During pregnancy, the baby is like a parasite and gets all the nutrients it needs from you. If your diet contains enough nutrients for both, it won’t cause any problems. If your diet is not enough for both, it will take longer for you to recover after giving birth, and if you do not replenish your body stores during the quarantine period, you may remain weak for a long time. This is probably why our elders are making such a fuss about eating well during quarantine.
No matter where you are in the world, everyone will try to tell you what to eat and how to eat if possible. The most important thing you should do is to follow the needs of your own body. Whatever you eat, make sure you have a good balance of protein, vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates and water at every meal.
Just remember the following pointers:
1. If you are breastfeeding, what you eat will pass to your baby through your breast milk, so it is important to eat a balanced diet so that your baby gets the right nutrients for optimum growth and development.
2. Some foods cause the baby to be “windy” or have loose stools. If you notice that your baby is suddenly quite restless, think about what you’ve eaten in the last 12 hours. Avoid these foods for a few days and then try again. If the same thing happens again, then you should stay away from that food for a while and take a very small amount and reintroduce it into your diet and see how the baby reacts, then gradually increase the amount so that the baby gets used to the food.
3. You may notice a slight decrease in your appetite, especially in the first week. This is normal as your body is re-adjusting both physically and mentally to its non-pregnant state, so it is better to eat small and frequent meals a day rather than the usual 3 large meals.
4. In order for breast milk to be sufficient, you need to consume plenty of fluids and if you are not allowed to drink water, you can get the amount of fluid from other sources such as soup.
So what should you eat?
Most Eastern cultures believe that your body cools down after birth, so you should avoid cooling or cold foods, but eat a lot of yang or ‘hot’ foods to warm your body. However, if you are normally a yang person, eating too much ‘hot’ food can cause rashes and fever. In this case it would be better to reduce the amount of ‘hot’ food and eat more neutral food. If you’re normally a Yin person, you shouldn’t have any problems eating ‘hot’ foods (lucky demons). The table below provides a quick overview of the types of food to eat or avoid.
Types of food to avoid
“Refreshing food” eg: banana, cabbage, cucumber, coconut and bok choy
If you are breastfeeding, contribute to poor maternal circulation and abdominal pain in the baby. Salt as a condiment and salty foods in general should also be rejected on the belief that its use reduces breast milk production.
‘Acid food’ eg: pineapple, mango, lemon, lime
It contributes to excessive lochia in the mother and diarrhea in the infant.
Too many ‘Hot food’ eg: paprika, black pepper, spices, tonics, spirits and medicines.
Contributes to infant diarrhea and maternal headaches
“windy food” eg: jackfruit, tapioca, pumpkin, onion.
It contributes to colic in the baby and can cause indigestion for mother and baby.
Poisonous foods such as shrimp, shellfish, crab, eel, ginger
It can delay the healing of the mother’s wound and cause allergies and eczema in the baby. These foods can cause stomach upsets and vomiting.
Recommended type of food
To improve milk production
Chicken, squid, oysters (small varieties), fish (especially carp), millet, mutton, pork, rice wine, sea snail, soymilk mixed with walnut powder, wheat cakes, wheat noodles with egg, green papaya
To give strength to the mother so that she quickly gets rid of the trouble of childbirth.
Chicken, frog, Panax ginseng, licorice extract and razor clam
What you eat also depends on what you believe in and who cooks for you. If it’s your mom or MIL, you may not have much choice. I have seen women arguing and not talking to each other because of this problem. Try to find a compromise acceptable to both parties. Use a persuasive and logical approach rather than confrontation.