Diet and exercise habits in new mothers
John Martin, MD, is an obstetrician and gynecologist at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.
Question: I heard about a recent study that said new mothers don’t adopt healthy exercise and eating habits. I’m currently pregnant with my first child. Should I be concerned that I won’t be able to maintain a health-conscious lifestyle after my baby is born?
Answer: The study you mention was published in Pediatrics and showed that mothers of small children exercised less than other women their age, and they did not eat as well. This is not surprising, as new mothers are busy tending to their children, do not get as much rest, and may turn to comfort foods, such as those high in sugar and fat, as a way to handle stress.
However, these unhealthy habits often subside once a mother has adapted to her new family and fully recovered from childbirth. At that point, it is usually easier to return to a more normal existence that includes regular exercise and a nutritious diet.
Because mothers often have less control over their personal time, it can be difficult to adopt a fitness routine. You will need to find new ways to incorporate exercise into the day, even if it’s just a brisk walk with the baby in a stroller. Mothers also tend to snack on their children’s food, which may include chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and French fries. But creating a healthy diet is a decision that you can control, and making good choices now will also help your child learn about proper nutrition.
While motherhood is extremely demanding, with some creativity and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle, a new mother can stay fit and eat well, despite what one study has shown.