Postpartum nutrition: A complete guide with diet plan
Being a new mama can be exhausting. With adjusting to new sleep cycles, taking care of a baby all the time, and feeding him, you might not find any time for yourself. Breastfeeding alone consumes more than 500 calories. Postpartum nutrition is often overlooked.
The body has passed through a complex process of giving birth to a new human being. It needs time and extra nutrition to heal. It’s high time that you add in a postpartum nutrition plan in your life.
In this article, we will dive deep into postpartum nutrition, postpartum foods that speed up your recovery, supplements needed after having a baby, foods to increase breast milk and, a sample 7 day postpartum diet plan.
Why should you focus on your postpartum nutrition?
You have spent nine months growing a baby. Your body is deprived of essential nutrients. If you are breastfeeding your baby, this imposes increased risk for micro-nutrient depletion. You need a strong postpartum nutrition plan to bring your life back on track.
Our body needs adequate micronutrients like calcium, iron, iodine, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C. Breastfeeding can lead to a deficiency of these nutrients if you are not taking enough calories and nutrients.
A nutrient deficient Postpartum diet is associated with PPD Postpartum depression (PPD).
Nutrient depletion after pregnancy and lactation is associated with decreased production of neurotransmitter “serotonin,” aka “the happiness hormone,” that leads to postpartum depression PPD.
Depression can lead to inflammation, as evident by a research published in 2017. According to this research, there is a strong association between depression, low serotonin levels and, depression.
Postpartum foods you must add to your diet:
To heal yourself after delivering a baby, you need essential nutrients like protein, fiber, collagen, iron in your postpartum nutrition plan. You may require some effort to find foods and supplements rich in these nutrients, but we have made things easier for you. Below are the details of needed nutrients and postpartum foods containing them.
Glycine is an amino acid found in body proteins, collagen, bone, cartilage. Glycine is needed for the recovery of muscle in the stomach, pelvis and, breast. Women usually develop sagging skin in these areas during pregnancy because of loss of tissue and muscle. Glycine helps rebuild muscles and tissues.
Glycine is majorly present in bone broth, chicken stew, meat, fish, nuts, legumes, chickpeas, tofu. Make sure to get enough dose of glycine protein in your postpartum diet to recover. You may take collagen supplements for glycine.
Passing stools might be a nightmare for you during pregnancy and post-pregnancy. You want the poo to pass easily, but it gives you a hard time; when you are not adding enough fiber to your daily diet. Fiber makes the bulk of stool. It helps things keep moving in your intestine.
Fiber also keeps you full and aids in losing postpartum weight. Fill your plate with fiber-rich vegetables and food. Opt for high-fiber foods to keep your bowel movements intact.
Some fiber rich vegetables, you should add to your diet are:
- Brussel sprouts
Chia seeds, whole grains, almonds and, rice bran are high in natural fibers. You may go for psyllium husk or other fiber supplements but, we advise you to go for natural fibers.
Iron is the essential micronutrient that might be lacking in your body after pregnancy. Every 1 in 5 women is deficient in iron during and post-pregnancy. Severe iron deficiency can lead to anemia and low hemoglobin levels.
Now is the time to replenish your body with iron. Foods that are packed with iron are spinach, liver, beef, legumes. Plant-based iron foods are not readily absorbed in the body. It is advisable to choose liver, beef as a source of iron for your body. You may get iron supplements.
As a general rule, iron needs vitamin C to be absorbed. You should take vitamin C-rich foods in your diet. Some of the recommended vitamin C foods are lemon, oranges, tangerines.
The American Thyroid Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend 150 micrograms of iodine in all women of childbearing age. Breastfeeding women are deficient in iodine. According to CDC, you might be iodine-deficient if you are doing the following things:
- Not taking dairy products
- Not eating iodized salt
- Eat foods rich in goitrogens. Goitrogens are foods that affect the release of thyroid hormones. These foods include kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts.
Iodine Deficiency can cause goiter. Iodine passes from mother to baby during breastfeeding. If you lack iodine in your diet, then your baby may also get iodine deficient. Use iodized table salt in your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids are needed to develop an infant’s eyes, brain and, central nervous system. If you are a breastfeeding mum, you need omega-3s in your diet. There are three types of omega-3s:
Salmon, Tuna is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts, flaxseeds and, walnuts are high in ALA. You can only find Omega-3s in these foods or omega-3 rich fish pills.
Sun exposure provides precious vitamin D. Your newborn baby needs vitamin D for his bones and teeth. If your diet is deficient in vitamin D, your baby is most likely to develop weak bones.
Calcium also requires vitamin D for its absorption. Foods high in vitamin D are spinach, eggs, salmon and, fortified milk or milk products.
Foods to Increase Breast Milk Production:
A postpartum mom is worried about her milk supply, especially if she keeps an eye on her diet. Let us tell you about nutritious foods that are going to increase your milk supply.
- Fenugreek: These aromatic seeds have estrogen-like compounds that increase breast milk
- Fennel seeds: They act like galactagogues and increase breast milk supply.
- Lean meat and poultry
You can feel immensely thirsty after feeding your baby. Stay hydrated to keep the flow of milk. Water should be an essential part of your postpartum nutrition plan. Aim for at least 2 liters of water per day. Drinking plain water may sound boring to you. You are at liberty to enjoy naturally flavored water, fruit-infused water or cucumber, mint-infused water.
How many calories do you need?
An average woman requires 1800-2400 calories per day. According to CDC, when you are breastfeeding, you are consuming extra 500 calories per day. If your goal is to lose postpartum weight, you can skip on the extra calories. We recommend you consume extra 500 calories in the preliminary eight weeks to heal your body completely. Your body is recovering, so it needs extra calories to replenish.
