Postpartum nutrition is all about fueling the body to recover emotionally and physically. Also, it’s about giving you and the baby everything you need if you choose to breastfeed.
There is a lot of great, informative advice, 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.
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.
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What “should” postpartum nutrition look like?
If breastfeeding, you will 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 extra calories per day based on your pre-pregnancy diet.
Aim to provide these extra calories 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 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 food should you focus on?
This period is about encouraging energy, rebuilding your strength, and helping you feel your best. The foods you consume should help you do this. What we eat plays a massive role in how we feel, but it can also significantly affect our emotional well-being.
As a new mom, you may 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 will also contribute to this.
We consider eating anything regularly win right now, seriously.
Some postpartum nutrition tips
Bookmark some meal ideas in advance
Then, you can turn to recipes when doing your food shopping. I found it helpful to look through some recipe books towards the end of my pregnancy and write down some delicious meals I knew I would enjoy.
Prepare some freezer 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, 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 free time, chances are you won’t feel like you want to spend it heading out to the food shop, so arranging a food delivery can be a tremendous saving grace.
Other postpartum nutrition tips and suggestions
The food that everybody enjoys can vary hugely, along with dietary habits, so I aim to provide you with some basic principles you can follow. You can then adapt to your preferences.
If you follow them, these suggestions can make a massive difference to how you feel and the nutrition you provide your body.
1. Incorporate protein, carbohydrates, and fats into meals
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
2. Aim to eat nutrient-dense food
Do this by ensuring your plate is as colorful and fresh as possible. Focusing on “whole foods” can help, too.
Know that you can support your nutrition with supplements if you need to do this. Just ensure that they are high-quality or medical-grade (like these from Sakara).
3. Focus on your water intake
The World Health Organization states, “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 suggest 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 and nourishing postpartum 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 the nutrition your body needs.
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- Natural yogurt with fruit (you can add some chia seeds, chopped mixed nuts, and a small amount of granola if you want 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 decrease sugar content. (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 eat 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 yogurt and fruit
- Fresh fruit and a handful of nuts
- Boiled eggs and chopped vegetables and fruit
Final thoughts on postpartum nutrition
I hope 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 lightness and a 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 knowing that you are providing your body with everything it needs.
Ultimately this time is about looking after yourself and your baby to the best of your ability. Fueling yourself in the ways I have suggested above will help you mentally and physically feel as healthy as possible. This will be huge regarding your ability to deal with life as a new mom.
My most important tips for supporting your health and nutrition are:
- Keep it simple
- Approach it with a lightness
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others.