09 May 6 Postpartum Nutrition Tips from New York City Registered Dietitian
In May, we’re celebrating a month of motherhood, everything from pre-natal and post-partum care, to mindful eating and energizing foods. Yes, that last one is pretty popular.
As Dayna M. Kurtz says, “Millions of mothers are born each year.” Nature shifts its focus, always, to the baby, which makes sense. But with this shift comes millions of women who forget to take care of themselves.
To begin, many of you might be celebrating your first Mother’s Day this upcoming weekend. And it might be … confusing. Everybody has the best advice on how you should be eating, sleeping, feeding the baby. And you’re, most likely, a mixture of elated, overwhelmed, and definitely exhausted.
And, let’s be frank. Kate Middleton does not help matters. (I have yet to meet a real human mother that looks like that after giving birth.)
Nature has a funny way of sweeping down and getting rid of all of those great hormones in one swoop just when your body most needs them. Because of the radical physical changes after birth, the body has a lot of adjusting to do that can take weeks, even months, to adapt. None of these issues, I recognize, are ever addressed at baby showers or in a greeting card.
Congratulations! Welcome to the land of fatigue and weird things happening to your body!
Being a new mom, taking care of a new person, can be the most exhausting thing on the planet. Whether you’re breastfeeding, breastfeeding and bottle feeding, or bottle feeding, you need to nourish your body. This motherhood thing is new to you, too. And just as you focus your attention on your baby, don’t forget to take care of yourself.
It’s easy to lose track of meals and let nutrition slip during the first phase of post-partum. But now, more than ever, your body needs to be cared for.
Here are 6 nutrition tips to keep healthy postpartum.
- Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! I’d venture to say all new moms are dehydrated. During labor, a woman loses an incredible amount of liquid. At night, you might experience night sweats, as the body is working overtime to get rid of all the extra fluid it took on during pregnancy. Set an alarm to remind you to drink water. You’ll need more water than you normally do (at least 10 glasses a day). Keep water next to you while breast feeding. Keep water interesting with citric fruits cut up. Hydration will also help with constipation.
- Time to save time. New moms are so busy and so tired, it’s impossible to imagine cooking and kitchen time. Don’t even mention a grocery store! Buy prepared foods from Amazon or Fresh Direct. Look for frozen meals that have low sodium content and use more natural, less processed ingredients. Pre-prepared meals aren’t unhealthy if you choose well. And these short cuts can make a huge difference in a new mom’s life.
- Think ahead. So much time is spent preparing for the baby’s arrival – the baby room, crib, the car seat, that many completely forget about the grown-ups. Make easy-to-freeze meals in the weeks before the baby is going to come. Make turkey chili in the crock pot and divide in personal-sized portions to keep in the freezer. Make large amounts of lasagna, pasta sauce, and hearty soups. All of these can be frozen and easy to access.
- It’s time to get healthy. So many women jump from giving birth to the mindset of losing pregnancy weight. 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 good food and high-energy snacks. Moreover, if you’re breastfeeding, according to the Mayo clinic you might need 300 – 400 extra calories/day. If you’re breast feeding twins, you need an extra 500 calories/day. So you’ll need to be eating, depending on the number of children, 2700 – 3200 calories/day. It’s not the time to count calories.
- Your body needs protein. 20 – 25% of your calories should come from lean protein (chicken, eggs, lentils, dairy, and seafood low in mercury). Have protein at every snack, every meal. Bake chicken, let it cool, and cube it to keep in the refrigerator for salads and snacks. Cut up hard-boiled eggs, and have them with whole-grain toast, drizzled with olive oil and pepper.
- Healthy fats. 30% of your diet should be of healthy fats. Snack on nuts, cut up avocados to put on your egg toast or as a side. High-fat fish is good, too, however you need to watch for mercury content.
- High-fiber, whole-grain carbs can be part of the rest of your diet. Steer clear of simple carbs. Choose whole-grain products, steel oats, quinoa, and barley. Fruits and vegetables – include them in every meal as well for their high-fiber content.
- Get on an eating schedule. Put on an alarm for eating. You’ll need it, because in the fog of tired, you are likely to forget. Your body needs nourishment.
- Treat yourself! Satisfy your sweet tooth with healthy alternatives. But treat yourself to a scoop of ice cream, dark chocolate with nuts, and other temptations. Everything in moderation.
Motherhood is here! It’s exhausting, overwhelming, and in those moments of tired, there are glimmers of complete bliss. 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.
In the meantime, stay healthy, eat well, rest when you can (yes … lots to ask for), and take care of your body. Happy Mother’s Day!
MOTHER MATTERS: A HOLISTIC GUIDE TO BEING A HEALTHY, HAPPY MOM
by Dayne M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT