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New mums and dads: healthy lifestyle choices

Congratulations on your new baby! Although you’re focused on your newborn, it’s also important to look after yourself with healthy lifestyle choices. This will help keep you in good shape to care for your baby.

Healthy eating and drinking in the early days

Looking after a new baby takes up a huge amount of time and energy.

This means you’ll probably have less time for shopping and for preparing and cooking snacks and meals. But eating well goes a long way towards helping you keep your energy levels up.

For good health, you need to eat a wide variety of foods every day from five main food groups:

  • vegetables – 6 serves a day for men and 5 serves a day for women
  • fruit – 2 serves a day for men and women
  • grain foods – 6 serves a day for men and women
  • protein – 3 serves a day for men and 2½ serves a day for women
  • reduced-fat dairy – 2½ serves a day for men and women.

It’s also important to drink plenty of water – eight glasses a day is the recommended amount. It’s OK to have juice, cordial or soft drink sometimes, but they’re high in sugar so water is the healthiest choice.

You can find out more by talking to an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) or by checking the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating

If you’re breastfeeding, your body needs extra nutrients, which you can get from a healthy breastfeeding diet.

Healthy eating tips for new parents

Here are a few tips for quick, easy and healthy eating options:

  • Buy prewashed salad mixes or bags of prechopped vegies.
  • Prepare meals in bulk and freeze them – for example, casseroles and soups.
  • Use frozen vegetables when you don’t have time to prepare fresh vegetables.
  • Keep your fruit basket full.
  • Have yoghurt, nuts, vegetable sticks and hummus on hand for healthy snacks during the day.
  • Make meals that can be eaten hot or cold – for example, frittatas. You can also pack these into containers for outings.
  • Shop online and use grocery delivery services.
  • Accept offers of meals from friends and family.

Some quick and healthy meals ideas include:

  • shop-bought roast chicken with a prewashed salad mix
  • boiled eggs, or baked beans on wholegrain toast, with a side of vegetables or salad
  • slow-cooked stew – put vegies and lean meat or chickpeas into a slow cooker early in the day with some stock or tinned tomatoes for a warm meal ready by night
  • ‘everything’ fried rice
  • easy pizza.
Even if you’ve gone back to work, you can do a lot to help out with healthy meals in the early weeks. Perhaps you could pick up some healthy takeaway, like sushi, salads or soups, on your way home from work, or do some cooking on the weekend for you and your partner to have during the week.

Physical activity for new parents

Even though you might feel tired and want to rest every chance you get, exercise can actually increase your energy levels and make you feel better. Movement is what matters – 30 minutes or so a day.

It can be hard to find the time to fit this in, but you can try making it part of everyday activities. For example, pushing your baby’s pram to the shops to pick up some things for dinner gets you out of the house and keeps you active too.

You don’t need to join a gym to exercise. Learn a few exercises that you can do from home or go for a walk or run from home. Then you won’t have to worry about the travel time involved in going to the gym.

Some women worry about losing their ‘baby weight’. It’s important to give your body time to recover after your baby is born. Healthy food and gentle exercise make for a sensible approach.

Alcohol, smoking and medication

Caring for your baby safely
Check with your doctor or pharmacist about whether any medications that you or your partner take – including herbal tonics or tablets – have side effects that could make it hard to care for your baby. This might include anything that causes drowsiness, affects your balance or affects your reflexes – for example, when driving a car.

Now that you’re caring for a newborn, you’ll need to plan who’ll look after the baby if you’re drinking alcohol or taking medication that can make you drowsy or affect your balance. 

Alcohol and smoking
Australian guidelines say that no more than two standard alcoholic drinks each day is a healthy level.

Smoking puts your baby at higher risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleeping accidents. It’s best for you and your baby to be in a smoke-free environment.

Caffeine can affect how well you sleep, so try not to have it late in the day.

What you eat, drink or smoke is passed through your breastmilk to your baby and can affect baby’s brain development. So if you’re breastfeeding it’s best not to drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs, including marijuana.

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Last updated or reviewed
18-10-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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