Intuitive Eating as a New Mom

Before having a baby, my approach to food was somehow both more complicated and more straightforward. Sound confusing? I know. Let me explain…

Pre-parenthood, my eating habits were “all about me” and I liked it that way. Every morning for breakfast, I made what I wanted unless my husband had a special request (which was rare) and then I made and enjoyed whatever my craving was that day. Dinners were pretty similar…made from ingredients we had in the fridge and adapted with seasonings to whatever sounded good, or we scrapped our meal-prepped grocery plans and got takeout or went to a restaurant (inasmuch as was possible with COVID restrictions in our area.)

When first trimester nausea hit, all of that started to change…

About 6 weeks into my pregnancy (like clockwork) I simultaneously lost my appetite and at the same time became extremely hungry. I would find myself completely repulsed by most foods, yet the grumbling in my stomach threatened to turn into vomiting if I didn’t settle it with something—usually carbs, and lots of them!

My poor husband (bless him) was at a loss for how to approach food for himself because if I came home from work to the wrong smells in the kitchen, I’d be sick all night and have to hide from whatever leftover scents were in the kitchen. Instead of having a craving throughout the day/week and making plans for that night or weekend, eating became very much a question of “What do I think my stomach can tolerate?” and “How can I get it, in large quantities, ASAP?”

When our son was finally born, everything in life changed, including my approach to food (again).

Intuitive eating looks different in different seasons of life.

Intuitive eating with a newborn

The newborn days were such a whirlwind that I had little mental energy to spare for thinking about things like what I wanted to eat. Between exhaustion and breastfeeding, I was always at least a little hungry.

Over the first three weeks, we were blessed to have most of our meals provided to us from family, friends and the meal train set up by our church. We ate what was provided to us, which was exactly what we were craving each day because honestly what we were craving was whatever we could eat that would fill our bellies with the least possible amount of effort. Hallelujah for a refrigerator and a village to fill it.

[Pictured below: smoked ribs, mac ‘n’ cheese and green beans from our pastor whose wife had also just given birth only 3 weeks before I did. I am still in awe that they were making meals for others at that point in their lives. They are next-level humans for sure, and this dinner was incredible.]

Breakfasts in the newborn days were made up mostly of pre-made burritos, egg sandwiches and muffins that I’d prepped and frozen in the last month of my pregnancy, along with protein shakes and cottage cheese that was in the fridge. Lunch was leftovers (I think?) and more frozen burritos. I also ate a lot of snacks in the early days of breastfeeding, usually a protein+carb (and a ton of water) every time I nursed the baby which was about every 2 hours. I relied heavily on clementines, Clif Bars, string cheese, trail mix and a gracious husband who refilled my 32 oz water bottle every time it emptied.

I looked through my phone to see if I had photo evidence of what the heck I was eating but nearly all my pictures were like the one below. But let’s be honest, those baby snuggles were a million times more delicious than breakfast food and way better to photograph.

Intuitive eating as a mother of a 9+ month old busy baby

These days, when we are all getting more sleep and have more activity built into our routines and rhythms of life, I have more mental and emotional margin available to make decisions about food and put together meals. However, because of the immense responsibility of growing another human (this time outside my body), my meal decisions have to be less about me and more about other people.

My husband and I still pay attention to what sounds good to us on a given day and we keep our meals as balanced as possible. However, we have less flexibility to head to a restaurant on a whim, and it’s much more of a production to go grocery shopping so we are pretty intentional about making sure we eat the food we have in the fridge. We also prioritize things like convenience and ease of preparation (gone are the days of simmering homemade ramen broth for 12+ hours) and make an effort to emphasize types of foods that our little guy can enjoy along with us. Since he only has 4 teeth, he is limited in the types of textures he can reasonably handle (crunchy, tough and chewy don’t go over very well.)

We still eat things like raw salads and meat that requires more chewing, but we try to choose things we can share with our son as often as possible. He loves food and we want to continue to facilitate a healthy relationship with it by sharing family meals whenever we can. That often looks like soft proteins (fish, rotisserie chicken, meatloaf, slow cooked meats), cooked or soft veggies, and carb foods that aren’t too crumbly because he has a hard time maneuvering those with his tongue. See below: his bowl of blueberry pancakes and 3 cheers for smock-style bibs that keep blueberry stains off my favorite of his outfits 🙂

Overall as an intuitive eater and now a mama of a smöl, I still make food decisions based off my hunger cues + cravings + trust that my body will tell me what it needs nutritionally. I eat a variety of protein/carb/fat/fiber foods according to fullness and satiety which often looks like a combination of full meals and snacks. My hunger levels and appetite continue to ebb and flow; and I notice that as my son eats more solids himself, his need for milk decreases and my own appetite decreases accordingly. It’s a learning curve but the skills I have built in trusting my body and identifying/responding to its cues are carrying me through with grace. Being able to navigate this adjustment to motherhood without food struggles or my relationship with my body creating a psychological crisis makes me really, really grateful for recovery.

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I’m Dr. Alexandra MacKillop, a functional medicine physician, food scientist and nutrition expert.

I specialize in women’s health & hormones, addressing concerns like fertility, disordered eating, PCOS, endometriosis, dysmenorrhea (painful periods), PMS symptoms like bloating and mood changes and more.

If you’re looking for a new way to approach your health, I’d love to work with you. Click to learn more.


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