Post baby diets are all over the media these days, however many mainstream postpartum recommendations seem to miss the mark and look to help women “get their body back”, with a focus on weight loss without often paying attention to the nutritional needs required during this special period of time.
Some of the biggest nutritional concerns I see with new moms are relating to breastfeeding, physical healing, sleep, energy and mood, so I will look to address each one of these.
Mothers often worry that they aren’t eating enough of the right foods in order to maintain adequate milk production. Yet most mothers will produce enough milk even when their eating habits aren’t the best. Most of the time your body will suffer before baby. Many moms ask if they should still breastfeed (if they choose to) even if their diet isn’t perfect? Simple answer-Yes! What we then need to focus on is repletion of nutrients for you. You just grew a baby and now your body is feeding this baby. That is hard work! You need to adequately take care of yourself and pay attention to your nutritional needs. This means avoid dieting and instead focus on consuming nutrient dense foods. While gradual weight loss will not impact milk supply, a sudden dramatic decrease in calories over several days (such as a crash diet) can definitely lower milk supply. Loosing weight too quickly can also negatively impact skin elasticity, muscle tone, energy levels and can mobilize toxins (as toxins are stored in fat). These toxins can then get into your milk if they are released too quickly without adequate time to be properly excreted.
Instead of dieting and restricting calories new moms really need to focus on actually eating- a lot! Physical healing is energy intensive and if you are also breastfeeding that pulls several hundred extra calories per day as well. Protein and adequate hydration are also extremely important for wound healing/tissue repair. My go to favourites tend to be grab and go foods like hard boiled eggs (I boil a dozen at a time and then store in the fridge for when I need them). Other good options include nuts, seeds and various types of meat/fish/poultry.
Good quality fats are also imperative in the postpartum diet. These not only provide energy for physical recovery but also aid in absorption of fat soluble nutrients and may play a role in decreasing the prevalence of postpartum depression. Good sources include fish, avocados, nuts and coconut/olive oil.
Complex carbs are also important. One reason is due to their high fibre content, which helps move things along, so to speak. Constipation and hemorrhoids can occur during pregnancy and also after delivery so ensuring adequate fibre is very important. Hydration plays a role with this too, so always make sure to increase your water intake as you increase your fibre. Complex carbs also give you energy and may help with better sleep, especially when paired with some protein containing the amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid is famously found in turkey and is responsible for giving us the post Thanksgiving nap (tryptophan can also be found in eggs, chicken and nuts). Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain thereby relaxing you and hopefully helping you to fall asleep (if baby will let you :). Good sources of complex carbohydrates include things like oats, quinoa, whole grain pastas and breads. Tryptophan/carbohydrate combos that you can eat before going to bed could include things like whole grain toast and peanut butter or a hard boiled egg and a few whole grain crackers.
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