When planning for labour and childbirth, we often think about our ideal setting, the music we’d like to play, and what pain relief choices we’ll make. But we often are so focused on getting the baby out safely and happily that we often neglect to think about fueling our body to give birth.
Whilst arguably the tea and toast you’ll receive after giving birth is the best meal of your life, many mums forget to pack healthy snacks in the hospital bag. Since labour is often a long process-especially with your first baby-having healthy snacks for labour on hand for a much-needed energy boost and distraction are vital.
You might know we offer a new mum healthy snack box which is specifically designed with Maternal Health Nutritionist Tasha D’Cruz to meet the needs of pregnant women, new mums, and breastfeeding mums. So if you’re looking for an easy solution to finding healthy snacks for your hospital bag or the perfect gift for a new mum, find out more here.
What nutritional needs do you need during labour and childbirth?
“Giving birth is often likened to running a marathon, and just like an athlete will prepare for an endurance event by eating to support the energy and nutrients needed, so mums need to prepare nutritionally for labour, ” explains Maternal Nutritionist Tasha D’Cruz
Wholegrains: Wholegrains are the ideal food for labour because you need sustainable long-term energy sources. It can be tempting to grab loads of sugary snacks for energy but what you don’t want is a massive energy slump halfway through labour. Opting for wholegrains will keep your energy levels nice and stable. We’re not suggesting you pack a box of bran flacks, snack bars that have quinoa, nuts or seeds are perfect for this.
Protein-rich foods: Another one for energy is protein-rich foods. If you are in slow labour at home, it could be useful to try to tuck into a meal high in fibre and complex carbohydrates. “When your contractions start, you’ll likely have quite a bit of time between them – and it’s the best time to eat a filling, nourishing, easy-to-digest and comforting meal – something like porridge, stew or spaghetti bolognese” explains Tasha D’Cruz. Packing things like nuts, protein bars or even chickpea snacks are great on-the-go options.
Hydration: One thing that mums often forget to do during labour is to drink enough water. You need plenty of fluids during labour because we are more likely to sweat and bringing a human into the world is certainly thirsty work! “Coconut water, water mixed with some juice or a homemade rehydration drink are great options,” suggests Tasha D’Cruz.
Think little and often: Some mums plan a big meal before heading to the hospital but there are a few reasons why this isn’t a good idea. Firstly, many mum’s digestive system is super sensitive during labour due to the release of hormones as your body prepares to give birth. Diarrhea and even vomiting are more common than you realise! A big heavy meal can worsen these symptoms. So don’t overdo it and plan to eat regularly during labour (ask your birthing partner to remind you if you’re worried you’ll forget) instead.
Iron-Rich Foods: Iron is another nutritional need for women during pregnancy and labour. Many women struggle with low iron levels during the final trimester of pregnancy and it’s an important consideration postpartum too; since many women will lose blood during labour. Whilst your midwife will already monitor your levels of iron during pregnancy, it’s always worth bearing this in mind. Whilst tucking into a steak mid-labour isn’t an option, an iron-rich spinach smoothie could work just as well.
5 quick and easy healthy snack ideas for labour
As well as fueling your body before the labour, here’s a few of our favourite snack ideas for the day itself.
- Rice cakes: If you’re struggling with nausea during labour, a plain carb like rice cake may work well.
- Cereal bars: Cereal bars are perfect for labour snacks and you’ll be looking for plenty of one-handed snacks once baby is here too! Opt for ones that have a decent mix of wholegrains-such as nuts, seeds and cereals.
- Healthy crisps: Some women might crave salty snacks during labour due to losing salts from sweating and dehydration. Opting for healthier versions of crisps that still pack a crunch could be the answer-such as chickpea crisps or Lotus Bites
- Dried Fruit: Dried fruit, such as Organic Mango Bites, is a great snack as it’s so easy to pop in your hospital bag and is a fibre-rich sugar boost.
- Easy to swallow snacks: “As your contractions get closer together you have less time to chew, but eating something easy to swallow and quick to digest can help power through this stag: yoghurt with honey, smooth soups and clear broths are great options,” adds Tasha D’Cruz.
Remember, if you’re looking for some labour-friendly snacks; do check out our new mum healthy snack box, which is designed specifically for pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.