Since having my first child in January, I’ve learnt a great many things.
The term ‘sleeping like a baby’ was invented by someone who had never met a baby, for one. And I will never again finish a cup of coffee while it’s still hot.
My appetite didn’t really increase during pregnancy, nor did I get any food cravings (much to my disappointment) so I was really surprised to learn that breastfeeding makes you hungry. Like insatiably hungry. As in, you can eat for an hour straight and you’re still hungry. Even freaking out the husband with the ability to put away twice the amount of food as him hungry. You get the picture – I was Hungry Hippo hungry. All the time.
Given my life has revolved around eating (and attempts at sleeping) for the better part of 9 months, I thought I’d compile my top 5 food-related suggestions for new mothers.
1. The freezer is your friend
So many people told me to stock up the freezer with meals before I had my baby. So very many smart people. But I didn’t listen. I was heavily pregnant during a long hot Aussie summer and the last thing I wanted to do was slave over a hot stove. I thought I’d have plenty of time after baby to make dinners. Truth be told, I did have lots of time. She slept like a dream for the first few weeks. But I was exhausted, physically and mentally. I didn’t even consider cooking because whenever she was asleep, I took the opportunity to curl up in a ball and pass out. So regardless of whether you have a sleepy baby or a sleepless one, stocking up the freezer with a dozen or so meals will be a lifesaver.
2. Start a meal routine
When I envisaged myself on maternity leave, I saw a younger, Australian-Italian version of Martha Stewart. I’d be cooking gourmet feasts for my husband to enjoy after a long day at work, I’d be buying freshly cut flowers to arrange in a vase*, constantly redecorating the nursery (I don’t know why) and having long lunches with my mummy friends.I look back now and laugh at how stupidly naive I really was. I soon discovered that you don’t decide what you do on any given day, your baby does. You have good days where you might be able to do some of the things I’d dreamed about, but that is certainly not what my average day might look like. When you are a new mum, learning the ropes and juggling appointments, running a household, baby duties and life’s other little surprises, the last thing I have time for is the ‘what am I going to cook for dinner’ game.For the sake of my sanity, my budget and the basic human need for sustenance, I started a meal plan/ routine. Sure, it’s not exciting or spontaneous, but I know what we’re having for dinner each night of the week – including which night hubby is on cooking duties and a night a fortnight set aside for takeout. It works for us.
3. If you have no willpower, don’t have it in the house
Do you feel an irresistible pull toward your pantry – closer and closer you inch until those chocolate chip cookies you bought are within your reach and then, without actually realising how it’s happened, you have consumed the entire box of chocolate-y goodness? If this sounds familiar, congratulations! Like me, you are the proud owner of zero willpower and a sugar addiction.
This one is simple – don’t buy the junk. You’ll be home a lot and be tempted to ‘reward’ yourself for little wins – like getting the baby to sleep finally. If it’s not there, you can’t eat it. I wish I’d heeded my own advice sooner.
4. Starting solids can make your life easier…eventually
Just when I thought I was getting the hang of this mummy thing, my daughter started solids. Initially this meant a lot more time for me in the kitchen – peeling, cubing, pureeing, storing, freezing, defrosting, reheating, feeding and then starting all over again. Thankfully she’s now progressed to textured, lumpier foods which means I can offer her small portions of our meals, usually mashed or finely chopped. I came across a fantastic Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook called ‘Healthy Babies’ which has helped in the motivation department and is chock-full of brilliant recipes for the whole family.
5. It’s not still baby weight after 9 months
So this isn’t a tip for anyone but myself really. It’s officially time to put as much effort, health and nutrition into my own diet as I put into my daughter’s.
*in the interests of full disclosure, I have never been able to arrange freshly cut flowers nicely in a vase, they just refuse to look pretty for me. I’ll add it to my list of goals.