Gluten-Free Parents: Newborns
Told from the perspective of a first-time mother living gluten-free
In the days and weeks following childbirth, especially if you just had your first child, your life is momentarily hijacked by a beautiful but ravenous pooping machine.
If you are someone who also happens to live gluten-free, you may need to pay attention to some additional factors during this major life change.
If you are the person who recently gave birth, you are more than likely taking some sort of pain medication. Pain medicine, whether it be prescription or over-the-counter, may not be gluten-free. A helpful tool for checking on the gluten-free status of any medication can be found here.
If you are also nursing, it may be helpful to cross-reference gluten-free medications with ones that are safe for breastfeeding. Keep in mind that a mama in pain does not produce adequate milk—it is much more helpful for baby for you to be comfortable, especially if you’ve had a C-section.
Feeding your baby
From what I know, you have three options here: breastfeeding and/or pumping, formula-feeding, or some combination of both.
- Breastfeeding/Pumping: If you thought you were hungry during pregnancy, just wait. Breastfeeding hunger is a beast. Be prepared to eat more than you ever have in your life. There were times I was thinking about what I would eat next while still eating my current meal. There were times I would wake up with food in my mouth I fell asleep chewing. Never leave the house without a food bag. Keep in mind that you may have a baby that is more prone to food sensitivities. Allergens like gluten and dairy do pass through breastmilk, so your baby may react to foods you eat. Colic, eczema, or bloody stools are common signs of food sensitivities in babies.
- Formula-Feeding: Again, you may have a baby more prone to food sensitivities. Hypoallergenic formulas are available, but they are expensive. Some insurance companies will help cover the cost of these special formulas if it is a medical necessity. Additionally, if you or your spouse is especially sensitive to gluten, it may make sense to use gluten-free formula to minimize gluten contamination risks.
- Combination: As mentioned above, mom’s additional hunger, either parent’s food intolerances, and/or increased risk of food sensitivities in baby may impact how you plan your feeding strategy.
I wish I could say I was someone who prepped multiple freezer meals before my son was born, but in reality, I totally didn’t prepare enough for eating after he was born. To be honest, the whole freezer cooking thing intimidates me—what if I don’t freeze the food right? How will I know how to heat it back up? What gluten-free meals even work as freezer meals? If you have these answers, please help me and comment below!
Although I didn’t adequately prepare for this stage, I did note what really helped us survive.
- Friends and family members picked up GF takeout or brought over GF meals. We lived for a week on my parents’ slow cooker filled with BBQ pulled pork—it was heaven!
- Stash some extra money or ask for gift cards (for baby shower/baby gifts) for local gluten-free restaurants. Bonus points if they deliver!
- Visitors stopped by with needed groceries. I had an unexpected C-section and wasn’t able to do much besides nurse the baby, so my husband really appreciated not having to run to the store to pick up extra groceries.
- Stash snack food and water everywhere. Sometimes you’re stuck on the couch, in the bed, or in the rocking chair holding a sleeping baby. Sometimes you’ve been nursing that baby for an hour. Sometimes you realize you’re hungry as soon as you set up the pump. Sometimes you just don’t feel like moving. Trust me—finding a snack or a much-needed drink of water at those moments is like Christmas morning.
As with any major life change, you will most likely need to adjust your self-care activities to accommodate your new lifestyle. In the first few months of my son’s life, I had to quickly shift my self-care priorities to cover only the most basic needs. For me, this meant:
- Sleep – the best (and hardest to follow) advice I ever got is the standard “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Every mom I met gave me this advice, but they all told me they never followed it. The more you sleep, the faster you will physically and emotionally recover from pregnancy and childbirth. You need to sleep.
- Eat – if you have just given birth, you will most likely not be able to prepare your own meals. Try to have a little bit more of a plan than I did (see above). Think especially about the times you will be alone with the baby—have filling and nutrient-dense foods already prepped and ready to eat. Bonus points if you can eat them with just one hand!
- Take Regular Breaks – take a walk, take a bath, read 3 sentences in a book, leave for an hour and be a human. If you’ve never had a newborn, you probably think this is ridiculous advice. True story: I did not leave my house for 4 weeks after my son was born. I was always covered in goo, couldn’t remember the last time I brushed my teeth or showered, and was recovering from major surgery. I would never advise anyone to take my approach. LEAVE YOUR HOUSE! You will go crazy if you don’t.
Life with a newborn is hard enough without worries about being glutened.
Focus instead on the joys of being a new parent.