3 postpartum Desi Nutrition Myths Busted By a Nutrition Expert
By: Nazima Qureshi, RD, MPH
If you grew up in a Desi household, you’ve probably heard health and nutrition tips from elders, whether it was your parents, grandparents, or concerned neighbourhood aunty. You’ve heard these tips so many times that it almost feels like its right but you’re not quite sure if it even makes sense anymore. I’m here to help with that!
After giving birth, it’s as if mothers have a sign on them that invites all aunties to give their unsolicited advice. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about combining traditional health practices with modern techniques, but there are some pieces of advice that just don’t work. The problem with some of these nutrition myths are that it can actually just cause more overwhelm to an already tired mom, especially if it isn’t true.
Here are 3 postpartum nutrition myths that need to be put in the past:
1. Drinking a glass of milk right before breastfeeding will produce more breast milk.
For some reason, the amount of milk you drink has been incorrectly correlated with your breast milk production. Not only are you told to drink lots of milk but it should be a big glass of milk right before feeding your baby.
Breast milk production is a lot more complicated than how much milk you are drinking yourself. Having a glass of milk or consuming anything right before feeding your baby isn’t even going to make it to your milk supply that quickly. Anything you consume has to go through your digestive system first so it won’t be impacting your milk supply instantly. Logically speaking, what about all the women that are lactose intolerant or choose not to drink cow’s milk? Does that mean they can’t produce breast milk? It just doesn’t work that way.
There are many factors that impact your breast milk. Here is how you can maintain/increase your supply:
- Eating regularly scheduled meals and snacks (check out this post for postpartum foods you should be including)
- Drinking adequate amounts of water
- Breastfeeding your baby at regular intervals and not missing a feed
If you still feel like you have low supply, speak to your doctor or lactation consultant to identify any issues.
2.Drinking cold water will prevent you from getting a flat belly.
As if there isn’t already enough pressure to get back to your pre-pregnancy body! There seems to be a lot of Desi food rules so that you can bounce back to your pre-pregnancy body that don’t necessarily make sense. Throughout my first pregnancy and during the first 40 days (which was in the middle of summer), the only way I could drink water was if it was cold. I got a lot of looks for asking for ice in my water, especially right after giving birth. I was told that my stomach would stay sticking out if I keep up sipping on my water on the rocks.
Looking like you’re still 6 months pregnant right after giving birth is completely normal. It takes a few weeks for your uterus to shrink back, which gives the appearance of your belly sticking out. You also have the extra weight you gained during your pregnancy that takes many women several months to shed. What you eat and drink plays a significant role in how your body looks and feels after giving birth but there isn’t one magical solution. If you’re making poor eating decisions but drinking room temperature water, your belly won’t be shrinking as fast as you’d like.
More importantly, give your body time. Don’t expect your body to “bounce back” within 40 days. It took you 9 months to grow a baby, give yourself at least 9 more months to get close to your pre-pregnancy body.
3.Avoid eating rice for the first 40 days, but stack up on the rotis.
This food rule sounds like it started in the right place but lost its meaning along the way. This suggests that white rice should be forbidden but you can still have rotis/parathas.
One of the biggest problems with the South Asian way of eating is the amount of white carbs we consume in one sitting, which is often a big plate of rice. So, cutting down the portion of white rice may not be such a bad idea after all. However, that doesn’t mean that rotis/parathas are a healthier swap. If you are using white atta (flour), the carbs you are consuming from the roti isn’t any healthier.
Instead, swap your white rice for brown rice and decrease the portion size to 1 cup. Swap your white atta for whole wheat atta and limit it to 1 roti per meal. Fill a quarter of your plate with protein (lentils, fish, chicken etc.) and half of your plate with colourful veggies to amp up the nutrition at each meal.
Have you heard any of these tips from the Desi aunties in your life? How do you respond? I’m not the confrontational type so I usually do the standard smile and nod. If there are any nutrition tips you want me to dig deeper into, send them my way on Twitter or Instagram by tagging @NutritionbyNaz and @masalamommas
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