20 Feb 4 Postpartum Nutrition and Exercise Tips From New York Registered Dietitian
“What a cruel scheme to keep a woman from knowing her power. To put the focus on what pregnancy did to her body rather than focus on what her perfect body just did. Here we sit, creating and nourishing the future, and we are diminished to “baby weight.” I will not succumb to your demeaning ideals.” – Amethyst Joy
This quote so resonated with me when I read it the other day. My daughter is a mid-wife. Her life is dedicated to the celebration of life and the beautiful bodies that make this life happen. Likewise, some of my favorite clients are those who are expecting – both mothers and fathers – or those who have just had their child. Yet, if you google post pregnancy, the articles start popping up:
16 Effective Tips to Lose Baby Weight
8 Tips for Losing Weight
Weight Loss After Pregnancy: Reclaiming Your body
The focus is on the weight and this idea that our bodies were lost to … pregnancy. And the most important thing for a woman is losing that weight. Moreover, postpartum health is sorely neglected. The focus is always on prenatal care – which makes sense to a degree – but helping a woman deal with the physical changes of giving birth, talking about those changes, isn’t part of mainstream medicine.
Over half of women, postpartum, experience pelvic injury or disfunction. 70% – 80% of women experience the Baby Blues. Between 10% and 20% of women experience clinical postpartum depression. Where is the support? You certainly won’t find it in mainstream rack magazines reminding women that they should look and feel a certain way.
So, in a month of love, I want women to take back their power and recognize how phenomenal they are. During pregnancy, women gain weight, lose muscle tone, all over a period of 40 weeks. Right after birth is not the time to stand on the scale. Instead, think health, nourishment, and healing. Your body needs the right amount of exercise, good food and high-energy snacks. (Always, always check with your health care professional before changing your diet or exercise regime.)
- Rest! As much as you’re anxious to get back to your exercise routine, you need to listen to your body. Find moments to sleep when you can. Moments of restoration are critical to new moms, especially after exercising.
- Swimming and yoga are ideal postpartum exercise choices. Most women experience a large separation between abdominals after birth. After mastering the Kegel exercises, working yoga into your workout can help strengthen abs, which will help alleviate that lower back pain. The Bridge Pose is a great one to battle anxiety – which is so so common.
- Drink up! No … I don’t mean guzzling wine (however a glass every now and then is perfectly fine!). Hydrate! I would bet that almost 100% of new moms are dehydrated. Women lose so much liquid during birth and often experience night sweats. Set an alarm to remind you to drink. This can alleviate cramping as well as help with constipation.
- Stop counting calories, eat what counts! New moms need nutrition-packed calories, especially if they’re breastfeeding. A woman breastfeeding one child needs 2700 calories/day. If you’re breastfeeding twins, bump that up to 3200 calories/day. Every bite matters!
- Proteins. 20 – 25% of calories should come from protein: lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, and low-mercury fish.
- Healthy fats should make up 30% of your diet postpartum. Nuts, avocados, and fatty fish are great options.
- High-fiber, whole-grain carbs can take the rest of your diet. Whole-grain pastas and rice, quinoa, beans, fruits and vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals are all great options.
- Snack ideas include whole-grain toast with avocado and cheese, drizzled with olive oil; steel oats with cinnamon, almonds, fruits, milk, drizzled with honey; a boiled egg with whole-grain bread or crackers. There are many fast, nourishing options.
Postpartum can be, strangely, one of the loneliest times in a woman’s life. Give yourself time. It’s hard. You’re waking up every two hours, or more, for feedings. You’re so tired, you probably feel like an extra from The Walking Dead series. Everything probably feels overwhelming. Don’t add the garbage of “pregnancy weight” into the equation. Give yourself time to recover.
If you need more detailed information, I recommend Dayna Kurtz’s (LMSW, CPT) book Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom. It brings the focus back to the mom during this transition time after birth.
Most moms say the first year is a blur of late-night feedings and groggy pre-dawn wakeups. Nature is magical that way … after leaving the wake of fatigue, we only remember those good bits.