Nutrition Necessities for New Moms
Guest post by Brooke Bulloch, Registered Dietician from Food to Fit.
Congratulations on your new baby!
Or perhaps you’re a supportive friend or family member. Regardless, it’s an exciting time for everyone. A new mom requires appropriate support, rest, and a nutrient dense diet in order to maintain her energy for a recovering body and for a new baby.
Postpartum Nutrient Needs
Most women can meet their postpartum nutrient needs from food. A general recommendation is to continue taking your prenatal supplement for 6 weeks after birth. If you are anemic, gave birth to twins, or follow a vegan diet, you should consult a dietitian or health care provider about supplementation.
Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Not enough can lead to soft, brittle bones. Health Canada recommends that adults up to 70 years of age receive 600 IU daily, but not more than 4000 IU daily. There are very few food sources that contain enough vitamin D to meet this requirement and Canadians may not produce enough in the skin due to reduced sun exposure during the winter months (and sunscreen use in the summer). Often a vitamin D supplement is necessary.
Lactation is an energy expensive process! A breastfeeding woman requires roughly 500 additional calories daily (yup, slightly more than your 3rd trimester!).
This might look like:
1 slice of whole grain toast with 1 tablespoon of almond/peanut butter
½ cup lower fat yogurt (2% or less)
1 fresh fruit
throughout your day.
Breastfeeding women have higher recommended dietary intakes for vitamin A, C, B12, and zinc, but the additional calories from a variety of food groups will make up for these increased needs.
Iron needs are lower than non-breastfeeding women due to the difference in blood loss from menstruation. However, iron-rich foods provide energy and keep the blood healthy so it’s important for everyone to include these daily.
Working Towards your Pre-pregnancy Weight
For the first 4 to 6 weeks, just rest! Ignore that pressure (wherever it’s coming from) to get out and work off that “baby weight”. Keep in mind, you just spent 9 months gradually putting the weight on, it’s realistic to expect 9 or more months to adjust towards your natural, healthy weight.
Restricting calories too much can affect milk volume and composition, and consequently infant growth. Three separate studies looked at the impact of energy restriction and exercise on lactation. The results from each study suggest that:
a) lactation must be well-established prior to reducing calories or incorporating exercise (45 minutes moderate exercise, 5 days per week)
b) weight loss of 0.5 kg/week did not negatively affect the growth of the baby nor the composition of breast milk in overweight women.
Whether you were overweight or not prior to conceiving, avoid actively trying to lose weight for the 4 to 8 weeks postpartum. After that point, aim to lose no more than 2 kg (4.5 pounds) per month by incorporating moderate exercise and reducing mostly “junk food” calories.
Putting it altogether – Practical Tips
Stock your cupboards, fridge and freezer and have a friend or family member help with the shopping and prepping. Below is my list of nutrient-packed must have foods:
• From vegetable oils, salad dressings, avocado, mayonnaise, nuts and fish
Fish (fresh or canned)
• Eating a small portion of fish twice per week will provide the essential omega 3s called EPA and DHA. If you don’t eat fish, you might consider a fish oil supplement containing 500-1000 mg of EPA + DHA daily
• Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, pumpkin/sunflower seeds, tofu, tempeh, blackstrap molasses, spinach, kale, potato with skin, lentils, chic peas, beans, enriched flours (pasta, breakfast cereals), oats
Quick, low maintenance snacks to keep you going
• 100 gram yogurt containers
• Individual cheese packets (not the processed slices) e.g. baby bell, Cracker Barrel
• Dried cereal (that has less than 8g sugar/serving) + unsalted nut mixtures
• Washed, peeled and cut carrot and celery sticks (have with a side of hummus, or a homemade Greek yogurt dip)
• Washed cherry/grape tomatoes, snap peas, fresh green beans, radishes stored in a dish or Tupperware
• Washed strawberries, grapes, cherries, apples
• Frozen berries and mango
• Hard-boiled eggs
• Peanut or almond butter on whole rice, corn, wheat, or rye crackers
• Fruit Smoothies: frozen fruit, + a leafy green (kale or spinach) + yogurt + milk or juice (boost protein with tofu, hemp seeds or chia seeds)
You may not always have the time or energy to plan and eat 3 square meals and organized snacks. With assistance from family and friends, stock your home with nutrient-dense foods that are easy to prepare or “grab-and-go” when time and energy are limited.
Have something to eat every 3-4 hours in order to maintain mental and physical energy, energy requirements for adequate lactation, and nutrient needs.
Rest up and enjoy your new babe!
- VitaminDCouncil.org, Vitamin D during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Needs during Pregnancy and Lactation
- Health Canada
- Lovelady, C. (2011). Balancing exercise and food intake with lactation to promote postpartum weight loss. Proc Nutr Soc 24:1-4
- Dewey, KG (1998). Effects of maternal caloric restriction and exercise during lactation. Journal of Nutrition. 386S-389S
- Lovelady, C.A. (2004). The impact of energy restriction and exercise on lactating women. Adv Exp Med Biol. 554: 115-30.
Brooke Bulloch is a Registered Dietitian (BSc) from Saskatoon, SK. Brooke shares her thoughts and yummy recipes on her website Food To Fit.