Guest post by Regina Shirley R.D., L.D.N., ServingUpDiabetes.com
Life before baby consists of days upon days where we check off things on our to-do list like normal people and make every-day decisions. Take a normal Friday for example; I would think, “okay, today I need to work on hitting my quota for the month, get to the gym, go grocery shopping and wrap those birthday presents, and if I have time, work on that scrapbook.”
In the weeks following the birth of my first child, I now have the serious decisions such as choosing between a hot shower, a nap or eating a solid meal. I usually choose them based on how tired I am, if my hair can take it one more day and if my husband is home or not to bother with a full meal or settle on a breakfast bar and a banana for dinner.
As a registered dietitian and a woman with type 1 diabetes for over 22 years, nutrition has always taken a front seat on my to-do list, and yet still it has been extremely challenging to continue to be diligent about my healthy eating habits due to the all-consuming life with an infant.
Being the type A person that I am, I spent the last couple of months of my third trimester cooking up a storm and freezing meals to get my husband and I through those daunting first weeks at home with a newborn that everyone warns us about… “Take any food people offer you! You will be happy you did!” So I took the time to prepare in advance. I also made a grocery list and set it aside with essential foods that I could have my husband pick up that would be quick and nutritious items to fuel me through the sleepless nights and long nursing sessions.
What I didn’t anticipate was that the home cooked meals I made and froze were more carb- than protein-driven, which weren’t all that great for my energy level or my blood sugar level (I think all I could do was cook comfort food in my third trimester as that is all I craved!). Also, when people asked if I could use food, I should have just said “YES!! Please bring me some grilled chicken!!!” I remember the first six weeks or so home, all I craved was protein, and the thought of just grilling chicken breast to eat for lunch was way too laborious.
It is important to keep in mind that when you are not only healing from a cesarean section, but also nursing non-stop (and my baby was born at 10 pounds so she was already a very hungry girl!), that there are key nutrients that should be consumed to keep your metabolism and iron stores at their full potential.
When we are tired, baby or not, it is always easiest to reach for the sugar or the high fat/carb snack or fast food item to fill our bellies. All this does is leave us feeling empty, more tired from the crash of the sugar rush, and often times cranky. For people without diabetes, when all you eat are quick sugary snacks your pancreas produces an overload of insulin to compensate, and then when the unhealthy fast-acting carbs run out of steam, your liver shoots out glucose to compensate for the sugar crash and dizzy feeling. Leaving you craving more sugar!
The two key nutrients that our bodies desperately need after a major surgery are protein (essential for wound healing as well as to fight off infection) and vitamin C (the key nutrient required for making collagen which is what heals tissue). During my five days at Beth Israel recovering from having a third of my pregnancy weight removed from me, I made sure to eat two hard boiled eggs, an English muffin with cream cheese, and an orange every single morning for breakfast, and grilled chicken at least one other time during the day.
When I returned home, and after the frozen meals ran out and the dark circles under my eyes made me wonder if I was a new mom or Alice Cooper, I finally took a hold of my sleep deprivation and told myself to eat better…this was the only way I was going to survive all the recovery from major surgery, breastfeeding pain and struggles—and oh, not to mention that chronic disease I contend with on a daily basis.
While I am not always the pillar of health, and over the last few months have definitely fallen into some ruts as far as stuffing anything in my mouth that I could find before I passed out in a pile of spit up, I do recognize that the more prepared you can be before you bring home the baby, the better off your body will feel and all that extra energy you have you can use toward checking off such things on your to do list as “I survived the first few months as a new mom and didn’t eat fast food once!”… well, maybe once.