During one of the most strenuous times in your life, when you need as much energy as possible, some laboring moms will be forbidden to eat. Sometimes for hours. Upon hours. If your labor is long, not only are you physically struggling, but you might even be uncomfortable with hunger, especially if it’s your first, which tends to go a little slower, stretching out the hours of labor. And no eating.
Of course, the benefits far outweigh the struggles! It’s something we endure and would do again in a heartbeat. A heartbeat. And we do!
But there’s something about a hungry-pregnant-laboring mom that got us thinking–how can we make it easier for her? So when Boston Baby Nurse decided upon a Food Issue, we wanted to come up with a list of potential snacks and food items an expectant mom can pack for that moment when she is so hungry and food hasn’t arrived yet, and the baby is wonderful and being taken care of . For that moment when the new mom sits back and thinks, “It’s over, where’s the food?”
For that moment, no vending machine will ever do!
First, the Why
You’re already informed–it’s the whole C-section worry. If you’re expected to have a regular labor, this conversation might be moot, but if you are a higher risk pregnancy, your physician may want to be logistically ready and your stomach needs to be empty in case there is a need for surgery.
If your birth plan includes an epidural, your physician will give you specific instructions on how to prepare. The Hospital for Special Surgery says that patients are usually not permitted to eat for four hours prior to an epidural injection. Before fasting, patients should eat a light meal (no greasy foods). Fasting can help patients from becoming sick and is also important in the event of an emergency. Usually, normal eating habits can be resumed immediately following an epidural injection.
All these rules about no eating are also to reduce the risk of Mendelson’s syndrome, which can occur if the contents of the stomach are drawn into the lungs (aspiration) while the patient is under general anesthesia. This is rare, thankfully. But keep in mind, everyone’s primary concern is always patient safety.
If your practitioner allows, and if your labor is expected to be routine, do eat something light before going to your birthing center. Think: a slice of toast with your favorite jam. Overall, poll your practitioner about what to eat and how much to eat, so that you get taken care of in the best of ways. Most docs will agree with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines: Laboring moms can drink clear liquids if their labor is uncomplicated.
Thus, the ice chips. And the popsicles. They’re staples on the delivery-room menu. (I still remember how good that chicken bouillon tasted…) But keep your wonderful focus and remember you’ve got your snacks packed in case you need them. Think of them as an hors d’oeuvre before your coach rushes out to get you a real meal. Research what restaurants are in the vicinity of your hospital and if delivery is allowed to hungry new moms; bring with you take-out menus. For my second child, I was famished after delivery and ordered the hospital food. I was so excited about the mac and cheese plate coming my way. It couldn’t get there fast enough. Needless to say, I remember wishing I had planned better.
Ideas for Snacks
So, think about what sates you, what you enjoy, what’s easy to pack and keep chilled (ice packs). Those small coolers? Use that. Some moms think bagels and extra cream cheese are a special splurge, a healthy brownie (yes, they exist; Debra’s Natural Gourmet in West Concord makes incredible homemade ones), a delicious assortment of trail mix that you alone mix so everything in there is what you like. (The Whole Foods in Dedham has a super trail mix bar.) A jar of sunflower seed butter and good crackers, good cheese and crackers. This is sounding like a party, but it is! You just delivered a beautiful baby, and you need sustenance. Think protein.
Some more options:
- Your favorite hummus and whatever. Carrots, crackers, olives! (Think olive bar olives, go for the best.)
- Yogurt smoothies. Bring several.
- Fresh fruit (maybe it’s already cut up for you?) and nuts like almonds, cashews. Dates!
- Pack a fork. A linen napkin.
- A container of cubed cheeses.
- Instant oatmeal (in case it’s morning!).
- Graham crackers and Nutella.
Oh, remember to share with your coach. Coaches get hungry, too!