Pregnancy and childbirth are times of incredible transformation both emotionally and physically. After the baby is born, you may feel overwhelmed with figuring out how to care for this beautiful little human, adjusting to diminished sleep, and giving your body the time and rest it needs to heal. There are many things that you can do, however, to support your body in healing and also to provide nourishment to both you and baby.
Drink more water
Breastfeeding mothers need more water in order to produce milk and stay hydrated. Increasing water consumption is also recommended after birth to help overcome dehydration from blood and fluid loss, medications, and/or surgical procedures. One way to increase fluids is to have a refillable water bottle that you can carry around and also a glass of water next to wherever you nurse. The general recommendation is to have 9-13 glasses of water per day but a good indication of hydration is reaching a point where your urine is a pale straw colour.
Give your body the energy it needs
The postpartum period is a time where sleep may be difficult to come by and you are getting used to being on a totally different schedule, which can impact your energy levels. The best way to restore your energy is to sleep when the baby is sleeping. The laundry, cleaning, and other tasks will still be there tomorrow. The other way to ensure you have the energy you need is to provide your body with the fuel it needs in the form of carbohydrates. Every cell in the body runs on carbohydrate fuel and while carbs may get a bad wrap sometimes, not every carb is created equal. Carbs from whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes), whole grains, and legumes supply your body with nutrients and the energy it needs to heal, produce milk, and function as a new mum. Starting your day with a large bowl of oatmeal topped with wild blueberries, walnuts, and ground flaxseed is a great way to get in vitamins, minerals, fibre, healthy fats, and carbohydrates to keep your energy levels up.
Eat enough calories to support breastfeeding
Breastfeeding mums need 500 extra calories per day for the first six months postpartum and then 400 after that while they continue to nurse. Reducing calories too much in an effort to lose weight can inhibit breastmilk supply and can also leave you feeling tired and run down. Nuts, seeds, and nut butters can provide calories and also healthy essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and zinc, which are important nutrients for breastfeeding mothers. Avocado is another source of healthy fats and calories, but also vitamin E as well. A balanced diet that includes ample fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats can give you the calories and nutrition that you need. Adding two to three servings of fruit and a ¼ cup of raw nuts per day can supply the extra calories required for nursing.
New mums need additional nutrients for healing, to restore nutrients that may have been depleted during pregnancy, to produce milk, and to support their own nutrient requirements while nursing. Foods such as sweet potatoes provide the carbohydrate energy that mums need but also ample vitamin A, which is required in greater levels while nursing. Leafy greens (kale, arugula, collard greens etc.), vegetables, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas, etc.), and whole grains (oats, spelt, barley, quinoa, brown rice, millet, wheat berries, etc.) provide not only protein, but also plenty of fibre, iron, zinc, calcium, B vitamins, and other minerals. Avocado, raw nuts and seeds, ground flaxseed (linseed) or ground chia seeds offer a healthy dose of omega 3 essential fatty acids.
Finding time for healthy eating
While it may seem difficult to find the energy or time to eat healthy during the postpartum period, there are some things you can do to make it simpler. Use frozen fruit and vegetables that are already peeled and chopped. Bake multiple potatoes at once or large batches of grains and use them throughout the week. Cook large meals and eat as leftovers or freeze into individual portions for a quick meal. Try overnight oats to save time in the morning or have someone else prepare large batches of your favourite meals to freeze for later. Pressure cookers and slow cookers can also help to make simple hands-free meals in large batches. Taking some time to nourish your postpartum body will help you heal faster, lose pregnancy weight in a healthy way, and give you the nutrients and energy that you need for you and baby to thrive.
About the Author:
Holly Booker is a retired paramedic, now a registered holistic health and nutrition counselor. She is also a mum to a spirited four-year-old, a registered yoga teacher, and helps mums like herself to find physical and mental health and wellbeing through creating sustainable healthy lifestyle habits.