With additional reporting by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC
Postpartum nutrition is incredibly important, yet often overlooked. After all, new mamas are busy! But pregnancy and birth take a major toll on your body , and you now need to recover.
If you are breastfeeding , your body is working hard to create and maintain your milk supply—you need about 500 extra calories every day! (That is more than what you needed during pregnancy!) And of course, you are adjusting to life with a newborn which can be physically demanding as well.
In The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama , Dietician Nutritionist Crystal Karges shares that a nutrient-dense postpartum diet is critical to replenish your energy and electrolytes, and to support wound healing (such as tears or surgical incisions).
Not only does nourishment allow your body to heal physically from pregnancy and birth, but it may also protect your emotional health. We need to learn more about it, though it appears that good nutrition can decrease the risk of developing postpartum mood disorders.
In the first few weeks after delivery, try to make your postpartum recovery nutrition a top priority (a great way to do this is by asking friends and family to help provide meals ). Lean proteins, whole grains, fresh produce and hydration are going to be your best friends.
Here are the nutrients to focus on to support your postpartum recovery, plus what to add to your grocery list to get them.
During pregnancy, the body draws calcium from mom's bones to support the growth of the baby. During breastfeeding, the body continues to pull calcium from you into the breast milk. Getting enough calcium is essential to preventing long-term bone loss and osteoporosis down the road.
Calcium-rich foods to add to your grocery list:
- Fish with small ones (sardines)
- Fortified non-dairy milks
B vitamins like folate, biotin, B6 and B12 are involved in many of the body's essential processes. Taking in these vitamins can help boost your energy and ward off sad feelings, and possibly depression. Plus, the B vitamin, biotin, plays a role in hair growth. The degree to which biotin helps to regenerate new hair is debatable, but it can't hurt to boost your biotin, since its deficiency has been linked to thinning, brittle hair.
Hormonal birth control can deplete B vitamin levels, so if you are re-starting the pill, now is an especially good time to think about these vitamins.
B vitamin-rich foods to add to your grocery list:
- Whole grains
- Leafy greens
- Red meat
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, low energy, bone problems and even weight gain. The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun, but that can be hard to do (especially if you're always wearing sunscreen , which we recommend). So, opt for foods high in vitamin D or a supplement.
Vitamin D-rich foods to add to your grocery list:
- Fortified dairy
- Egg yolks
- Cod and cod liver oil
Protein + iron
These nutrients will help you rebuild your muscles and tissues as you heal because they replenish blood store losses. When your body has what it needs to heal, you will have more energy and feel better in general. Protein will also support your milk supply if you are breastfeeding and can help you feel more satisfied after meals and keep your energy levels stable throughout the day.
Your iron needs are higher when breastfeeding and menstruating, and if you've lost a significant amount of blood during labor. Make sure your iron levels are in check because low levels (like we see in anemia ) can contribute to fatigue, as well as dry, brittle nails and hair. While taking iron supplements will not prevent the natural hormonal changes that lead to postpartum hair shedding , being iron deficient will contribute to dry, dull hair, making the loss of those locks a little worse.
Protein and iron-rich foods to add to your grocery list:
- Fortified whole grains
Healthy fats have anti-inflammatory properties that can do wonders for the brain, skin and immune system. To continue that pregnancy glow, opt for more omega's in your diet, especially since your body will be pulling in that DHA from your stores into the breast milk.
Healthy fats will help your body absorb the other nutrients you eat, as well as boost your energy and stabilize your hormones. Fat is also a major component of breast milk, supporting its ability to help your baby grow and develop.
Omega 3-rich foods to add to your grocery list:
- Fatty fish (salmon, sardines and cod)
- Chia seeds
The main concept, mama, is to nourish your body. Treat yourself like the goddess that you are, and fuel yourself with delicious and beneficial foods.
You deserve all the fourth trimester nutritional support you can get, mama. Here are some our favorite items to help you thrive as you recover.
The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama will carry you through the fourth trimester with love and grace. Learn how to thrive, not just survive, as you transition into motherhood.
Developed by mamas and scientists, this dissolvable collagen protein is made just for pregnant mamas. Just add it to your morning smoothie, yogurt or oatmeal to help with blood sugar management, minimizing nausea, and to grow baby's cells and the placenta.
Cashew butter, oats, flaxseeds, and dates come together as the perfect post-birth snack. These energy balls not only taste delicious but also aid new mothers in lactation. Good for mama and even better for baby, mama balls make breastfeeding a breeze.
Keep your postpartum meals fresh and organized in these delightful bamboo storage containers. Bonus: They double as plates. That means less cleaning and more snuggling!
Ideally, someone will be making food for you. But if cooking makes you happy, and if you love cheese as much as we do, you will adore this DIY cheese-making kit. It allows you to make eight batches of cheese—all you need is milk. Get that calcium, mama!
A portion of this article has been excerpted from The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama .
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