ll feel more energy and a sense of satisfaction knowing that you’re back in the driver’s seat.
Boost your mental and physical health
Pregnancy, labor, and healing demand a lot of resources. Your energy, nutrient-stores, and body take a hit and need a lot of support in the postpartum period. And if you’re nursing, your body is trying to heal and nourish a little one, so you need to go that extra mile to ensure optimal health.
Key nutrients your body needs in the postpartum:
For mental health: omega 3 fats (EPA + DHA), Vitamin D, B vitamins (B6, B9, B12) and trace minerals (zinc, iron, selenium)
For healing: protein, iron, vitamin C, fat-soluble vitamins, collagen peptides and/or bone broth
To support nursing: extra carbs + overall calories + plenty of extra fluid (at least 80 fl. oz/day). Please refer to my blog about nursing considerations and the Whole30.
The good news is that by choosing whole foods (meat, seafood, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits) you are able to obtain many of these important nutrients from your diet. You may also want to consider a fish oil and vitamin D supplement to support your healthy diet.
Mitigate health issues for your newborn
As any new mom will tell you, dealing with a baby’s reflux, colic, constipation, and gas aren’t pleasant experiences. While there are many reasons your baby may be experiencing these issues, I’ve found that many moms see a marked improvement in their baby’s symptoms when they remove potentially irritating foods such as cow’s milk dairy, soy, peanuts, wheat, and corn.
Although the main culprit is cow’s milk dairy, these other potentially irritating foods are also eliminated on a Whole30 diet, thus the reason why so many moms rave about the program’s benefits while nursing. And even if your baby isn’t reacting to some of these foods, by focusing on nutrient-dense, whole foods you are nourishing yourself and your baby with a high-quality diet.
Be a role model
Even as an infant, your baby will pick up on your emotions and behaviors. When you smile, they smile. When you kick a ball, your toddler attempts to kick it. If you put a piece of broccoli in your mouth and immediately spit it out or make a face, well… chances are your little one will also pick up on that behavior. They are constantly learning from you. This can be a good thing, when it’s behaviors you want them to pick up on, but it can also bite you in the butt later. That’s why role modeling is so important, especially when it comes to food.
By keeping mostly healthy whole foods in your kitchen and being open to trying new food, your little one’s taste buds will learn to appreciate unprocessed foods and new flavors once they start solids (and even earlier if you’re nursing as the flavors of the food you consume end up in your breastmilk). They may even be more willing to try that new vegetable dish because you’re eating it. If you truly don’t like something, swallow it quickly, smile and don’t make a big deal out of it.
My son eats real, whole food most of the time because that’s what we do. He doesn’t know what a cookie is because we don’t keep that kind of food in our house. However, the second he got a hold of my husband’s bag of tortilla chips he never forgot how good they taste. Now, whenever we walk in the chip aisle or he sees a bag in our pantry, that’s all he begs for. This isn’t to say that you need to be perfect or that you’re never allowed to have a treat. It’s simply to help you be more mindful about the food you bring into your home and introduce to your little ones. The more they start tasting hyper-palatable food, the less palatable whole food will become, and the great the potential that fussy eating will ensue.
Just like you may have noticed during your Whole30, your taste buds can change, so it’s never too late to get your whole family on track with whole foods. It’s easier if you start early, but not impossible later on. I know this is a hot topic, so I’ll write more about it in future blogs.
Be the best mom you can be
When you’re not eating in a way that supports your body, you’re not the best version of yourself. You may be more irritable, anxious, angry, or just too tired to give your little one the energy they demand. I’ve talked to many moms who felt too tired to get on the floor and play with their infant or run around with their toddler. They then felt guilty about this and resorted to emotionally eating foods that further perpetuated the problem. It can be a vicious cycle to correct.
However, you can and deserve to feel good. Make a declaration to invest in yourself. Start small, if you need, or go all in with a program like the Whole30. Even from the moment you decide that you matter and you start taking action to feel better, you start feeling like a better mom. Put your own safety mask on first, mama! The more you take care of yourself, the better mom, spouse, friend, coworker (and so on, because you play so many important roles) you can be!
That’s it for our mini-series on the benefits of the Whole30 throughout conception, pregnancy, and postpartum. Again, the goal is not to persuade you that you HAVE to do a Whole30 to become pregnant, have a healthy pregnancy, and rock your postpartum. It’s simply encouragement for you to modify your diet so that you can start feeling your very best along your journey.
If you’re interested in learning more about how your diet can influence your fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum make sure to check out our Whole Mamas Pregnancy Program.