During pregnancy you are completely devoted to your baby but taking out time for your own nutrition after delivery isn’t self-indulgent, it’s necessary!
The addition of a new member in the family is an exciting time. However, adjusting to so many changes can take a toll, specially to mother’s health. When you are completely focused on your new born needs, it can be difficult to pay attention to your own eating habits.
The importance of nourishing yourself doesn’t end after delivery. in fact, eating right post-delivery is as important as it was during pregnancy as it helps mothers to keep their energy levels up. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body loses lot of blood, warmth and energy during childbirth. It is important for new moms to replenish their energy and build her blood again after delivery.
What is Postpartum Period?
Postpartum period is commonly referred to the first six weeks to eight weeks after delivery. This is a joyous time for both the mother and the baby but is also a time to heal for mothers and make adjustments. For few days after childbirth, you will experience many changes, both emotionally as and physically. In the coming few weeks your reproductive tract would resume to the way it was before pregnancy. Recovery for vaginal delivery will be different from caesarean section.
Women need six basic nutrients (pregnant or not): vitamins, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and water. For mothers who are not breastfeeding, the caloric requirements will be the same as they were before pregnancy. Breastfeeding mothers, on the other hand, need to be conscious of what they are eating.
For proper nutrition and good health, here are some food guidelines every mom should follow during the postpartum period:
To prevent iron-deficiency anaemia, you’ll need lots of iron in your diet during postpartum period, as new moms lose blood during the birth, both C-section and normal delivery.
Low iron can make you feel week, irritable and susceptible to headaches. It’s important to eat plenty of iron-rich foods as it will help rebuild your body’s iron store. These foods include:
- Egg yolks (limited to four to five a week)
- Lean cuts of red meat
- Black beans
- Beef liver
- Dried fruits like raisins, prunes, apricot
Whole grains are must in your diet after delivery. You need lots of energy to take care of your baby and to produce milk. Carbohydrates are rich in fibre and vitamin B complex, which help in preventing fat storage. Include these whole grain foods in your diet during postpartum period:
- Brown rice
Fat stores are extremely important for mothers who want to breastfeed. Unhealthy fats such as trans fats and saturated fats – found mainly in products including higher fat milk, processed food and fatty cuts of meats – can have a negative impact on breast milk. Avoid such foods and ingest healthy fats like mono and polyunsaturated fats, found in these foods:
- Fatty fish like salmon
- Olive oil
- Tree nuts – walnuts and almonds
- Chia seed
- Coconut oil
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetable also supply carbohydrates, vitamins, fiber and minerals to your body, which provide energy after delivery. There is no particular type of fruit or vegetable to eat after delivery, so be sure to include all kinds of vegetables and fruits in your daily diet.
Wash fruits and vegetable thoroughly before consuming to remove pesticides. Below are some must-have fruits and vegetables during postpartum period:
- Sweet potato
- Sweet corn
Foods to Avoid when breastfeeding
You’ve spent none months worrying about foods you eat because of your baby’s development – and now when you’re breastfeeding, you should be on the watch for possible reactions of your baby. You still do not have the liberty to satisfy your taste buds.
While there is no such food which needs to be avoided universally, as each baby reacts differently to a food. So, what worked for your mother or friend may not work for you.
Here are some of the foods you need to avoid during breastfeeding. And, ‘avoid’ doesn’t mean ban, but limit the foods to small amounts.
- Coffee: We understand that you need coffee now that when you are not getting any sleep. But sorry. Babies are not prepared to process caffeine as quickly as adults do. Some amount of coffee is OK and if you think that the baby is about to sleep, wait to have your coffee after he is asleep.
- Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which has similar effect as that of caffeine. If you feel that your baby’s crankiness is because of chocolate, stay away from it. Monitoring your baby’s behaviour is the only way to know if you are consuming too much caffeine or not.
- Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. However, fruits such as oranges, lemon, sweet lime can cause acidity in babies as well as mothers. They can also cause spitting up and fussiness in the baby.
- Alcohol: It would be best for the baby if you don’t drink at all. However, if you do choose to have it, don’t breastfeed until alcohol has cleared the breast milk. For 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of liquor, or 12 ounces of beer, wait for at least three hours to breastfeed.
- Broccoli: Broccoli may cause gassy problems in your baby. However, there is no research-based evidence to prove it.
- High-mercury fish: Fishes are good for you if they contain protein and omega 3s. Some fish also contain mercury, which is detrimental for the nervous system. Fishes like sword fish and tuna contain mercury, so it is best to not consume them.
- Peanuts: Check if anyone in your family has a history of peanut allergy. The allergenic compounds can be easily transmitted through breast milk. Watch out for rashes or hives in baby. Make sure to avoid eating peanuts until weaning if there is an allergy.
- Peppermint: Peppermint is full of flavour. Bit it may affect the amount of milk your body makes. Consuming too much of the herb can reduce the milk supply. In some cases, even peppermint flavoured toothpaste cause problems.
- Garlic: You’re sure avoiding garlic is you’re expecting to be kissed, but do you know that the smell of garlic can get into your milk too. If you see any behaviour changes in baby, see if it coincides with when you ate something with garlic in it.
- Dairy: Nursing mothers are almost always confused whether to have dairy products or not. Babies can be intolerant to milk of cows. Make sure you observe the behaviour changes in baby. Symptoms like vomiting and colic after you consume dairy could mean that you need to stop eating them.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
When you are breastfeeding, you should drink extra water, without overdoing it. Simply follow the in and out principles of hydration: Using more fluid means taking more in. An average six-month old baby consumes about 1 quart of milk, of which 90% is water. Thus, it stands to reason that mothers should take four extra 8-ounce glasses of fluid on a daily basis. However, don’t become an obsessive water drinker. Drinking more water doesn’t imply more breastmilk.
Here’s how to maintain the amount of fluid you consume while breastfeeding:
- Drink enough water to satisfy your thirst plus a bit more
- Carry a water bottle along with you
Each time you breastfeed, drink about 8-ounce glass of water, plus a bit more every day. Remember, that whenever you drink, the baby drinks.
Water or Juice?
For lactating mothers, water is the best option. However, if you need more variety, simply squeeze a lemon in water. Fruit juice is not a nutrient-dense food and consuming it may lead to weight gain.
It is also important to monitor your body for signs if you are having enough fluids. Wet mouth means that you’re not constipated and colourless to slightly yellow urine means that you are having enough fluids. However, if your urine if colour of apple juice, it means that your body needs more fluids.
Weight Loss during Postpartum
Returning to pre-pregnancy weight is a major concern for most women during postpartum period. Mostly it is the societal pressure – enforced by photos by celebrities appearing in good shape easily – to get into shape quickly after delivery.
With exercise and a healthy diet, most of the weight will be shed naturally within one year of delivery. You should always aim for gradual weight loss. Breastfeeding would also help you with postpartum weight loss.
DO NOT skip meals, it is not good for the baby. Moreover, if you skip meals or go on dieting, you will have less energy and will not help you lose weight.
In most cases, pregnancy causes lasting changes in woman’s body. So, it is possible that you may not return to your exact pre-pregnancy shape. You may have wider hips, softer belly and larger waistline. Make goals about your new body realistic.