Nutrition during pregnancy is extremely important for both your health and baby’s growth and development, but it is also extremely important after delivery. Your body does much work and change during pregnancy, but it is in the first six weeks after pregnancy that your body changes the most it ever will in such a short period of time. “The puerperium [postpartum] is the period of a few weeks that starts immediately after delivery and is completed when the reproductive tract has returned anatomically to the normal nonpregnant condition. Although the changes occurring during this period are physiologic, in few if any, other circumstances are there such marked and rapid metabolic events in the absence of disease.”
Not only is your body returning to its nonpregnant state, meaning that your uterus is shrinking to its normal size and your organs are returning to their normal places in your body, but, if you are breastfeeding, you are also nourishing your baby. To do all of these you need to fuel your body with healthy choices. Here are some things that you should include in your diet during the initial postpartum weeks to thrive in postpartum:
High Iron Foods:
Foods that are high in iron will keep your energy levels up while dealing with lack of sleep and recovery from birth. If you hemorrhaged during delivery this is especially important, because low iron can make it harder to establish a good milk supply, leave you feeling dizzy and faint, give you heart palpitations, besides the extreme fatigue.
High iron foods include:
- Leafy greens- kale, spinach, broccoli, swiss chard, etc.
- Red meats- venison is especially high in iron
When eating these foods that are high in iron make sure to also consume foods that are high in vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron better. You will also want to consume fat with your greens to aid in iron absorption. Meal ideas:
- Spinach Salad with strips of steak and colored peppers, and a warm bacon vinigarette.
- Green smoothie with orange, kale, yogurt, coconut oil, and banana.
- Refried beans with pepper strips, cucumber, celery, and carrots to dip in it.
Protein helps your muscles to recover from months of growing and stretching. Protein is also needed for hormone production, and when you are already dealing with hormonal swings from the delivery and your milk coming in, you definitely aren’t going to want to skimp on protein.
Good sources of complete protein:
- Meat, poultry, and fish
- Dairy products
- Protein powders
- 2-3 fried eggs with sautéed onions, mushrooms, and spinach
- Greek yogurt with berries and nut butter
- Smoothie with almond milk, nut butter, cocoa powder, non dairy protein powder, vanilla, and stevia.
You can also make a complete protein by combining the incomplete proteins from grains and plants.
- Whole grain toast with nut butter
- Whole grain wrap with hummus, spinach, olives, and peppers
- Whole grain pasta with kale, black beans, avocado, sprinkle taco seasoning on top
Fat is also needed for hormone production and it is considered a brain food. If you are someone who struggled with depression before or during pregnancy, make sure that you are consuming healthy fats. Fats help your body to absorb and use the vitamins and minerals that you are ingesting in other foods. Some women also say that by including more healthy fats in their diets they are able to raise the fat level in their breastmilk.
While this list is not exhaustive, healthy fats include:
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Flax and Chia seeds
Don’t be afraid to dress your salad with olive oil and vinegar, put butter on your toast, and eat those egg yolks!! Remember that your body needs these fats or a healthy recovery and your baby needs the nutrients from them as well.
Many women want to lose weight as quickly as possible after their baby is born, but quick weight loss can harm your milk supply, and your body needs those carbs for energy. You can start making healthier carb choices and that may help you to lose a little weight, but during these first few weeks postpartum weight loss should NOT be your goal.
How you can make healthier carb options:
- Try sweet potatoes in some meals rather than white potatoes all the time
- Instead of always choosing white rice, try brown rice sometimes
- Limit refined white products like white flour, white sugar, white bread and look for whole grain flours, honey and maple syrup, sprouted or whole grain breads
- Try quinoa, buckwheat, and millet in place of rice or wheat.
This post does by no means cover the whole of postpartum nutrition, but by including these foods in your diet, you can help your body to recover quickly.
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Rebekah Thompson writes at Surviving Toddlerhood. She has been married for nine years and is momma to four little boys ages eight, five, three, and eight months. She is the author of The First Six Weeks: Thriving Naturally On Your Postpartum Journey and a certified birth doula through DONA International. She enjoys good coffee and tea, dark chocolate, running and learning as much as possible about healthy pregnancy/postpartum and fitness. You can check out her blog at www.survivingtoddlerhood.com