The information included in this post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation, or if you have any questions regarding conception, pregnancy, or your prenatal treatment plan.
Dear Stephanie, I just had a baby and am considering doing a Whole30. When is the best time to start? Is it okay for me to do one while nursing? – Sincerely, A New Mama
Dear New Mama,
There’s no doubt that a healthy diet based around whole foods can work wonders for a new mama’s physical and mental health. If the mama is breastfeeding, her nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet will also benefit her baby. However, new mamas face many obstacles (especially in the early months!) that can cause even the most well-intentioned woman to forgo her typical healthy habits in lieu of fast, processed, and high-carb options (if she manages to find time to eat at all).
I get it! Motherhood is extremely demanding. Figuring out your baby’s sleep schedule, feeding patterns, and needs while managing your own health can take a toll on your body, resulting in less willpower to choose healthier options. The postpartum period requires a tricky balance of giving yourself grace while still doing your best to take care of your health, and that most certainly includes your diet.
In the last Dear Stephanie series (Part 1, and Part 2), we discussed specific situations where a strict Whole30 may not be the best idea when you’re pregnant. This week we’ll explore a few scenarios where you may want to reconsider doing a strict Whole30 during your postpartum. In part one of this blog, we will explore these first two scenarios:
- You’re one month (or less) postpartum
- You’re dealing with a colicky or extremely fussy baby and have already ruled out potential food sensitivities
One Month (or Less) Postpartum
Unless you’re dealing with a medical issue that requires strict label reading, during the first month postpartum I’d rather have you spend those extra minutes gazing at your baby instead of scanning an ingredient label for the different forms of sugar. I want you to relax and enjoy the meals people bring you instead of asking them 56 questions about how they were prepared. When people bring you warm tea, don’t worry about the soy lecithin that may be in the bag or the teaspoon of honey they put in it for a touch of sweetness, drink up, enjoy, and rest!
Being mindful of the food you put in your body is a wonderful habit, but in those precious early days I don’t want you stressing about the tiny details (unless you know a certain food or ingredient bothers you). When my baby Leo was born last fall, I balanced my health and sanity by asking guests to bring gluten-and-dairy-free meals because I wanted to remain dairy-free for my baby, and I don’t tolerate gluten. Most popular meal train services have options where you can specify your dietary preferences ahead of time, so you don’t have to personally confront your guests with requests.
If you feel that you can Whole30 without missing out on bonding with your baby and enjoying your new family during your first month postpartum, then more power to ya, mama. If you truly think it’d be a good option for you, go for it. Just make sure to give yourself extra grace in this unique season.
Colicky, Fussy Babies
As if the constant demands of new motherhood weren’t enough, a very fussy baby can rock your boat (and sanity). Hours upon hours of crying (from both of you), bouncing, patting, and shushing make sitting down to a plate of greens seem like something from your distant past. You may just be happy you managed to sip a smoothie without spilling it all over yourself when you forgot you were bouncing as you took a drink. This is a very hard phase.
Note that I’m not encouraging you to order takeout every night because you’re dealing with a fussy baby. I simply want you to feel free to eat something, even if it’s not Whole30 compliant, without adding to the already constant stress. You may have to send your partner, friends, family or community members out to grab groceries as you’re managing your little one’s needs. They may not understand the Whole30 rules and bring home non-compliant foods unintentionally, leaving you in an awkward position to either graciously accept the food and stop your Whole30 or go without eating. During this phase of your life (and remember it’s only a short phase, even if it feels like forever), a tiny bit of sugar in the bacon you’re eating (with one hand) isn’t going to kill you.
Although I encourage you to wait to Whole30 until later, if you’re breastfeeding and notice other issues besides fussiness (such as excessive spitting up, skin issues, persistent congestion, mucous and/or blood in baby’s stools) you may want to consider eliminating foods that can potentially irritate your baby. While cow’s milk products are the most likely culprits, some moms notice that soy, wheat, corn, eggs, and peanuts irritate their baby. If you’re able to consider eliminating some or all of those foods, it’s worth a shot. If you can only tackle one category of food to eliminate, make it dairy, as cow’s milk products are the only foods conclusively linked by research to fussiness/gassiness in babies.
Next week we will explore two more scenarios in which you may want to avoid Whole30’ing during postpartum. In the meantime, if you’re curious to learn more information about Steph’s philosophy on diet during pregnancy or a variety of other topics, consider joining our Healthy Mama, Happy Baby program.
Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice.