Let me begin by saying that before I had my third child, I was the mom you wanted to punch in the face. Babies 1 and 2 were excellent sleepers right from the start. They were both sleeping through the night by 3 months, and never had any sleep regressions. I couldn't necessarily relate to the fatigue other new moms were experiencing.
Then along came baby #3, Lewis. At first I had my mom around to help out. This allowed me to take naps while the baby slept, because my mom would take care of my other kids, and I could snooze the day away guilt-free. As soon as my mom left, I began feeling like a haggard zombie, fighting to keep my eyes open past 7 p.m. There were no more day time naps to recover, and now I was actively caring for a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old, and an infant by myself. I knew it was super normal to be exhausted in the first few weeks postpartum, plus I didn't have anywhere I needed to be, so I didn't mind the fatigue.
Lewis eventually gave me longer and longer stretches of sleep, and things were really looking up! Then the 4 month sleep regression arrived with a vengeance, along with some brutal teething pains for my poor babe, and I found myself awake 3, 4, or 5 times at night again. By this time school was back in session, and I was hungry to return to my business, blogging, exercise, cleaning the house, and running errands. My exhaustion was making me a crabby mom, and I was not ready to accept my fate of getting nothing done. I decided to find a solution, so I began researching foods that boost energy.
I will preface my findings by saying that nothing, absolutely nothing, can replace a good night's sleep, so these are band-aids patching up a bigger problem. However, babies are new to this world and still learning to sleep! It's normal, and it could be awhile before they figure it out. Therefore, I think it's important to set ourselves up for success, mamas. I know that when I'm exhausted, I crave sugar and carbs, and want to stick an IV drip of coffee into my arm, but I know those options won't make me feel good long term. In addition, many new moms, myself included, are working hard to lose the baby weight, so we want the foods we eat to help us meet both goals: more energy and a stronger body.
Reading that apples are a great source of energy was great news to me, because I have been eating apple slices as a snack almost every single day of my adulthood. Apples are chock full of fructose, which takes time to metabolize into glucose. Since glucose is the source of energy for every cell in our bodies, it stands to reason that eating an apple will give us a boost. I like to pair my apple slices with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter, since the protein + carbohydrate combo keeps me full for a longer period of time.
This high-fiber, low-glycemic food is a superstar for new moms! If you're nursing, you probably already know that oatmeal will help increase your milk supply, but now you know you're also fueling your own body! Oats take awhile to metabolize, so you'll be fueled for the whole day. If you don't like the texture of a bowl of oatmeal, try adding oats to your energy balls, chocolate chip cookies, smoothies, or yogurt. I love to grind my oats into flour and use them to make protein waffles! Added bonus: a canister of oats is super cheap and will last you quite awhile.
Spinach is packed with iron, which actually supplies oxygen to the brain. As many of us exhausted mamas can attest to, one of the first things we noticed when we're low on sleep is that awful brain fog. Try a hearty spinach salad for lunch topped with grilled chicken, or throw a few handfuls into your smoothie (which, by the way, you can pack with other energy-giving foods). If you're not a fan of this leafy green, you can even chop it up into tiny pieces and hide it in a pasta dish or sauce.
We are big fans of the ancient grain from the Andes in our house. Lately we've been using it in place of brown rice in many of our dinners. It's gluten-free and high in protein, so it provides sustainable energy for those last few hours before bed that feel like a marathon for an exhausted mom. My favorite ways to use quinoa are in make-your-own burrito bowls, stuffed peppers, or quinoa and black bean tacos (for a meatless Monday dish).
5. almond milk
Many articles I read suggested that almonds were a great snack for an energy boost, but for some reason the texture of nuts really turns me off. Almond milk is a great alternative for me, since it contains healthy fats, but is low in calories and sugar (as long as it's unsweetened). I love almond milk as a base for smoothies or superfood shakes, and in a bowl of whole gran cereal.
This is another food we keep in our house at all times, so I love that it's a proven energy booster! It contains potassium, vitamins, minerals, and is a complex carbohydrate to fuel you for hours. I love that I can blend it in a smoothie, bake with it, or throw it in my bag as a snack on-the-go.
BONUS WAYS TO BOOST ENERGY THROUGHOUT THE DAY
By all means - have your coffee!
Coffee gets a bad reputation in the health world, but it actually has some real health benefits. It contains antioxidants, vitamins, and trace minerals, and may even improve cognitive function. And let's be honest, the boost from the caffeine doesn't hurt either! Just make sure you're staying away from sugary creamers and syrups. The coffee I use is infused with green tea extract, coconut oil, and trace minerals, is small-batch roasted and fair-trade. Plus it's not bitter so I don't feel the need to load it with creamer!
My husband and I have been starting each morning with a glass of lemon water, and it's made huge difference in my morning routine! I feel fuller longer, the lemon scent helps me wake up, and I've noticed an improvement in my postpartum skin. If you're looking for the added benefit of weight loss, put a few lemon slices in your water, since the rind contains polyphenols, which studies show may help prevent weight gain. I like to drink warm water with a few slices of lemon and some cinnamon.
Along the same lines, certain scents can help boost energy. I like to diffuse peppermint or citrus scents in the morning to improve my energy, mood, and productivity.
Ugh, I know. Not what you wanted to hear. The last thing you feel like doing is working up a sweat when you would rather be napping. Having said that, I always feel better on the days I work out or even go for a walk. The movement acts as a catalyst and motivates me to get more done. If I let myself sit down, my eyes get heavy and I lose any semblance of energy or motivation I had in the first place.
Drink So. Much. Water.
Does anyone else get headaches when they're exhausted? When I was pregnant, I would get awful headaches during the second trimester. My ob-gyn suggested I drink more water, and I totally rolled my eyes. I was already drinking tons of water, so I didn't think this was the solution I was looking for, but lo and behold, it worked. After the baby was born, I found myself getting exhaustion headaches, and I went back to this old trick. I feel like staying hydrated is the best thing I can do during the day to keep my energy high, plus it helps with my milk supply.
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