Today, Rebekah Fedrowitz, MDN, BCHN, is sharing with about proper postpartum nutrition. Postpartum is a special and crucial time in the life of a mother and newborn, and I am thrilled to have Rebekah here to share some of her best tips for those mothers who want to support their bodies nutritionally throughout their postpartum journey. As a holistic nutritionist, Rebekah is well knowledgeable about how to support the body with proper nutrition throughout all periods of life, and shares her knowledge at You Are Well, her own natural health and holistic nutrition company.
When it comes to pre-and post-natal health, we often talk about what we’re supposed to eat during pregnancy and how to feed our newborn, but very little emphasis is put on the importance of nutrition after pregnancy for both postpartum recovery and breastfeeding.
During the postpartum time, the body undergoes significant changes. From physical healing and the demands of nursing to hormonal shifts and mental changes, this could possibly be one of the most critical times of both your physical and mental health. The demands are high, sleep is typically low, and your focus has shifted away from yourself to taking care of this for me tiny life you are now responsible for. Now, more than ever, your nutrition plays an integral role in not only your health and well-being, but also your baby’s.
How should you eat during the postpartum term to promote health and healing for you, and optimal nutrition for your nursing baby? In short, your focus should be on foods that supply plenty of energy as well as providing nutrients that are in high demand for both mom and baby.
Here are my top five nutrition recommendations for the postpartum term:
Consume plenty of high-quality fats.
From an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to olive oil to nuts and seeds, fats are essential for both mom and baby. Studies have shown that fat provides numerous benefits to the body, supporting both healthy neurological function and the reduction of inflammation (1,2,3). New moms should consume at least 30% of their daily caloric intake from good quality fat sources. Examples of good quality fats would be organic, cold-pressed olive oil or coconut oil, wild-caught salmon, avocados, walnuts, or a molecularly distilled essential fatty acid supplement. For women who have postpartum depression (PPD) or anxiety (PPA), or who have a history of depression, anxiety, or other neurological disorder, higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids have been found to be helpful in preventing or improving their PPD (4).
Don’t skimp on protein.
If you read any breastfeeding article, you’ll see plenty of advice about how oats, barley, and brewer’s yeast are great for increasing breast milk supply. This is true, but as we rush to eat as much of these carbohydrates as we can, it’s still important to consume ample protein. Protein is necessary for healing and the development of soft tissues, and both of those activities are high for you and your baby during this time. The most complete proteins are those found in animal products, such as chicken, fish, or dairy products, or vegetarians can combine things like rice and beans to create a complete protein. Choosing organic, free-range or wild caught sources helps to ensure minimal exposure to unwanted hormones or contaminants, like antibiotics, that can negatively impact you and your baby’s health.
Include fermented and cultured foods frequently.
From the gut to the birth canal, good bacteria play a tremendous role in promoting health and healing. In addition to taking a probiotic supplement, which is recommended during and after pregnancy, eating fermented foods that are naturally high in probiotics can help ensure you’re getting a wide variety of good bacteria. As you consume probiotic rich foods, you are sharing that good bacteria with your baby through your breastmilk and helping build their immune system and reducing their likelihood of developing food sensitivities, allergies, or eczema (5). Increasing good bacteria has also been found to be helpful in reducing PPD and PPA (6). Good sources of fermented and cultured food include sauerkraut, kombucha, milk kefir, and yogurt.
Favor foods high in B vitamins
B vitamins are superstar nutrients during all things pre and postnatal. This myriad of vitamins helps with lactation, supports the body’s stress response, is essential for metabolism of other foods, is tremendously helpful for PPD and PPA, and more. A well-balanced diet full of unrefined, unprocessed foods is the best start to getting plenty of B vitamins, but some key foods to favor include beef liver, eggs, lentils and legumes, wild-caught salmon, brewers and nutritional yeast, grass-fed beef, spinach, nuts and seeds. If you are under high amounts of stress or suffering from PPD/PPA, a B vitamin supplement with therapeutic doses of B vitamins may be a good option for supporting the additional demands of your body.
Limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar
If you’re already striving to eat healthy, these will come as no surprise, but they are still worth mentioning because it’s a common tendency to indulge in things like caffeine and alcohol that were limited during pregnancy. All three of these foods can wreak havoc on your blood sugar balance and your adrenal glands (the organs responsible for stress hormones), and given the high-demand, sleep-deprived state that naturally accompanies the postpartum term, neither blood sugar nor the adrenals can handle the extra stress. While caffeine may help you stay awake after those sleepless nights, it can prevent you from fully resting when you are able to sleep, not to mention the unwanted crash that comes after a temporary burst of energy. Alcohol can certainly help you relax, but as the depressant effects wear off, the quality of sleep lessens and you’re likely to wake tired and unrested. Sugar, alcohol, and caffeine can also reach breast milk in small amounts, so enjoying small portions only is best for you and your baby.
A Balanced Diet
Overall, consuming a balanced diet full of whole, unprocessed foods is the very best approach to your postnatal nutrition plan. Favoring the specific foods recommended above can support some of the unique needs that are increased during this time, helping you and your body thrive with plenty of nutrients! Listen to what your body is telling you and adjust your diet accordingly, knowing that nursing and stress and sleep will be changing constantly, so your dietary needs will, too.
About the Author
Rebekah Fedrowitz is a board certified holistic nutritionist and the founder of You Are Well, a natural health and holistic nutrition company. Rebekah is passionate about helping women escape the traps of their so-called “normal” health challenges through scientific and customized approaches that address the root issues. She believes that nutrition is an important part of the body’s healing process, and with the right nutrition, we all can obtain the complete mind-body-spirit wellness God intended for us to have.
Please consult a doctor or healthcare provider before making any health changes, especially if you have a specific diagnosis or condition. The information on this site should not be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information on this website is not intended to be a consult with a healthcare provider or provide medical advice. Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits from food or supplements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Full disclaimer here.