Postpartum nutrition is all about fueling the body to recover emotionally and physically. Also, it’s about giving you and the baby everything you both need if you have chosen to breastfeed.
There is a lot of great, informative advice out there, but let’s be honest: we spend our first couple of weeks, perhaps even months in a bit of a fog. It can sometimes feel like a feeding frenzy filled with sleep deprivation and adjusting to a new life as a family.
With that in mind, let’s keep your postpartum nutrition guide super easy-to-follow, and something that you can pick up no matter how blurry-eyed you are feeling.
I want to stress that giving yourself a hard time over your nutrition and putting added pressure on yourself is not what’s needed. Be patient with yourself and this process.
What should postpartum nutrition look like?
If you are breastfeeding, you are going to need more calories than you were consuming pre-pregnancy. Let’s not get too caught up in what the detail of this needs to look like, as you might not know what you consumed pre-pregnancy, so how could you know how much more to add?
My advice: Keep it simple. A good baseline amount to strive for is 500 calories extra per day based on your pre-pregnancy diet. Now before you start thinking “great, that’s ‘x’ amount of chocolate biscuits for the night feed”… I’ve been there and done it, I know the pick me ups that you feel you may need! However, you will need to ensure that these extra calories are from the right source. Aim to ensure these extra calories come from good protein sources, carbohydrates, and healthy fats instead of refined sugar-heavy foods.
If you’re not breastfeeding, you may be surprised to hear that you don’t require anything additional in postpartum than previously. Your iron levels could be lower than before, so you could consume iron-rich foods such as red meat, beans, lentils, etc. to help give your body a natural boost.
Your iron levels will return to normal fairly quickly with a balanced diet unless you have been given iron tablets by your doctor or healthcare provider.
What should you focus on?
This period is all about encouraging energy, rebuilding your strength, and helping yourself feel your best. The foods you consume should help you do this. What we eat plays a massive role in how we feel, but also it can make a huge difference to your emotional well-being, too.
As a new mom, you may find that you need to eat less-than-ideal meals out of convenience due to a lack of time and resources. Low energy levels or the inability to plan in advance will also contribute to this. How do you nourish yourself promptly without turning to microwave meals or fast food, which we know are severely lacking in any nutritional value?
Some postpartum nutrition tips:
- Bookmark some meal ideas in advance so you can turn to these when doing your food shopping. I found it helpful to take a look through some recipe books towards the end of my pregnancy and write down some meals that looked delicious to me that I knew I would enjoy.
- Prepare some freezer some meals to keep handy. I would highly recommend this, as it was an absolute life-saver on those days that have been particularly challenging.
- When people ask what you need, suggest they bring some food your way. This could be lunch, or a dinner prepped that you can have that night or even pop in the fridge/freezer.
- Arrange for food deliveries in those early days. When you get that bit of free time, chances are you won’t feel like you want to spend it heading out to do the food shop, so arranging a food delivery can be a tremendous saving grace. Meal delivery services like Sakara, Splendid Spoon, or Daily Harvest are all great options!
The food that everybody enjoys eating can vary hugely, along with dietary habits, so I aim to provide you with some basic principles that you can follow. You can then adapt to your preferences. Adhering to these will make a massive difference to the way you feel and the nutrition you provide your body with:
Aim to incorporate protein, carbohydrates, and fats into each meal. This includes breakfast, lunches, and snacks, not just dinners.
- Protein includes meat, fish, eggs, pulses, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables, natural yogurt, and nuts
- Carbohydrates include fruit, vegetables, beans, potatoes, pasta, and brown rice
- Healthy fats include oily fish, nuts such as almonds and walnuts, avocados, and oils such as coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil
Aim to eat nutrient-dense food by ensuring your plate is as colorful and fresh as possible.
Know that you can support your nutrition with supplements if you feel you need to do this. Just ensure that they are high-quality or medical-grade (like these from Sakara).
Focus on your water intake: as stated by the World Health Organization, “The general recommendation for adults is to drink at least 2 liters of water per day. However, for those with physical jobs, exercising or living in hot climates, more is needed – up to 4 liters or more.”
I would suggest that you focus on getting this from water alone where possible. A great way to test if you are drinking enough is by the color and the smell of your urine, ideally it should be virtually clear and odorless. Ensuring that you drink plenty, especially in those early days, will also help keep your bowel movements regular, which you very much appreciate at the time, especially if you are taking iron tablets.
Easy + nourishing meal ideas
This list could be endless and will vary hugely depending on the season. But below are some great ideas for quick and easy meals that will provide you with all of the nutrition that your body needs.
- Natural yogurt with fruit (you can then add some chia seeds, chopped mixed nuts, a small amount of granola on the top of this if you wanted to.)
- Whole-grain cereal with a small amount of chopped fruit
- Eggs (scrambled, poached, boiled) with wholemeal toast
- Homemade smoothie with frozen spinach or cauliflower Use nut-based milk or water instead of fruit juice to keep the sugar content down. (Create a double batch and freeze as needed!)
- Any wholemeal wrap or sandwich that incorporates some protein. Keep it colorful by adding chopped veg such as tomatoes, cucumber etc. on the side. You can also reduce the amount of bread you are eating if you want to focus on having an open-top sandwich.
- Homemade pizza. Add any topping you wish, again aiming to make it colorful. Use a wrap as your base and incorporate a salad on the side.
- Salad, ensuring there is some protein included. Adding mixed seeds or chopped nuts to a salad is an excellent way of getting in your healthy fats.
- Omelette. This is a great way to include protein in your diet while making it as colorful as possible to ensure it is full of nutrients. Always aim to add some veg in there, and serve with a side salad.
- Grilled meat (or meat-free alternative) with roasted veg such as onions, peppers, courgette, aubergine, etc.
- Chilli (a favorite go-to in our house)
- Grilled meat (or meat-free alternative) with a colorful salad, topped with mixed seeds or chopped nuts.
- Hummus with chopped vegetable sticks
- Egg muffins with chopped veg inside
- Natural Yoghurt and fruit
- Fresh fruit and a handful of nuts
- Boiled eggs and chopped veg/fruit
My final thoughts on postpartum nutrition
I hope that this post has provided you with some essential information and approachable principles to follow for your postpartum nutrition. I would encourage you to approach this process with a lightness and sense of curiosity, instead of another thing for you to worry or stress about getting right. If you follow these basic principles, you can be safe in the knowledge that you are providing your body with everything that it needs.
Ultimately this time is about looking after yourself and your baby to the best of your ability. By fueling yourself in the ways I have suggested above, it will help you mentally and physically feel as healthy as possible. This will then be huge in terms of your ability to deal with life as a new mom.
My most important tips for supporting your health + nutrition are:
- Keep it simple
- Approach it with a lightness
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others.