How to eat right after having a baby

Derval O'Rourke This week is my last week writing for a little while, so I’ll be covering a topic that is relevant to my break from my column. For my recipe it’s my courgette and turkey burgers plus a delicious risotto recipe.

How to eat right after having a baby

This week is my last week writing for a little while, so I’ll be covering a topic that is relevant to my break from my column. For my recipe it’s my courgette and turkey burgers plus a delicious risotto recipe.

It is my last column before baby number two arrives and while I’ll have my hands full with a new born and toddler, I’ll definitely miss writing for these pages.

I’m going to share my plans for minding myself after the baby arrives.

1. Nutrition

The basics of healthy eating apply throughout pregnancy, with slight tweaks depending on what stage you are at. Post-pregnancy continue to focus on building your meals around a source of wholegrain carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Aim to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet and keep your water intake up. Focus on getting in your dairy foods to hit your calcium requirements for bone health and your oily fish for heart health and baby’s brain development.

It’s important to remember that mothers who choose to breastfeed require on average 300-500 extra calories per day to ensure they have the energy needed to heal, recover and produce nourishing milk for their baby.

I hope to breastfeed my baby for as long as I can. I was fortunate that breastfeeding was a good experience for me with my first baby.

Try to avoid excess caffeine as it may make the baby jittery and unsettled and limit alcohol consumption. Be sure to check any medications or supplements are suitable to take while breastfeeding too as compounds can pass from mum to baby through breastmilk and may not be suitable for your baby.

As an aside, I understand the pressure on new mothers to get their pre-pregnancy bodies back can be difficult to deal with. My advice would be to wait until you and baby are well settled into your routines before embarking on any weight loss journey. It took nine months to gain the weight and it will take time to come off so be patient and kind to yourself. Don’t be drawn in by extreme or fad diets, stick to the basics and aim for a gradual loss over time.

2. Fitness

I made an effort to stay active throughout my pregnancy. Whether it was a short walk, a 20-minute circuit or a swim. I really have felt the benefits of it.

Giving birth and the sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn can make exercise seem like a distant memory. My plan is to aim for a gradual return to exercise. Walking can be a great option to get started, consider a 10-minute stroll and as you regain your strength you can increase the frequency, duration and speed of your walks.

Pregnancy and childbirth can put a big strain on our pelvic floor muscles and strengthening and retraining them post-baby is super important.

I would suggest seeking out a qualified women’s health physio to help you with this. It’s something I’ll be doing.

3. Mental Health

Becoming a new mum is an emotional rollercoaster from the word go. The first few weeks can be demanding so it’s important to take time for yourself. My advice would be not to be too hard on yourself, take all the help that is offered to you, sleep wherever possible and make the most of this precious time because it just goes so fast. It’s normal to feel a little bit blue after the birth of your baby, perhaps you feel low, sad, inadequate or are simply finding it difficult to cope with the pressure of being a new mum.

Talk to someone you trust and can be open with.

The ‘baby blues’ typically set in two to four days after baby is born and for most of this usually passes. However, for up to one in six mums, they can progress into post-natal depression. If this sounds like it might be affecting you then be sure to talk to a professional who specialises in the area.

4. Seek out a support circle

This is so important because although becoming a new mum is the most wonderful thing in the world, it can be a lonely time for some. If you are at home all day with your new arrival, although an amazing and precious time, it can mean a whole day without adult conversation or a 15-minute break for yourself. If this applies to you then be sure to seek out support from your partner, you are a team and should work together to care for your new arrival.

Reach out to friends and extended family, perhaps there are other new mums in your area you could chat to over a cup of tea or perhaps your parents could mind the baby while you take an hour to do something for yourself.

5. Book in a six-week check-up

This is an important aspect of looking after yourself as a new mum. It allows your healthcare profession to check that you are recovering well from pregnancy and childbirth, they can also monitor your body weight and blood pressure to ensure they are returning to normal.

This appointment is crucial as it also gives you an opportunity to discuss any issues relating to your physical or mental health that might be bothering you.


I am working with Sinead on the pregnancy fitness plan for my new site Sinead is a qualified pelvic-health physiotherapist and super knowledgeable on all things women’s health. Be sure to check her out if you are a mum to be or a new mum as she has helped me massively with my pregnancy this time.

Turkey and courgette burgers

I love these served with homemade sweet potato wedges and salad for a quick mid-week dinner and the leftovers taste delicious in a pitta bread for lunch the next day. Turkey is a fantastic source of lean protein and is packed with iron, B vitamins and zinc.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Makes: 8 small burgers

Nutritional Information (per burger):

  • Protein – 19g
  • Fat – 1g
  • Carbohydrate – 3g
  • Calories – 97

For the burgers:

  • 500g minced turkey meat
  • 1 large courgette, peeled and grated
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 free range egg
  • 2 tbsp coriander, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing:

  • 200g Greek yogurt
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

In a large bowl mix all the above ingredients for the burgers together and then shape into patties.

In a pan heat some olive oil. Once hot, sear the burgers making sure to get both sides of the burgers.

Transfer the burgers to a greaseproof paper lined oven tray and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

To make dressing blitz all ingredients together in a small food processor.

Serve the burgers on a bed of rocket with the dressing drizzled over top.


Pearl Barley, Chicken and Mushroom Risotto

This is my healthier take on traditional risotto. It’s the perfect healthy comfort food as it tastes super creamy and flavourful yet is still nutritious and balanced. It’s a great one to make for a group of friends when served with a leafy green salad on the side.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Serves: 8

Nutritional Information:

  • Protein – 11g
  • Fat – 2g
  • Carbohydrate – 25g
  • Calories – 157
  • 1 tbps coconut oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 200g pearl barley, uncooked
  • 200g mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 700ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ courgette grated
  • 3 tbsp grated parmesan
  • Handful baby spinach

In a large pot heat the coconut oil and sauté the onions, garlic and thyme until the onions start to soften. Add the chicken and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the pearl barley and mushrooms and cook for a further two minutes. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for 40 minutes. You can add more stock if the pot gets too dry.

For the last five minutes of cooking add in the grated courgette.

Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and baby spinach.

Transfer to warmed serving bowls and enjoy.

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