Updated: May 12, 2021
You did it! After nine months, your bundle of joy is finally here.
You know it's important to focus on eating healthy during pregnancy. It's equally important to keep it up during the next phase: postpartum. Your body goes through many changes, both physical and chemical. And whether your goal is to maintain your milk supply, have more energy throughout the day, or lose that baby weight (or let’s be real, how about all of the above?), we get out what we put in.
Nutrition is key to healing properly, so let's focus on that for the first few weeks. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of good, solid nutrition for postpartum moms.
Some of the most common questions about postpartum nutrition involve helpful foods, potentially harmful foods, alcohol, water consumption, and allergies. Let’s start with some of the things you do want to eat:
Best Foods to Eat
Protein: This vital nutrient can be found in meats, legumes, even dairy. Protein makes up every cell in our body and is crucial to cell function and repair. Aim for at least 80g of protein per day. Good sources of protein include eggs, fish, tofu, legumes, and dairy products. Protein powders may also be an option.
Low-fat Dairy: Since estrogen levels tend to be lower while nursing, it’s important to maintain a healthy intake of calcium. This can help prevent osteoporosis later on down the road. Sources include milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Leafy Greens: When it comes to leafy greens, the darker the better. Greens such as broccoli, spinach, and swiss chard are rich in vitamins, as well as antioxidants.
Fruit: Fruits such as oranges and blueberries are rich in fiber. This helps with digestion, which can be disrupted during and after pregnancy.
Whole Grains: Your body is going to need extra energy to keep up with the demands of caring for a newborn.
Foods to Avoid
While certain foods may irritate your baby’s tummy, thankfully there aren’t any foods that pose a significant threat to you or your baby’s health. Pathogens like toxoplasmosis or salmonella can still make you sick, but they won’t pass through your milk.
After nine months of some hefty restrictions, you might be glad to know that you can now enjoy a glass or two of wine. While some alcohol does enter into the breastmilk, it’s only a small amount. The rule of thumb is “if you can drive, you can nurse.” Keep in mind that alcohol hits the bloodstream (and therefore breastmilk) about 30-60 minutes after a drink and takes roughly 2-3 hours for the body to filter it out, so plan accordingly.
Stay hydrated! Every cell in our body depends on water to function properly, so make sure you’re getting plenty of water. Aim for at least 8 cups (64 oz) per day. Electrolytes are good too but beware of the sugar content some of them have. Try to avoid sodas and heavy caffeine, as these can cause dehydration.
The first few days after giving birth are tough. Hormones are still fluctuating, and your organs are slowly going back to where they were pre-pregnancy. This can cause gas, bloating, and constipation. If you feel you suffer from constipation, try these:
Fiber: Eating fiber-rich foods can help keep digestion regular; aim for leafy greens, beans, lentils, whole grains, and fruits are all excellent choices.
Coffee: Caffeine is known to stimulate bowels, so having coffee may help move things along. Remember that excessive caffeine can irritate your baby’s tummy, as well as cause dehydration.
Water: Drinking more water can help give your digestive tract the boost it needs to pass a stubborn bowel movement.
Laxatives: If all else fails, ask your doctor about a laxative. There are some over-the-counter options out there, as well as certain teas that are designed to help loosen up the colon.
Do you need to take supplements? Unfortunately, our foods are not as nutritionally dense as they use to be. The average American lacks the necessary vitamins and minerals we need for optimal health. Supplements can be a great way to fill those gaps.
Prenatals: Prenatal vitamins are something that many women continue to take postpartum. They help cover all the bases, and you can't go wrong there!
Iron: Iron is another important nutrient to prioritize, and studies show more women suffer from anemia than men.
Vitamin B: Lack of sleep, a fussy infant, or other life stressors can cause your energy to tank. Taking vitamin b can help replenish your energy levels, as well as aid in red blood cell formation.
Vitamin D: Vitamin d plays a critical role in immune health, brain health, and has even been shown to reduce postpartum anxiety and depression.
DHA: A key element in healthy brain and eye health, DHA offers many benefits. Some studies show that people who consume DHA have less inflammation and lower chances of developing depression.
Worried your child might develop allergies from your breastmilk? Try not to -- infant allergies are not as common as you think. It takes time for an infant’s digestive tract to get used to the world outside the womb. True allergies will likely show up in the form of vomiting, diarrhea, or skin rash.
Having a baby is an exciting time, but can also be exhausting. Focusing on nutrition can help you heal faster, as well as be your best for your new baby. Prioritize getting plenty of rest, eating good, nutritious food, and trying to stay lighthearted as much as possible. These days won't last long.