Healing from birthing a baby is necessary for optimum well being postpartum. A part of that healing can heavily rely on the foods that are consumed. The foods you eat can determine how well you feel, how depleted you are, and your risk for postpartum depression.
Because of societal pressures and stigmas, new mothers can find themselves focusing on “bouncing back” and comparing their postpartum bodies to other mothers. As a “Mom Coach”, I am here to encourage you to change your perspective. Healing is not about your size, weight, or what your abdomen looks like. Proper healing comes from within and nourishing nutrition rather than “restrictive dieting” is a key to doing just that. Changing perspective can ease this journey and encourage your body to function at the best it can in that moment.
A few things to focus on to change your perspective…
- Your body is healing from creating, carrying, and birthing your beautiful new baby.
- Focus on healing, not the weight.
- Every BODY is unique and is on their own journey.
- Allow grace, love, and compassion towards your body.
- Reward your body with nourishing foods, do not punish it for it’s amazing work.
- This is a season that requires a different prioritization of self care.
- Focus on fueling your body for healthy function, rather than aesthetics.
- Do not waste valuable mental energy on self loathing.
This change in mentality is the release you need to move forward with a healthy mindset. Our mental load is so heavy in the postpartum period, flipping the script can lighten this mental load enough to allow you to focus on what is really needed. Self loathing is a useless energy that can lead you down a despairing rabbit hole. We live in a world that pushes a certain way we should look and feel, so it is tough to be immune to certain feelings. Flipping your script is a practice that gets better with consistency.
Just as I discussed in my last post, 10 Steps to Replenish Your Mind, Body and Soul After Baby, consuming the right foods can help improve postpartum depletion and reduce your risk of postpartum depression. Consuming nutrition that is vitamin and mineral rich can improve mood, which sometimes is what’s needed to not only make it through but thrive through motherhood.
Most mothers don’t seem to struggle with the actual eating the right things but the preparation it can take to understand what your body needs, planning, shopping and making meals. As mothers, we are busy and our mental load is heavy, so the thought of adding in nutrition can seem overwhelming. My main message that I try to convey to all mothers is allow yourself grace. Your nutrition doesn’t have to be perfect to meet your nutrient needs. Life happens and our day is usually driven by our children’s needs so if you have had a sleepless night, and a long day ahead of you, you probably aren’t rushing to make yourself a 4 course balanced meal. If you like creamer in your coffee, enjoy that cup, girl! If you like a glass of wine here and there, drink it! You make the rules and you know your body.
So, what does your postpartum body need? A healthy balance in macro and micro nutrients. It’s important to note that a normal calorie intake varies from person to person but early postpartum is not the time to focus on restricting calories. A person with an average weight, an estimate of 2000 calories is a good place to start but can heavily vary depending on a variety of factors.
Understanding Macronutrients– Protein, Fats, and Carbohydrates
Proteins consist of amino acids. Amino acids help build and repair muscle and tissues in the body. Because of this protein is important for postpartum recovery. Protein also helps keep you full longer, which is helpful for busy moms. And that postpartum hair loss, that creates our fly away baby hairs, it can help with that too, since hair is made up of proteins. All in all, it’s important. Proteins come from meat, eggs, and certain plant based proteins such as soy, quinoa, and buckwheat. Striving to eat protein with every meal is a good goal to have.
Fats are an important source of energy for the postpartum body. Fats help regulate hormones which is why they are so important to consume. Fats are a carrier for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and supports their absorption in the intestine. Consuming sufficient amounts of fatty foods are essential for proper vitamin absorption which plays a huge role in postpartum depletion. Fat intake should fill 20-35% of your total caloric intake. Some examples of fats to add to your diet are; oily fish, including anchovy, salmon, tuna and mackerel, peanut butter, oils, avocados, nuts, chia seeds, cheese.
Carbohydrates is another good source of energy for the body. There are two types of carbohydrates, complex and simple. Complex are the healthiest form of carbs (unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans) promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients. Simple, highly processed, refined foods, include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease. Consistently choosing complex carbohydrates to add to your meal is going to give you the healthy energy you need to keep up with baby.
