newborn crying
Diet and Nutrition

Q. I had my first baby just six weeks ago and she is doing really well – breastfeeding like a dream, not sleeping terribly well but not never sleeping either. However, I am a wreck. I am exhausted and irritable and find myself nodding off when I am holding my baby and I can’t concentrate on anything. To add to all of this my hair is falling out in handfuls. Is there anything I could eat to give me more energy and are there any supplements that can help my hair?

Sarah says
Go easy on yourself, you are at the six-week stage, which is when tiredness can really kick in and you think you are never going to get a break. It may not feel like it, but things will soon start to get better. In the meantime, though, there are several things that might help while you are waiting for that first full nights’ sleep.

First of all, are you just tired or is there any possibility of postnatal depression? It is normal to be tired after having a baby but to be completely flattened with exhaustion may be something else. Have a chat with your public health nurse or GP and talk to them about how you are feeling – especially if you are crying quite a bit or if you are not enjoying your baby. Some help with postnatal depression can make all of the difference if that is what is going on with you – don’t try to be superwoman!

With regards to food, you can boost your energy with some simple meals and snacks. At this point what you really need are carbs. Wholegrain carbs like wholegrain bread, brown rice and high- fibre cereals will all give you some much-needed energy but they are also good sources of B vitamins. B vitamins help to reduce tiredness and fatigue. They also help your body to turn the food you eat into energy. You could try adding a B-complex vitamin supplement as these are safe to take when breastfeeding.

Do eat regular meals and try not to go more than 3-4 hours without something to eat. If you have any help at home, get them to make you a packed lunch before they leave for the day so that you don’t have to think about getting something ready for yourself at lunchtime. Keep some non-perishable snacks near where you breastfeed so that you always have something to hand. Stock the kitchen with quick, nutritious snacks that you can grab on the go. Cold slices of ham and turkey can be rolled up and eaten and cheese portions are a great way to stave off hunger. Try yoghurts and yoghurt drinks; crackers and oatcakes; nuts and dried fruit or packs of ready-made tuna salads.

Keep hydrated. Getting dehydrated is not unusual after having a baby as lots of women simply forget to drink. If you become dehydrated, you will feel really tired, foggy-headed and irritable. You need at least two litres of water every day. Check your pee when you go to the loo. It should be very light-coloured to clear. If it is dark, then you need to drink!

Make sure you are eating enough protein. Although it is, sadly, very normal for your hair to fall out after having a baby, not eating enough protein can be another culprit. Hair needs lots of protein to grow and your breast-feeding baby will be getting a lot of the protein you eat. This is not a problem as long as you are eating enough protein! You need to have a protein-rich food at lunch and dinner. Try any kind of meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans or nuts. You can also snack on protein foods like nuts and seeds as well as cheese and yoghurt. You might benefit from a good multivitamin and mineral supplement.

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