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My friend Irene, a fourth time mother, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl a few years back. She has two other daughters aged six and thirteen years and a sixteen year old son.

While expecting her first child, she was not careful with her food choices. She made a point of eating for “two” and ate chicken and chips for lunch daily throughout this period. She did not gain much during this first pregnancy as she was quite young, very active and always on the move. Following her first and second deliveries, Irene was keen on breastfeeding her babies exclusively so she ate extra food portions to keep her breast milk in constant supply. In the usual Kenyan trend the older women in her life advised her to take lots of fermented porridge, to eat lots of “njahi” (black beans). She was also constantly told not to forget to “eat-for-two” since her babies were relying on her for nourishment. I am sure you can all relate to this advice that is handed down through the years irrespective of community or culture.

Unbeknownst to her, while she was busy ensuring her babies did not starve, she was not conscious of the fact that excess eating led to extra weight gain that would take time and lots of effort to get rid of. A very painful lesson considering she had an uphill task of losing the extra twenty kilograms and thirty kilograms that she gained in her first and second pregnancies respectively and while breastfeeding.

The third time round, seven years later, she was much wiser and only ate what was required, a proper balanced diet that consisted lots of fruits, green leafy vegetables, milk and was zero-tolerant to junk food. During this pregnancy, Irene gained a mere 10 kilograms that gradually shed off as she breastfed. In less than two years she was back to her pre-pregnancy weight and even managed to lose an extra three kilograms.

She has also maintained an active exercise regime to keep her weight in check. With the wisdom that comes with having been there and one that, her fourth pregnancy found her in a very good space. Having learnt from her previous experiences, she ate just enough of the right portions and the right foods making it a fairly smooth pregnancy and gained fourteen kilograms this time round. As she breastfeeds baby Tiana, she has been careful with her food choices as she knows the pains of over-eating. She has currently shed off 10 kilograms and believes that she will get back to her pre-pregnancy in the next four months.

Irene is my role model. I look at her and acknowledge the journey she’s been through. I keep telling her that she needs to share her painfully learned wisdom with others. Irene says there are some things she wishes she knew earlier and would like every mother to know

  1. Do not listen to every piece of advice given by others about eating during breastfeeding / pregnancy – there will always be experts telling you to eat anything and everything so that the baby gets milk.
  2. Have a balanced diet, in sensible portions – eat for one (yourself). Hot fluids will trigger the production of breast milk, not extra food, and please please – manage your eating.
  3. Don’t eat everything you are told, when the weight comes, you will eventually have to get rid of it on your own. All the food advisers will not be there to suffer with you when things are bad.

Very wise lessons indeed, there are consequences for our actions. The fun is in the eating but plenty of tears abound when we have to work tirelessly towards losing weight for the excess food eaten. Moderation is the name of the game. Whether you have one baby or a set of triplets , eating for yourself only is what will help you manage your weight well. To set the ball rolling, a healthy balanced diet should do the trick of making the extra weight gained during pregnancy start shedding off. Let Irene’s wise words be vital lessons for a first-time mother or one who is about to give birth.

Do not be caught flat-footed, now you know…information is power!

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