You just got over the rigorous nine months of carrying a life within you along with the challenges that came with it. And now the exhilarating joy of holding your precious baby in your arms beats any other feeling in the world. While you were extremely cautious about your diet and medication during the pregnancy, it’s fun being told that now you are free to eat whatever you want. With breastfeeding, you tend to get hungrier than usual as the baby also depends on you for the nutrients needed to grow.
The post-partum period is a time to recover from the challenges of child birth and the various changes you had to undergo. You need to get your strength back with good nutrition and plenty of rest even as you embrace the role of a new mother with an infant that requires 24/7 care. While the weight accumulated during pregnancy act as backup fat reserve to provide fuel for breastfeeding, a lactating mom should not ignore the importance of healthy, balanced and nutritious diet. The diet coaches at OneFitplus recommend that a new mom should include the required amount of calories in her diet through frequent nutritious meals to restore the lost nutrients in her body, recover her strength and get constant energy to care for her new-born.
As a thumb rule, new mothers require anywhere between 1800 to 2200 calories per day and if they are also breastfeeding, they need 500 more calories. Nursing mothers pass on what they eat to their babies through their milk and hence, it becomes all the more important to have a nutritious diet. While traditionally, new moms are advised to have lots of high calorie and fat rich food like ghee laden laddoos and dry fruit halwa, they need to have such things in moderation and combine them with other food items rich in dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. It’s possible to have a balanced diet that delivers all the nutrients but does not leave piles of fat on your body.
The essential nutrients need for recovery after childbirth are:
Carbohydrates: During the post-partum period, it’s easy to get tempted by processed and sugary food while dealing with sleep deprivation and hunger pangs. However, they barely possess any nutritional value and you would only end up gaining more weight. Instead, choose healthy complex carb options like whole wheat flour, oats, quinoa, barley, brown rice, potatoes and legumes that provide energy for a long time with a sustained release of blood sugar.
Protein: Consumption of protein during the post pregnancy days is really important as it help rebuilds the bodily tissues and accelerates the recovery process in a new mom’s body. Have protein rich food items like pulses, beans, curd, nuts, nut butter, eggs, whole grains, soya etc. every single day to provide the much needed strength to your body while its recoups from the delivery.
Fiber: Eating enough dietary fiber will ensure good bowel health for you even as you navigate a new mom’s life. With erratic sleeping pattern and eating times, a new and lactating mother might encounter digestive issues like constipation and gas. Including fiber in your diet in the form of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables etc. will take care of your digestion.
Iron: In order to equip the body of a new mother to make new blood cells, she would need enough doses of iron. During delivery, women tend to lose a lot of blood. Women, who are nursing their babies, need at least 9 mg of iron on a daily basis. Dietary sources of iron can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, tofu, fortified cereals, red meat, egg, nuts and dried fruits.
Calcium: This mineral is all important in a women’s life. It’s necessary to be consumed at every stage, more so during the post-partum period. Lactating mothers tend to lose bone mass due to the baby’s increased calcium demand. After childbirth, a new mom would need at least 1000 mg of calcium every day to maintain good bone health. Calcium can be obtained through various sources such as milk and dairy products, almonds, spinach, broccoli, flax seeds and sesame seeds.
Vitamins A, C and D: Have a sufficient quantity of vitamin A post-delivery to build a strong immunity for yourself and the baby. Vitamin A can be found in carrots, sweet potato, spinach and cod liver oil. On the other hand, vitamin C not only helps in healing body parts that were hurt during childbirth but shield the cells of our body from free radical damage and any kind of infection. Have vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables like guava, orange, tomatoes and bell peppers. Vitamin D is important for the brain, immune system and bones, of both yourself and the new born. It’s a good idea to sit outside in the sun with the baby to replenish the vitamin D stores or consume natural sources like fortified milk, salmon, egg yolk etc.
Iodine: The baby receives iodine from the breast milk and hence, the mom cannot be deficient in this essential mineral. Having iodized salt and dairy can be a good way to ensure a healthy amount of iodine in the body. If you are nursing your baby, you will need about 290 mcg of iodine per day to keep going. In case it not possible to have the required amount of iodine through regular diet, a good pre-natal vitamin containing iodine can serve the purpose.
Zinc: A few studies suggest that a lack of zinc in the body can cause post-partum depression in women. Besides, an adequate amount of zinc takes care of tissue repair and healing of bruises in a woman’s body after delivery. Have zinc rich foods like lentils, tofu, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, nuts, soybean, meat, dark chocolate or a good supplement that can provide at least 15-30 mg zinc per day.
Folic Acid: You must continue having this essential micro nutrient even after giving birth. Folic Acid or folate is important for the synthesis of red blood cells, cellular growth and nervous system. Try to have around 500 mcg per day for your as well as the baby’s continued good health. Have it naturally through legumes, eggs, leafy greens and citrus fruits or through supplements.
Essential Fatty Acids: It’s not a good idea to shun fat altogether in a bid to lose weight during the post-partum period. Instead having essential fatty acids in the form of eggs, beans, fish and nuts can be very useful to keep the body healthy and keep post-natal depression at bay. The active ingredients of omega-3 fatty acids like EPA, DHA and ALA are also found in over the counter fish oil supplements.
Apart from these essential nutrients, a new mom should also make sure to stay hydrated and sleep an adequate number of hours for the required rest and recovery needed by the body. The post-partum period can be tough on you physically and mentally. Caring for a new born even while your own body needs recovery and care post pregnancy can be daunting. It’s important to not lose sight of your own nutritional needs. If your own health and well-being gets neglected, how are you going to look after the growing baby? The nutrients you put in your body during post pregnancy period will go a long way in shaping your overall health.