Postpartum Nutrition for the New Mom

by Jackie Hershwitz

Postpartum NutritionIf you're pregnant, you could be daydreaming about holding your precious baby for the first time or hopefully fitting back into your favorite jeans (back when you actually could see you had toes).

Another topic that you'll want to consider is your body's post pregnancy needs.

While we know you'll be eager to shed those last few pregnancy pounds, consider taking them off slowly. There's nothing wrong at all with getting back to a healthy weight. You want to make sure that you give your body enough time to adjust and compensate.

Being pregnant came with specific nutritional requirements. Giving birth and recovering from your birth, no matter how your baby was born, requires energy and specific nutrients.

In these first weeks, your goal is to help your body recover and to get breastfeeding off to a good start.

Your Basic Postpartum Diet

During the first two to four weeks after your baby's birth (or the first eight to 10 weeks if your baby arrived by c-section), your body works hard at repairing and rebuilding itself.

Your diet needs to provide the basic building blocks and plenty of energy to get the work done.

Ideal Postpartum Menu

Protein foods: Protein has the amino acids your body needs to repair cells and muscles that could have been damaged during childbirth. While you don't need to focus on eating huge steaks or five egg omelets, focus on getting protein from such sources as meats, seafood, legumes (dried beans and peas), eggs, dairy, soy or nuts for each meal.

Carbohydrates furnish energy. The best sources are fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain products.

Healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds provide important nutrients and help provide energy.

Other Important Nutrients

Your body craves certain nutrients during the first few weeks after childbirth. Try to make sure your postpartum diets contains plenty of these essentials.

Iron: You lose some blood during delivery whether your birth was vaginal or cesarean. Include foods rich in iron and those containing vitamin C as you plan your meals.

Vitamin C promotes healing. Eat strawberries, kiwis and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables to get the Vitamin C you need.

Fiber: Many new moms complain about constipation. To avoid being part of this vocal group, drink lots of water and eat food rich in fiber.

Omega-3 fatty acids: These essential fatty acids ensure your emotional and physical well-being. Their lack has been connected with postpartum depression. Fatty fish like salmon, nuts and seeds provide Omega-3s.

A Sample Postpartum Menu

MyPlate® furnishes a visual that help you plan your healthy diet. Fill half the plate with dark green vegetables, one quarter with a protein and the remaining quarter with a whole grain or starchy vegetable.

An ideal postpartum diet might look something like this:

Breakfast: Two egg omelet filled with mushrooms, spinach and red peppers; a piece of whole grain toast and a glass of milk.

Snack: Strawberries topped with plain Greek yogurt.

Lunch: Turkey, cheese and vegetables wrapped in a whole grain tortilla; leafy green side salad and orange slices.

Snack: Raw vegetable plate with hummus or other healthy dip.

Dinner: Ginger salmon over bok choy served with brown rice; milk and a baked apple for dessert.

Traditional Cultural Wisdom

Different foods and traditional diets have been used around the world during the postpartum period. These two Eastern cultures illustrate traditional culture wisdom.

Ayurveda

Ayurvedic medical texts say that the six week postpartum period represents an opportunity to reset all systems for ideal health. The choices made during this 42 day "Sacred Window" are said to effect women for the next 42 years.

Dairy options supplement the primarily vegetarian diet. Foods are cooked with more water and oil. They tend to use warming spices and sweetness is honored in rejuvenating snacks. Digestive chewing herbs are offered after meals. Herbal teas support lactation and cellular regeneration.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

For over 3000 years, women in China have been given a "golden month" to rest, recover and gain their health after birthing a child.

New mothers are encouraged to eat frequent small meals that focus on nourishing and supporting vital organs. Some of the foods traditionally eaten include chicken, leafy green vegetables, eggs, raisins, sweet rice and dried longan fruit. Herbs such as motherwort and Dong Quai are cooked into a chicken soup.

Nurturing and nourishment during the postpartum period can mean a happier and healthier you for life. Take care of yourself! You're worth it.

What have been your biggest challenges during this time in your life?

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