This is the fourth post in a series of pregnancy related posts. You can read my first post about surviving and thriving with food here, and my second post about body image here and my third post about exercise during pregnancy here.
Ah, the Fourth Trimester.
The three months when your new baby is adjusting to life outside the womb.
I feel like no one really talks about it. Or at least I don’t remember anyone talking about it.
While I was pregnant, I was mostly focused on actually giving birth, and not so much on what would happen after that.
I did read a helpful book about how to make my baby the happiest on the block.
The Fourth Trimester is that time when your baby is adjusting to life outside your comfy uterus, and you’re adjusting to life with a totally dependent being who needs your attention literally all the time.
It can be a hard time.
You’ve got the Baby Blues because of raging hormones.
You’re sleep deprived because of nighttime feedings.
You’re covered in breastmilk…
You may find yourself feeling ravenously hungry and craving sugar.
I know that I noticed some really bad sugar cravings in the first few weeks after little E was born. All I wanted to eat were Cadbury Mini Eggs, pizza and bread. (Not much different than my first trimester food cravings actually. Except that I could stomach nutrient dense foods).
The first few weeks and months after your baby is born can be hard, and it can be really hard feeling like your sugar cravings are controlling you…so:
Here are 5 Tips to Manage Your Sugar Cravings While Breastfeeding:
Make Sure You’re Rested
Often sugar cravings come out of sleep deprivation. Some say that one night with bad sleeps gives you the insulin sensitivity of a Type II Diabetic. So naturally, when you’re chronically tired from nursing (or bottle feeding) a newborn at all hours of the night, you’re going to be craving sugar and carbs. Your body will start to crave sugar when you’re tired because it’s what your body can use for energy most quickly.
Before we had little E, the piece of advice that literally everyone gave us was “sleep when the baby sleeps.” We soon found that if we actually did this, we’d be sleeping about 20 hours a day…and getting absolutely nothing done aka not being about to live a real life.
So I won’t tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps, BUT I will tell you to take a dang nap if you can.
Personally, I would wake up at around 7am to breastfeed and then be up for the rest of the day no matter what my sleep looked like the night before.
But I would get really tired around 5pm everyday– and that’s when I would naturally let myself doze for a bit to catch up on some sleep.
Take some time to sleep during the day if you can– it might help with your sugar and carb cravings.
Thirst can often be confused with a sugar craving. And if you’re breastfeeding, you’re going to need a LOT more water than usual. I found myself feeling REALLY thirsty all the time in the first few days when my milk was coming in and I was establishing a supply, and then I continued to notice actual thirst while breastfeeding for the first six weeks or so.
I recommend getting a water bottle that you like and keeping it with you all the time. This way you’ll always have it close when you need a sip (just make sure you put it somewhere you can reach it with one arm and a baby on your lap).
Up Your Carb Intake from Fruits & Vegetables
When you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need some extra calories. Some say an additional 500 to 700. Making a portion of these extra calories some dense, starchy carbohydrates from vegetables may take some of the edge off of your sugar cravings.
Go for veggies like sweet potato, white potato, and squash and fruits like bananas and plantains. When you’re getting sugar from whole foods like these, you’re also getting fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that will support not only your baby, but your body as well.
Indulge in Some Sugar
I’m not going to lie. There are mornings when I eat a handful of dark chocolate covered almonds before I eat breakfast. Because that’s what my body wants. Sometimes you just need some real, concentrated sugar to help you feel mentally stable, emotionally stable and physically satisfied.
So go for it. Indulge in that sugar that you really want. BUT do it mindfully. Make the conscious decision to eat it and enjoy it and then to move on and fill the rest of your day with nutrient dense foods.
For more on mindfully indulging your cravings, check out this post.
If you end up eating more chocolate covered almonds than you really wanted to, or having half a pizza for dinner, don’t worry too much. The nutrient content of your milk will stay pretty consistent no matter what you eat.
According to Mark’s Daily Apple,
Nature made the nursing process extremely efficient, which is great for baby and potentially not so great for the mother. The body not only prioritizes nutrient intake for breastmilk but in fact scavenges the mother’s stores, leaching calcium from the mother’s bones, for instance. Even under starvation conditions, the body still produces breastmilk with a remarkably nutrient dense profile
This means that if you’re having a tough day and you go overboard with the sugar, it won’t affect your baby or your body in the short-term.
As long as you are filling your body with mostly nutrient dense, whole foods, your body will be getting the nutrition that it needs, and it will be able to continue producing nutrient dense milk for your babe.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind during your fourth trimester is that you’ve gone through a lot.
You’ve given birth to a tiny human. And that tiny human needs you 24/7. Taking care of your baby is important, but taking care of yourself is also really important.
Take care of yourself physically by eating mostly nutrient dense whole foods.
Take care of yourself emotionally by listening to your body and consciously indulging in the comfort foods that will help make you feel better.