Post Pregnancy Nutrition Guide: How to Thrive After Delivery

By: Michelle Miller, Clinical Nutritionist & Rachel Naar, Registered Dietitian

We prepped you with some nutritional education surrounding what to eat when you’re expecting. Nine months later, we want to prep you with the confidence and facts for both you and your baby to thrive after you’ve delivered.

Breast is Best:

(But we won’t judge you if you can’t or prefer not to)

  • Breast milk is classified as the optimal nutrition for your baby:
    • Breastfeeding can help protect your newborn from infectious diseases and promote a healthy gut microbiome
    • It increases newborn bonding
      • Helpful for developmental emotional wellness
    • It decreases the risk for Type 2 Diabetes for both newborn and mother
    • It decreases the risk of postpartum depression
    • It promotes healthy postpartum weight loss
  • Women who breastfeed children for at least 6 months have been shown to:
    • Have better overall cardiovascular health
    • Reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancers
  • Pro tip: The World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend that women breastfeed their baby for the first six months.
  • Reality Happens: We understand that for religious, personal, or any other reason you may decide or not be able to breastfeed. Work with your doctor and nutritionist to determine what formula will work best for your newborn.

Post-Pregnancy Nutrition Tips:

Breastfeeding mothers utilize roughly an extra 500-650 calories/day for breast milk, making healthy eating just as important post-pregnancy as during.

  • Protein: Choose lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, and seeds – mix it up!
    • Eat no more than 12 oz/week of fish and shellfish.
    • We recommend cold water fish and love the sustainable fish options from Greensbury.
    • Avoid fish with high mercury levels, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Eat colorful fruits and vegetables – these will have an array of antioxidant and phytochemical properties.
    • Fill 50% of your plate with vegetables and fruit at lunch and dinner.
    • Include fruit and vegetables in snacks (veggies and hummus/guacamole, fruit and yogurt).
    • Whole fruit is better than juice because you get the benefit of fiber which can help prevent large spikes in blood sugar and can aid with constipation.
  • Dairy: Include 2-3 servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese/day.
    • If you’re dairy free, try lactose-free milk or dairy-free alternative milk (preferably fortified with Calcium and Vitamin D) – Almond Breeze, Silk, Oatly are great options.
  • Grains and seeds: Choose whole-wheat bread, sprouted grains, brown rice, steel cut oats, whole-wheat pasta, and quinoa more often than refined grains.
    • Ezekiel bread or wraps are sprouted grains that will help with blood sugar stability.
    • Chickpea and lentil pasta can be a great way to get additional fiber. Try BANZA pasta!
  • Fats: Use healthful oils such as olive, avocado, and sesame. Make sure to measure out 1-2 Tbsp. as it’s easy to over pour.
  • Water: Drink enough water and decaffeinated unsweetened beverages. While you are breastfeeding, your need for fluids increases (you may notice you’re thirstier).
    • It may help to drink a glass of water every time you breastfeed.
    • Talk to your doctor or nutritionist before considering drinking alcohol or caffeine.
    • Avoid kombucha as it contains alcohol and is not pasteurized.
  • Supplements: If your diet is more limited you may need to supplement with vitamins.
    • Vegan and Vegetarian moms should supplement with Vitamin B12.
    • Always consult your doctor and nutritionist before taking supplementation and to address any special nutrition-related concerns.
    • Many women continue to take prenatal vitamins during the childbearing years.

Breastfeeding and Weight Loss:

While breastfeeding can help shed that stubborn baby weight, the rate and amount varies among mothers depending on:

  • Physical activity
  • Breast milk production/ frequency of feedings
  • Amount of weight gained during pregnancy

Aim for a slow gradual weight loss (it’s NOT a race) of 1-2 lbs/week.

  • Women who breastfeed exclusively for > 3 months tend to lose more weight than those who do not.
  • Those who continue breastfeeding beyond 4-6 months may continue to lose weight.
  • If you are not losing weight or losing too slowly: Cut back on the calories you are currently eating or drinking with the help of a nutritionist
    • Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats: Soft drinks, desserts, fried foods, cheese, whole milk, and fatty meats. Look for choices that are low-fat, fat-free, unsweetened, or with no added sugars.
  • If you are losing weight too fast: You may need to consume more calories. Eat a little more from each food group:
    • Add a healthy snack each day
    • Incorporate healthy fats
    • Increase portion sizes at meals
    • Check in with your doctor and nutritionist for assistance

Remember your number one priority should be to feed your infant. You are using those extra calories to nourish them, the weight loss will come.

  • To note:
    • Women who are severely limiting calories may reduce the amount of milk their body produces.
    • Stress, anxiety, and depression can also play a role in milk production and weight loss.
    • To set yourself up for success, make sure you take care of yourself by sitting down to eat your meals, drinking plenty of fluids, and consuming healthy snacks.
    • Moderate physical activity such as walking can help manage stress, help with weight loss, and will not reduce your milk volume.

This time can be exciting, stressful, exhausting, and new – but we don’t have to tell you that.

Call in for backup! See a lactation consultant or nutritionist for additional tips. Don’t beat yourself up about weight loss or milk production – you’re miraculous, and you’ll figure out what works best for you.

If you need more guidance, contact our Clinical Nutrition Department by filling out the form below or give us a call.

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