Nutrition during pregnancy and for conception has been a hot topic for a while, but what about after your bundle of joy is born? Eating the right foods in those first few months is just as important for mom’s physical and emotional health. Here’s some things to keep in mind:
Hydration: drink that water, milk, and other nutritious fluids! Between blood loss and breastfeeding, it can be a challenge to stay hydrated. I prefer water with a twist of lime, an ounce or two of grape or grapefruit juice, or herbal teas. While coffee and sodas may be appealing after many sleepless nights be careful not to overdue it…too much caffeine can make it harder for you to nap and since it passes into breastmilk it makes it more difficult for baby to sleep too.
Fiber: one out of four new moms struggles with constipation, even three months after delivery! Iron supplements and some pain meds make it more likely, but choosing high-fiber foods can help ease your symptoms. Choose whole grains, as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables. Beans are a great source of fiber too as long as your digestive system is used to them…otherwise they can cause gas. Most Americans only get half as much fiber as they need, but eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and 3 servings of whole grains will help keep your digestive system on track.
Omega-3 fatty acids: we’ve all heard about the importance of DHA for fetal brain development during pregnancy, but did you know that omega 3’s may help prevent postpartum depression as well? Keep taking those DHA supplements, or choose a diet high in fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseed.
Calcium: this mineral is so crucial for breastfeeding that your bones will be depleted before your milk supply becomes calcium-deficient. Protect those bones by choosing high-calcium foods such as dairy products, fish with the bones (sardines anyone?), beans, and leafy greens. Vegetarian sources of calcium are not nearly as well absorbed. If your breastfeeding baby seems sensitive to your milk intake, try cultured products such as yogurt or cheese before cutting it out completely. Calcium supplements can work as well, but they can also cause constipation.
Protein, Carbs, and Fat: You will still need sufficient calories to keep your milk supply up if you choose to breastfeed, and even moms who do not should be careful not to crash diet. Choosing lean meats and dairy as well as beans or lentils for protein, whole grains for carbs, and nuts, avocadoes, and seeds as fat sources will help you stay satisfied, well-nourished, and lose that baby fat more quickly while keeping your energy levels high.
So what foods should you avoid during this time? It is a good idea to limit processed foods made with white flour and sugar or high fructose corn syrup – even though those are the foods we tend to crave when sleep-deprived. Also, watch out for foods with trans fat – still found in many cookies, crackers, and even peanut butter! The more natural, unprocessed foods you choose the more nutrition your body will receive and use for recovery. Limiting foods that have lots of calories but little nutrition will help you lose weight faster and feel better. And that makes for a happier, healthier mommy and baby!