Everyone loves a Royal baby and the arrival of latest addition to the Royal Household is no exception. Like the rest of the nation, I’m delighted for William and Kate, and of course big brother George and big sister Charlotte.. Congratulations!
After the initial flurry of interest for the fifth in line to the throne wears off, attention will return to Kate to see how quickly she gets back into her elegant clothes.
The desire to shape up after giving birth is a stress for most new mums – made even worse for Kate who’s likely to feel under immense pressure as the whole world watches and waits to see how long it takes her to shed any extra baby pounds.
But now’s not the time for faddy or extreme diets. Instead, new mums like Kate should focus on eating a well-balanced, nourishing diet that provides plenty of energy to cope with the demands of a new baby and all the nutrients needed to stay healthy.
The rules for healthy eating are the same for new mums as everyone else. Whether bottle or breastfeeding, mums should aim to have at least five servings of fruit and veg each day and include fibre-rich starchy foods at each meal – for example, wholegrain cereal for breakfast, a sandwich made with wholemeal bread for lunch, and a jacket potato, brown rice or wholewheat pasta for dinner. New mums should also enjoy plenty of low-fat dairy products (especially if they are breastfeeding) and eat lean protein-rich foods every day. Plus health experts recommend that, like everyone else, new mums should eat two portions of fish each week, one of which should be an oil-rich fish.
Mums who choose to breastfeed need to pay even more attention to what they’re eating to make sure their baby gets the absolute best nutrition.
Breastfeeding mums have higher needs for most nutrients, including protein and many vitamins and minerals. It’s unsurprising as their diet has to provide all the nutrients needed for both themselves and their baby in the form of breast milk. It’s also vital to make sure these needs are met because research reveals that the right nutrition from conception through to the first few years of life can have a huge impact on a baby’s ability to grow and develop.
And that’s where fish can have an important role in the diets of new mums. All varieties – white, oily and shellfish – are a great all-round source of many of the nutrients that breastfeeding mums need.
At the top of this list, seafood is a natural source of long-chain omega-3 fats, including docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA for short. White fish like cod and haddock and shellfish such as crab and prawns contain omega-3 fats, but oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, herrings, fresh tuna, salmon and trout are the richest sources – that’s why health guidelines recommend one of our two portions of fish each week is oil-rich. Many of us fail to achieve this though – on average, in the UK we only manage to eat about one portion of oily fish every 18 days. But it’s even more important to eat the recommended weekly serving of oil-rich fish when breastfeeding because DHA contributes to normal brain development in babies.
All varieties of fish – white, shellfish and oily – are also packed with protein, a nutrient that supports the growth of muscle and bone. Unsurprisingly, breastfeeding mums have increased needs for this nutrient to ensure they provide enough in their milk for their growing baby.
Breastfeeding mums also have increased needs for a variety of vitamins and minerals, including several B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and selenium. Again, this is to ensure they produce a nutritious milk that contains everything a growing baby needs.
Breastfeeding mums need extra vitamin B1 (found in catfish, coley, mackerel, plaice, salmon and seabass), vitamin B2 (found in crabmeat, flounder, herring, mackerel, mussels and sardines) and vitamins B3 and B12 (both found in many varieties of fish). These vitamins all have a role in producing energy and supporting the nervous system to work normally.
Meanwhile, although the Department of Health recommends that all breastfeeding mums take a 10mcg supplement of vitamin D, eating the recommended one serving of oil-rich fish each week can help to boost intakes. Herring, pilchards, salmon, mackerel, kippers, trout, sardines, fresh tuna, eel and anchovies are all packed with this vitamin, which is needed for the normal development of bones and teeth in babies and young children.
Calcium is another nutrient that’s needed in plentiful amounts. UK recommendations reveal breastfeeding mums need 1,250mg calcium a day – compared with the usual 700mg for other women. Milk and dairy products tend to be the main sources of calcium in our diets. However, langoustine, oyster and tilapia contain this nutrient. Plus brown crabmeat and tinned fish, which contain tiny edible bones such as anchovies and sardines, are especially rich in this nutrient. Together with vitamin D, calcium is needed for the normal growth and development of bone.
Breastfeeding mums also have higher needs for phosphorus, which is important for maintaining normal bones and teeth. Good news then that it’s found in plentiful amounts in most fish.
Zinc requirements increase by more than a third in women who are breastfeeding and it’s important these needs are met as this nutrient contributes to normal growth and is important for the immune system to function normally. Shellfish such as prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, clams and cockles provide this nutrient.
Needs for copper, another nutrient important for the normal functioning of the immune system, as well as the nervous system, are also increased. Again it’s shellfish that contain the largest amounts of this nutrient.
Most varieties of fish are packed with selenium, yet another nutrient needed for the immune system to work properly. Breastfeeding increases the need for this nutrient by 25 percent so eating at least two servings of fish a week is an easy way to boost intakes.
It’s also important that breastfeeding mums get enough iodine in their diet. This nutrient contributes to normal cognitive development and growth. Many varieties of fish contain this nutrient so eating a variety and enjoying the recommended two portions each week makes sense.
Women who have just given birth are likely to benefit from including plenty of iron-rich foods in their diet, too. This nutrient plays a role in forming red blood cells, transporting oxygen around the body and supports normal cognitive development in young children. Crayfish, clams, anchovies, brown crabmeat, cockles and mussels contain this nutrient so can help to boost intakes.
Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that fish is really versatile and is the ultimate fast food – both important considerations when a new baby is on the scene and tiredness and a lack of time means meals need to be quick and easy. Sardines or mackerel on toast, a jacket potato with tinned tuna, a prawn sandwich, baked fish with steamed new potatoes and veg, or crab in an omelette are perfect options for time-starved, energy-depleted new mums. And with over 100 varieties of seafood available in the UK throughout the year, there’s no fear of being short of a dish to enjoy.
I wish Will and Kate all the best for their new arrival and really hope the Duchess enjoys a variety of seafood in her diet to benefit both her and baby.