Postnatal Nutrition for Nursing Moms
As excited as we moms are to be moms, we’re also that excited to get our bodies back. For nine months, you’ve had to give into everything about your body not being within your control. Despite your best efforts at health during the pregnancy, the fact of the matter is that your body expanded and contracted at epic proportions and now you seek a return to its rightful controller—you. How can you get there?
Avoid crash diets (for most, greater than a 1- to 2- pound weight loss weekly). As discussed earlier, crash dieting encourages the body’s release of toxins from its fat cells, which can transfer to the baby by way of the breast milk.
Weight loss should be approached individually. It is no longer a set rule that new moms should maintain a higher caloric intake (general wisdom used to be about 500 extra calories daily) to support healthy milk production.
Sleep (AKA recovery) plays a huge role in helping moms to, among other things, achieve their weight loss goals. Try sleeping when the baby does—everything else can usually wait and your body will respond well to the recovery time.
Aiming for well-balanced (nutrient) snacks every few hours (sometimes setting an alarm clock or writing yourself a sticky note to remember) will help to optimize levels such as blood sugar, which promotes a return to your healthy weight.
Give yourself a break. You just had a healthy baby. Be grateful for your body as opposed to loathing it. Celebrating your body is more likely to achieve a positive result rather than berating yourself.
Continue to choose a variety of foods to deliver the range of nutrients you need to replenish your system as well as what your baby needs.
Continue to avoid caffeine and alcohol. If you need the occasional, minimal amount (1 to 2 8-ounce cups of coffee or caffeinated tea, 1 to 2 ounces of chocolate, 1 to 2 alcoholic drinks weekly), try to consume at least two hours before a feeding to allow concentration to diminish. But avoid turning to these as routine helpers for the challenges (fatigue, stress) of being a new parent.
Continue to take your prenatal vitamin as a means to optimize your daily nutrient intake, and make sure it includes DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid that helps support healthy brain development).
Monitor your baby’s reaction to foods and beverages. It is normal for babies to have gas, indigestion, mild rashes, and bowel changes as their young bodies develop. However, some foods do exacerbate these symptoms in some children. If you suspect a food-related issue, keep a food journal of your intake and the baby’s response and, as needed, conduct a trial elimination to identify potential offending foods.
By Ashley Koff, RD, for The Cradle