Wellness starts from within. Eating a diet balanced with these macro nutrients will improve your overall wellness and how you feel.
Important Micro nutrients After Baby
Micro nutrients are vitamins and minerals that are vital for so many different functions and systems of the body. The best way to ensure you are receiving and absorbing micro nutrients is eating a balanced diet filled with wholesome, nourishing, colorful foods. Also taking a multivitamin or prenatal to ensure you are getting enough for your body. Research has shown that nutrient depletion can increase your risk for postpartum depression.
Vitamins and minerals to focus on consuming postpartum…
Due to the loss of blood that happens during delivery it is recommended to eat 18 mg of IRON per day. (most important in the early days after birth). Iron can be found in red meat, beans, lentils, oatmeal, iron fortified cereals.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is used to form collagen (protein found in skin and connective tissue) Important for healing c-section scar, vaginal tearing. Vitamin C can be found in Peppers, citrus fruits, berries, spinach, broccoli, garlic, pumpkin seeds.
Promotes a healthy GI tract and keeps stool soft. The first urge to poop after baby can be frightening, but with extra fiber you can go with a little more ease! Fruit, beans, lentils, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes are good examples of fiber.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the micro nutrients linked to an increased risk of postpartum depression with a deficiency. It is the key nutrient in bone health, promotes calcium absorption. Sun exposure can help produce vitamin d. If breastfeeding, high levels can enrich breast milk adequately for baby. Foods that contain vitamin d include; cod liver oil, fish, such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon, egg yolk, beef liver, Fortified dairy product.
Zinc deficiencies have been linked to an increased risk of postpartum depression. The body does not produce zinc, zinc comes from consumed foods and supplements. Zinc aides in wound healing, growth and development, decreases inflammation immunity, protein synthesis, etc. Zinc is in a lot of foods including, oysters, crab, mussels, lobster and clams, beef, pork, lamb, bison, turkey chicken, flounder, sardines, salmon, sole, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, oats, quinoa, brown rice, mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus.
Research findings suggest that supplementation with selenium during pregnancy might be an effective approach for the prevention of postpartum depression. Selenium is an antioxidant, improves immune function, and thyroid health.Selenium rich foods include eggs, cheese, mushrooms, oats, Brazil nuts, chicken, beef, pork, wheat, tuna, oysters, whole grain rye, salmon, brown rice, turkey, shrimp, soy.
Nutrition for the Breastfeeding mother
All of the above applies to you, but with some extra bullet points to note. It takes your body more energy to produce milk which in turn means you need more food to fuel your body.
- Add 450-500 extra calories (divided between fats, proteins, carbs) to your diet to make breast milk. Your baby will take in calories and nutrients before you. A Normal range weight would strive for an estimate of a 2500 calorie intake.
- All of the foods that were off-limits during pregnancy like sushi, certain cheeses, etc, can now be ate! Pathogens like salmonella can still make you sick but won’t pass through breast milk like it does the placenta.
- Avoid fish with high mercury levels- limit to 6 oz a week. examples include, shark, swordfish, albacore tuna.
- There are no off limit foods like dairy, unless instructed by your pediatrician. If you notice baby has excessive reflux, fussiness, or blood in the stool, contact the pediatrician immediately.
- Drink plenty of water to keep up with your milk supply and your own hydration. I always go with the goal to keep your urine light, if it’s dark, drink more.
Whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding these are nutrient basics to add to your normal diet. This may seem overwhelming but try to keep it simple and evaluate how you feel as you add in some of these foods. Think of your baby as you nourish yourself. Nourish your body as you want to nourish your baby’s. Treat your body as lovingly as you do your baby. Keeping this mindset establishes a healthy mentality when it comes to your postpartum nutrition.
This is covered in deeper detail in the Ultimate Postpartum Wellness Recovery Online Course launching soon! And if you are interested in a custom postpartum nutrition plan, contact me by email at email@example.com.