After giving birth, every new mother needs to take the time to get proper care and rest. After all, you’d just spent the past nine to ten months growing a human being. You may be in a dilemma as to what to eat and what to avoid. You probably want to get back in shape, shed your pregnancy weight, get your energy back and, most importantly, breastfeed. With a plethora of information available on post-pregnancy dietary trends, you might usually find yourself getting confused.
Worry not. Here are the key things to look out for in your postpartum diet:
To keep the body in an anabolic state (rebuilding tissue), you’ll need enough calories to support the healing process. If you are breastfeeding, it is recommended to aim for 300-400 more calories more than your pre-pregnancy diet daily, with a balance between fat, carbs and protein.
Extra protein needs to be consumed regularly, and not just in one meal from one source. Every meal should have portions of protein from different sources. Protein helps to rebuild tissue & replenish blood lost during childbirth. It also helps to fight infection & balance body fluids. As with during pregnancy, you’ll also need an extra 25 grams of protein per day.
This essential mineral is responsible for the creation of new blood cells. It’s common to experience iron deficiency both during and after pregnancy. When pregnant, your body requires larger volumes of red blood cells to transport nutrients and oxygen to the baby in-utero, while considerable amounts of blood are lost during delivery. Find iron in red meat, tofu, beans, lentils and dark leafy greens. Do take note that plant-based sources of iron like spinach are not absorbed as efficiently as iron from meat. However, vitamin C can help increase the absorption rate, so add vitamin C-rich food like lemon juice, bell peppers or strawberries to your diet.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays a huge role in the healing process. Studies show that vitamin C can help speed the wound healing process. It is also a highly effective antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage. Choose fruits and veggies that are rich in this vitamin and incorporate them into your day.
The thought of going to the bathroom post-delivery can be intimidating. Getting enough fiber and fluids can help alleviate constipation. Fill most of your plate with high-fiber food like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In addition, do also focus on food with insoluble fiber like bran cereal, nuts, beans and potatoes. Insoluble fiber moves through the intestines intact, creating bulk and preventing constipation. Oatmeal and chia seeds, on the other hand, are good sources of soluble fiber that can help with digestion. Keep your water bottle handy too. Drinking plenty of water will also help you go to the bathroom as well as replenishing fluids lost during childbirth.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Just as in pregnancy, lactating women should consume 3-4 servings of fish per week. Opt for varieties of fishes that are low in mercury and high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), such as salmon, anchovies, sardines and trout. DHA, in particular, is important for fetal brain development.
You should avoid all kinds of alcohol after you have your baby. Not only will it severely impact the way your body heals itself, but it can also directly pass to your baby through your breastmilk, which can stunt their growth and cause a range of other physical issues.
Caffeine in moderation is fine. However, if you’re looking at celebrating your ability to consume caffeine again by making quad-mochas or latte a daily habit, you may want to half-caf that order. Caffeine gets into breastmilk, and since baby’s body isn’t equipped to process caffeine efficiently, the caffeine can act as a stimulant for the baby that can cause irritability and sleep issues.
- Some Fish
Some fish – especially king mackerel, marlin, shark, swordfish, tilefish, tuna and bigeye tuna – can be high in mercury. When a breastfeeding woman eats these fish, some of the methylmercury passes into her breastmilk and can cause harm to the baby’s developing nervous system. If you love fish and avoiding it would be hard for you, choose low-mercury fish, such as salmon, pollock, catfish, shrimp and canned light tuna. These are safer for new mums.
There’s no one size-fits-all postpartum diet to follow. However, do make sure to stay hydrated and eat a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet throughout your postpartum period and while breastfeeding. Keep in mind that you don’t need to eat all these foods all the time. Variety and awareness are key!
With good dietary habits, you’ll be putting yourself on the fast track to recovery so you can be the happy, energised mum you want to be. Providing your body with good nutrition, and your brain and heart with patience and attention can help you feel more at peace. Be really kind to yourself, Mama!