Snacks and drinks for labour

Snacking

When you’re thinking about how to manage your labour, snacks and drinks might not be on the top of your priority list.

However, unless you’re a regular marathon runner, you’ll probably be burning up more energy during labour than at any other time in your life, so it’s important to make sure that you’re as prepared as you can be. And that includes having healthy snacks and drinks at the ready to keep your energy up.

Here we’re exploring how eating helps to build your energy in labour, what the best snacks and drinks are, and how many you’re likely to need.

How eating during labour builds up your energy

Labour can be a tiring business. Eating even a small amount of healthy snacks during labour can really help you manage those moments of tiredness.

It’s important to listen to your body, particularly once labour begins. If you feel queasy or aren’t in the mood for food, it’s best not to force yourself to eat. On the other hand, if you’re not feeling nauseous and you feel like you might need a bit of an energy boost, tucking into a light snack can be really beneficial further down the line.

Once your contractions become stronger you’ll probably find that food is the last thing on your mind. The best advice is to listen to your body and follow your gut instinct.

Is it safe to eat during labour?

It’s generally considered safe to eat when you’re in labour1 and the NHS recommends having something to eat and drink during the early stages in order to help you prepare for active labour 2.  It’s worth checking what your hospital’s policy is on eating and drinking during labour though, just to be on the safe side. Your midwife will be able to tell you everything you need to know.

If you’re planning to use certain types of pain relief, you may be advised to keep snacks to a minimum or not eat at all3. And if you’re having a planned C- section, you’ll most likely be advised not to eat anything for a few hours before it takes place4.

When should I eat during labour?

The simple answer is when you feel like it. The key thing is to listen to your body and eat when you feel hungry and have an appetite for food. It’s best to eat little and often. Eating too much at once may sit heavy on your stomach and can leave you feeling nauseous.

If you can manage it, have something to eat and drink in the early stages of your labour. That way, you’ll have the energy you need for giving birth5. There’s no way of knowing how your labour will progress and how long it will take, so having some healthy snacks to hand is always a good idea.

What are the best snacks for labour?

It’s recommended that you go for sources of carbohydrates, as they’re known to be our main source of energy 6.  Any of the following carb-rich snacks would work well:
 

  • Bread or toast.
  • Crispbreads, rice cakes, or crackers.
  • Pasta.
  • Rice.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Bananas.
  • Flapjacks or cereal bars.
  • Plain biscuits, such as digestives.

How many snacks will I need for labour?

There’s no set answer for this. The safest option is to take plenty of small healthy snacks just in case.

Remember, it’s not just you that will need to stay topped up on energy. Your birth partner will need plenty of snacks to refuel on too, so be sure to pack plenty in your hospital bag. That way, you’ll be fully prepared just in case the vending machines aren’t working or the canteen is closed. 

You might find that you’re lacking in energy once your baby has arrived, so any leftover snacks might be just what you need.

Which foods should I avoid eating during labour?

Anything that’s likely to sit heavy on your tummy has the potential to make you feel sick, so it’s best to avoid foods that are high in fat7. Likewise, any foods that are high in sugar will give you a short-lived boost followed by a sharp drop in energy, and for that reason complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain biscuits are a better option.

What are the best drinks for labour?

Being in labour is thirsty work, so make sure you have plenty of water to hand to keep yourself well hydrated throughout.

In the early stages while you’re still at home you might find it soothing to sip on a cup of herbal tea, such as chamomile or peppermint. However, once labour begins, water is your best option, but if you aren’t a fan of plain water, weak squash is a good choice too8.

Remember to fill a sports bottle before you head to the hospital – something you can easily sip from with minimal effort.

Are isotonic drinks good for labour?

Some hospitals recommend isotonic sports drinks, because they’re quickly absorbed and give you an instant boost of energy – especially handy if you can’t face eating anything9.

  1. North Bristol NHS Trust. Guideline for eating and drinking in labour and the early postoperative period [online]. Available at: https://www.oaa-anaes.ac.uk/assets/_managed/editor/File/Guidelines/oral%20intake/oral_intake_donald_n_bristolNHSTrust.pdf [Accessed December 2021]
  2. National Health Service/ The stages of labour and birth [online] 2020. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/what-happens/the-stages-of-labour-and-birth/ [Accessed December 2021]
  3. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies [online] 2017. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190/ifp/chapter/care-during-labour [Accessed December 2021]
  4. National Health Service. Caesarean section - what happens [online] 2019. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/what-happens/ [Accessed December 2021]
  5. National Health Service/ The stages of labour and birth [online] 2020. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/what-happens/the-stages-of-labour-and-birth/ [Accessed December 2021]
  6. Jéquier E. Carbohydrates as a source of energy. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994 Mar; 59(3 Suppl):682S-685S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/59.3.682S. PMID: 8116550 [Accessed December 2021]
  7. NHS Foundation Trust. Coping in labour [online] 2021. Available at https://www.chelwest.nhs.uk/services/maternity/pregnancy-birth/giving-birth/coping-in-labour [Accessed December 2021]
  8. North Bristol NHS Trust. Guideline for eating and drinking in labour and the early postoperative period [online]. Available at: https://www.oaa-anaes.ac.uk/assets/_managed/editor/File/Guidelines/oral%20intake/oral_intake_donald_n_bristolNHSTrust.pdf [Accessed December 2021]
  9. North Bristol NHS Trust. Guideline for eating and drinking in labour and the early postoperative period [online]. Available at: https://www.oaa-anaes.ac.uk/assets/_managed/editor/File/Guidelines/oral%20intake/oral_intake_donald_n_bristolNHSTrust.pdf [Accessed December 2021]

Last reviewed: 6 January 2022
Reviewed by Nutricia’s Medical and Scientific Affairs Team

FACEBO~1.PNG

Join the club

Ready to stop worrying about what other people think and do what feels right to you? We’ll give you the support you need to follow your instincts and enjoy parenthood to the max:

Helpful emails

Non-judgemental support

Free weaning plan*

Tips from real parents

*Weaning is recommended at around 6 months. Please speak with a healthcare professional before introducing solid foods.

Related articles

Need free advice with a smile? Get in touch with our dedicated Care team.

Ask us a question (8am - 8pm Monday to Friday, 10am - 4pm Weekends)

WhatsApp

Messenger

Contact us on Facebook (10am - 10pm, 7 days a week)

Call us

Call us on 0800 977 8880 (8am - 8pm Monday to Friday)

FAQs

Get answers to your most frequently asked questions

x