Below is a sample diet plan for you to follow:
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 100g strawberries
- calories: 230
- A large bowl of salad having:
- Leafy green vegetables (Lettuce, Celery, kale, spinach) any amount
- 150g grilled chicken breast
- Mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, cucumber, capsicum, bell peppers 1 cup)
- Any dressing of choice (only 1.5 tbsp)
- 2 boiled eggs
- Calories: 530
- 160g White rice cooked
- Roasted Green beans in 2 tsp olive oil
- 150g Baked salmon with lemon
- Calories: 630
Snack 1: 1 large apple or orange
Snack 2: 1 cup Greek yogurt with banana or strawberries and eight almonds
Snack 3: 50g Roasted chickpeas
Total calories: 1810
Macro count: 115g protein, 136g carbohydrates, 40g fat
- 1 whole egg and four egg white omelet with 30g mozzarella cheese and 1 tsp olive oil.
- 2 slices of bran bread/ multi-grain bread
- Calories: 477
1 cup whole wheat spaghetti
- 120g steamed minced beef balls
- Unsweetened marinara sauce
- Olive oil 1 Tbsp
- Mozzarella cheese 30g
- Calories: 511
- A large bowl of mixed vegetable and chickpea salad with olive oil and lemon dressing
- Calories: 370
Snack1: Fruit smoothie with 250ml skimmed milk and cinnamon powder
Snack2: Carrot and celery with hummus sauce
Snack 3: 1 cup greek yogurt with eight almonds
Total calories: 1924
Macro count: Protein 90g, Carbohydrates 150g, Fats: 50g
1 cup non-fat yogurt
- 1 medium sliced banana
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- Calories: 425
200g grilled chicken and 1.5 cups veggies stir fry with 2 tsp olive oil
- Half sliced mango
- Calories: 420
- 1 whole-wheat pita
- 3 ounces baked chicken/turkey
- Vegetables of choice
- 2 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
- 3 tbsp walnuts
- 1 cup berries
- Calories: 500
Snack1: 50g roasted chickpeas
Snack 2: 1 cup greek yogurt
Snack 3: 250ml skimmed milk
Total calories: 1780
Macro count: protein 80g, carbs 120 g, fat 38 g
- Overnight oatmeal with banana and nuts
- Calories: 400
- 1 cup Baked sweet potato fries
- 6 ounces grilled Lean beef steak
- Baked Raw veggies (boiled corn, carrots, peas, artichokes) with Italian herbs and olive oil sprinkle
- Calories: 640
- 2 slices Whole wheat pizza with baked chicken, olives, unsweetened pizza sauce and, 50g mozzarella cheese
- Calories: 650
Snack1: 1 orange, apple, or banana, ten un-roasted, unsalted almonds.
Snack2: peanut butter sandwich with 1 slice bran bread/ multi-grain bread
Snack 3: celery, cucumber, carrots with hummus
Total calories: 2300
Macro count: 90g protein, 100g carbohydrates, 43g fats
- 1 cup muesli with raspberries
- 1 large apple
- Calories: 400
- Tuna sandwich
- Mixed vegetable salad with 1.5 tbsp ranch dressing
- Calories: 570
- 180g cooked white rice
- Grilled chicken with any curry sauce
- Roasted asparagus in butter, garlic and, Italian herbs
- Calories: 630
Snack1: 1 cup Lentils soup
Snack2: Tahini and mixed vegetables
Snack 3: Protein bar
Total calories: 2231
Macro count: Protein 92 g, Carbohydrates 130 g, Fat 32 g
- 1 cup oatmeal with milk, cinnamon, berries, chia seeds
- 1 apple
- Calories: 340
- 200g Baby spinach and cream pasta with 1 ounce grilled chicken breast
- Calories: 510
- Peanut curry and 200gwhite fish
- 180g brown rice
- Mixed vegetable salad (raw and fresh without dressing)
- Calories: 580
Snack1: An orange or banana
Snack2: 30g Walnuts or pistachios
Snack3: Tomato salsa with baked corn chips
Total calories: 1822
Macro count: Protein 73g, carbohydrates 120g, fats: 29g
- 1 slice sourdough bread
- 40g cream cheese
- 2 boiled eggs
- Calories: 360
- Roasted mixed vegetables
- 250g Roasted chicken thighs or wings
- Half cup mashed potato with 1 tsp cream, 0.5 tsp butter and, 3 tsp milk
- Calories: 490
- 180g baked salmon
- 1 cup baked sweet potato fries
- Tomato salsa
- Calories: 570
Snack1: 1 cup Chicken corn soup
Snack2: Water-melon 80g
Snack 3: Unsweetened Peanut butter sandwich
Total calories: 1759
Macro count: Protein 80g, carbs 110g, fats 40g
The Bottom Line:
Caring for a new baby is a challenge. Adapting to a new sleep cycle, doing dishes, providing nutrition to the baby is indeed hard. It’s quite common that new mamas skip on their postpartum nutrition.
They are likely to be worried about saggy breasts, increased fat around the stomach and, stretch marks. That is not the right time to be corcerned about these things. What really important is your health and nutrition. Give yourself time to heal and recover. Giving birth to a new life is not an easy feat at all.
We assure you that you can easily conquer postpartum recovery. You have to follow a solid postpartum nutrition plan, eat nutritious postpartum foods, stay hydrated and eat a vitamin and micronutrients-rich diet throughout your postpartum recovery and breastfeeding phase. In this way, you’ll be surely putting yourself on the fastest track to recovery so you can be the healthy, happy, energized mom to be around your kids as you want to be.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to eat all of these foods every day to get enough micronutrients. Moderation and diversity are key! If you want to go deeper, book yourself with a one-to-one appointment with a registered dietitian and always take the green signal from your doctor before starting any program.
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