Navigating Postnatal Nutrition

by Hillary Bennetts

4th Trimester, Ask an expert, Health

There is a lot to think about in the days, weeks, and months after you give birth. After all, you’re responsible for a new life!

It’s exciting but overwhelming. You’re full of love but sleep-deprived. So thinking about how you are going to feed yourself may seem a bit overwhelming. But as with pregnancy, properly nourishing your body during this postpartum period is so important for both you and baby.

Your body is recovering from an incredible feat, and if you are breastfeeding, it is supplying the nutrients that your little one needs to survive and thrive. Here are six tips to keep you and your little one healthy.

Hydrate!

Hydration is key under normal circumstances but is particularly critical during the postnatal period to remain hydrated and prevent constipation. Aim for at least half of your body weight in ounces each day. Fill up a few big water bottles every day and set them where you’ll be spending time — by your chair in the nursery, on the coffee table, on your nightstand. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of your partner here. Ask them to make sure that they are full before you go to bed and first thing in the morning.

Balance your blood sugar

Keeping your blood sugar balanced is just as important during this time as it was while you were pregnant. Eating high-quality protein, fats and carbohydrates will help maintain a steady blood sugar level to manage hunger, cravings, and energy.

Protein will help your body repair its muscles and tissues, and is key for blood sugar balance. High-quality protein sources include hormone and antibiotic-free poultry, wild-caught fish, pastured eggs, and grass-fed beef. Vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are good plant-based choices. Try hard-boiling a big batch of eggs so you always have some quick, easy, and healthy protein to grab and eat.

Eating some fat at each meal and snack will also help to keep you full and satisfied. Good fats are essential to your body’s most critical functions. Try nuts, seeds (flax and chia are great additions to yogurt and smoothies!), avocado, and olive and coconut oil. Make progress before baby comes and portion out single-serve bags of nuts. Leave them by your water bottles or a quick grab and go snack.

Eat often and enough 

While you might be eager to get back to your pre-baby figure, this is not the time for restrictive diets, especially when breastfeeding. Nourish your body with supportive nutrients to help you and your baby get off to the best start together. Eating small, frequent meals will help to maintain energy and blood sugar levels, and may be less overwhelming than preparing large meals.

Don’t skimp on calcium

Up to 300mg of calcium is transferred from mother to baby each day through breast milk. If this isn’t replenished through your diet or a supplement, calcium will be pulled from your bones, decreasing bone density. Good sources include yogurt, milk, kefir, kale, broccoli, and almonds. Vitamin D3 helps with the absorption of calcium.

Supplement when needed

While I always recommend food as the best source of nutrients, it isn’t always feasible, and so supplementation may be necessary. Look for whole food-based supplements (MegaFood, New Chapter or Garden of Life are good examples) and don’t always default to a multivitamin. You don’t need to supplement all nutrients, just those that you aren’t getting through your diet. A good B-complex and fish oil are supplements I often recommend.

Limit junk

Skip the refined carbohydrates (any white flour or sugar) in favor of whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They provide important nutrients, as well as fiber to keep you full and combat constipation.

You might also be tempted by caffeine and alcohol now that they are no longer off-limits. Both can be safe in moderation but talk with your doctor about safe levels when breastfeeding.

With the demands of your new baby plus all of your other responsibilities at work and home, it is easy to put your own health and well-being on the back burner. Remind yourself that you can’t pour from an empty cup. To be the strong and supportive mother that you want to be, you’ve got to take care of yourself, too.

 

Hillary Bennetts

Hillary Bennetts is a recovering corporate consultant, an entrepreneur, nutrition student and blogger at Wellness is my Jam. She is a strong advocate for health equity, serving as a volunteer and on the leadership council for Denver Food Rescue. Hillary holds a BA in Economics from Washington and Jefferson College and an MBA from Emory University. She will become a Certified Nutrition Consultant upon graduation from Bauman College in July 2018. She loves living and adventuring with her husband and golden retriever in Colorado. Her first baby is due in April 2018.

Instagram @hillarybennetts