Labor can be a long and unpredictable experience, and as such, it’s important to be prepared, particularly when it comes to packing your hospital bag. Whilst it’s important to ensure you have sufficient supplies for your baby and your own postpartum recovery, it’s also crucial to include a variety of snacks to keep your energy and hydration levels up during the labor itself.
What can I eat during labor?
Knowing what you may want to eat and drink during labor can be challenging, as until you’re in the moment, it’s hard to predict what you will or won’t feel like eating.
It’s also worth remembering that if you’re likely to need a cesarean, you may be asked to limit how much food and drink you consume in the hours leading up to your baby’s arrival.
At times, labor can make you feel nauseous or prevent a significant appetite, but it is really important you eat and drink regularly to keep your energy levels up and prevent dehydration. Eating small snacks little and often can help, but it’s also important to make sensible choices.
What foods should I avoid during labor?
What you can eat during labor may ultimately depend upon any pain relief or medication you are taking and the type of birth you are having.
There are some food choices however that it is sensible to avoid:
- High fat or greasy foods such as curries or fried food are not recommended for labor as they are harder to digest. As a result, they can sit heavy in your stomach and make you feel sick.
- Whilst sugary foods and snacks can provide an instant energy boost, the effects can quickly wear off and leave you feeling lethargic.
- Sodas are also not a good idea as they can cause you to experience gas and bloating, which combined with contractions, aren’t a pleasant mix.
- Strong acidic foods can trigger heartburn and reflux, which can make you feel uncomfortable and nauseous.
The ideal foods to eat during labor are slow-release carbohydrates, which can help replenish essential nutrients and boost your energy levels both during and after birth.
Here are our must-have snacks for your labor bag:
Cereal bars offer a good balance of sugar for an instant hit of energy, with ingredients such as oats, which are slow-release and can sustain your energy levels for longer. They are also easy to hold or have fed to you in small bites between contractions.
Plain biscuits or crackers
If your throat isn’t feeling too dry from contractions or gas and air, plain biscuits can be a simple snack that is quick and easy to digest. By sticking to plain biscuits and avoiding strong flavours or sugary toppings, you’re also unlikely to experience any aversion or nausea.
Fruit / Vegetable sticks
Gas and air can dry your throat, so the refreshing sensation of a satsuma or small bites of an apple can really help. Just be conscious that anything too acidic can trigger reflux and heartburn, so you may want to avoid eating too much citrus.
Nuts / Rice cakes
A handful of nuts or small rice cakes can be a quick and accessible snack – ideal to grab from a bag between contractions.
Sucking on a boiled sweet or mint can help keep nausea at bay, whilst keeping your mouth moist. It can also remove the unpleasant tastes you may experience from reflux or heartburn.
Drinking lots of fluids (ideally water) during labor is really important to prevent dehydration, Many Moms to be opt for isotonic drinks which are quick to absorb and have salt and sugar levels similar to those found in the human body. Isotonic drinks (usually of the sports drink variety) can help replace the fluids lost from sweat and are easy to sip or squeeze regularly between contractions.
Tips for snacking during labor
- Take a selection of snacks with you so that you have some choice. This way, if the thought of one particular snack doesn’t appeal in the thick of labor, you have an alternative to choose from.
- Eat when you are hungry – don’t wait. Hunger is a sign that your body needs more energy – labor is much harder when your body is weak or tired.
- Eat little and often – even a handful of raisins or popcorn is enough to keep your energy levels consistent.
- Don’t forget to have some food for your birthing partner Whilst they won’t be experiencing the same physical challenges, they too need to keep their energy levels up to support you effectively.