Postpartum Nutrition

Good Morning!  It looks to be another beautifully sunny morning here in Portland, Oregon.  Wow, we have really been blessed with some fantastic weather the past few weeks.  Our clinic garden is looking great as well as the garden my family and I are growing at home.  I'll be taking some photos to show you all just what I mean! imagesToday I'd like to round out this series on Nutrition during pregnancy by providing some guidelines about postpartum dietary needs.  The postpartum period is defined as the time from the birth of the baby and placenta to 6 weeks afterwards.  I personally believe that this extends to 3 months after the birth at minimum, with the first 6 weeks being the time when the body makes most of it's transition back to "normal".

I put normal in quotations because it is very common for women to feel like they have a totally new body after having a baby.  images-1To a certain extent, it's true.  It's not the same body.  It looks, acts, and feels different than before pregnancy.  Therefore, it has different needs.  This is especially the case if the new baby is breastfeeding. Let's have a look at some guidelines for women in the postpartum period:

  • During pregnancy, women need 200-300 extra calories per day to grow a baby.  During breastfeeding, women may need up to 500 extra calories per day to make enough milk to feed their new baby.
  • Also needed for milk-making is WATER.  Most women will need between 2-3 LITERS of water a day to keep up with the demands of making milk.  I like to get the whole family involved in the process, stashing bottles full of water wherever mom might end up nursing the new baby.  Intense thirst universally follows feeding the new baby, and moms everywhere love having a big glass of water while they nurse.
  • Many women need extra iron after having a baby.  Moms who had a lot of bleeding with childbirth are in a higher risk category for developing postpartum anemia.  To prevent severe anemia (which can lead to excessive fatigue and lowered mood):
  1. Increase iron in the diet: red meat, eggs, enriched cereals, and blackstrap molasses are good ways to get iron.
  2. Increase Vitamin C intake: Vitamin C helps you absorb more iron from your food.  Take with meals.  Do not exceed 3000mg/day unless being supervised by a health care practitioner.
  3. No black tea: Tannins in the tea decrease iron absorption.
  4. Cook with cast-iron pots and pans.  Believe it or not, you will get good doses of iron from doing so.
  • Continue to take your prenatal vitamins through the end of breastfeeding.  You still need the nutrients.  Plus, the extra B vitamins will give you much-needed mental and physical stamina.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids with a higher DHA:EPA ratio.  Studies show that infants benefit (neurodevelopmentally) from DHA supplementation in pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Moms also need these healthy fats to help heal and replenish the reproductive and nervous system.  DHA can be found in coldwater fish and algae most readily.  Taking an encapsulated form of DHA is a sure-fire way of getting enough.

Next week I'm going to address Postpartum depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.  It's more common than you think, and there's more that can be done to help prevent it from affecting you and the ones you love.  images-2