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Postnatal diet and exercise FAQ

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We answer your post-baby diet and exercise questions

Here we look at some of the most common questions new mums ask about what they should be eating and how much exercise they should take in the weeks before their postnatal check.

Do I need to eat a special diet if I am breastfeeding?

No, you don't need to eat anything special, but like all new mothers you do need to eat healthily. This means including five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, eating plenty of starchy foods such as wholemeal bread and pasta, as well as protein found in lean meat, fish, eggs and pulses. You should also include dairy foods such as cheese and yoghurt and drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk as well as lots of water. Avoid drinking too many drinks containing caffeine while your baby is very small as it will be passed through your breast milk to your baby and will keep him awake.

Can I drink alcohol when I am breastfeeding?

It's best not to drink when you are breastfeeding as small amounts of alcohol will get passed to your baby through your breast milk. If you do decide to drink then you should have no more than one or two units, once or twice a week. Alcohol clears from your body at a rate of about one unit every two hours so it's a good idea to wait for a couple of hours after having a drink before breastfeeding. If it's hard to know when your baby will want a feed, you may want to plan ahead and express milk beforehand for special occasions when you know you are going to drink. But you should only do this once breastfeeding has been established.

Should I take extra vitamins?

You should be getting all the vitamins you need from a healthy diet. However, if you are breastfeeding it is recommended that you take a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D. Your doctor will be able to advise you.

How long will it take to get back in shape?

You need to give yourself time to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape. It took nine months to make your baby and it can take at least six months to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight after the birth. If you put on a lot of weight during pregnancy it could take longer than this to lose. Your health visitor will be able to give you advice about the best way to lose weight and will be able to tell you about postnatal exercise and weight management classes in your area.

When can I go back to the gym?

You should wait until after your postnatal check before starting any serious exercise routine, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t do gentle exercises now. The most important of these are pelvic floor exercises. These will help your perineum and vagina to heal more quickly and will strengthen your pelvic floor. Start with gentle, short squeezes and work towards making the squeezes longer and harder, aiming for 10 long and 10 short squeezes at least three times each day. Walking, pushing your baby in the pram, is another good form of exercise for this postnatal period and it is a great way for both of you to get out in the fresh air. Start by walking for 10 minutes a day and then gradually build up to 20 minutes or more. Your doctor will be able to give you details of other suitable exercises for these early days.

How soon will I be able to start exercising after having a c-section?

A Caesarean is a major operation so it is important to give yourself time to heal. You will probably be advised not to do any strenuous exercise or heavy lifting for at least two months. Your doctor will be able to give you information about safe, gentle toning exercises you can do in the first six weeks. Pelvic floor exercises are also very important after a Caesarean and you should start these as soon as you feel ready to do them.

When can I start using tampons again?

You shouldn't use tampons until after your postnatal check because the risk of postnatal sepsis, a serious infection, is high after the birth.

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