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The Essential Postpartum Diet

written by: BStone • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 12/15/2009

Knowing what to eat after pregnancy is almost as important as healthy food choices during pregnancy. Learn about the necessary nutrition of the postpartum diet.

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    The Importance of the Postpartum Diet

    postpartum diet The postpartum diet is essential to proper recovery after pregnancy and childbirth. While adequate nutrition is important during pregnancy to sustain a growing life as well as the pregnant mother, postpartum, a healthy diet is just as necessary. As the postpartum period begins, the mother has extremely low nutrient stores. Vital minerals, such as calcium and iron, vitamins, and trace elements are used throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Reserves are further depleted during childbirth and the early postpartum weeks with long-term loss of blood. Knowing what to eat after pregnancy is vital for new mothers to re-build the nutrient stores that were present before pregnancy.

    A well-balanced postpartum diet is also necessary to deal with the demands of being a new mother. There are many stressful moments, sleepless nights, and overwhelming days, especially during the first two or three months. Consuming enough calories, protein, and nutrients instead of trying to lose weight immediately will make the trials of motherhood much easier to handle. Deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, and the B-complex vitamins can lead to depression. Inadequate iron can lead to fatigue. A lack of vitamin A and vitamin C can make the body more susceptible to illness and infection.

    The quality of the postpartum diet will also determine how quickly the body heals from childbirth. Extra nutrition is needed for wounds to heal and for the body to naturally transform back into its pre-pregnancy form.

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    What to Eat After Pregnancy

    What to eat after pregnancy is not that much different from what should be consumed during pregnancy. An abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in plant enzymes, nutrients, and fiber, whole grains, dairy products, omega-fatty acid rich fish, nuts, and oils, and plenty of water. Processed foods should still be avoided, which should not be that difficult considering the huge amount of healthy foods that need to be consumed in the postpartum diet. Always check with a doctor, but generally it is advised to continue taking the same prenatal supplements for three months postpartum.

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    The Postpartum Diet

    The postpartum diet varies slightly for breastfeeding women. If breastfeeding, try to consume about 2500 calories, 80 grams of protein, and 13 milligrams of iron. If not breastfeeding, 2000 calories are needed, 70 grams of protein and 20 milligrams of iron.

    How are these calories broken down, and exactly what is recommended to eat after pregnancy? A basic formula for the daily postpartum diet includes:

    • two to three servings of iron rich foods (lentils, avocado, oats, peas, tofu, meat, fish, and eggs)
    • two to four servings of protein, equal to from 70 to 80 grams (one ounce of fish or animal protein, one cup of cooked beans, 1 cup of milk or yogurt, one egg, and one quarter cup of nuts are all equal to approximately eight grams)
    • five servings of calcium rich foods (dairy, almonds, dark leafy greens, figs, and tofu)
    • one salad every day with greens, one cup of other vegetables such as sweet peppers, tomatoes, and cauliflower, and two tablespoons of dressing made from nutritional oils such as virgin olive oil, hemp seed, or flax seed oil
    • three to six servings of whole grains
    • two to three servings of nuts or legumes
    • eight glasses of water

    As the postpartum period is essential to a healthy recovery, always consult a physician about specific dietary needs. Enjoy the same nutrient-rich foods that were recommended during pregnancy for the postpartum diet, and beyond.

    Sources:

    Brown, Sylvia. "The Post-Pregnancy Handbook." (St. Martin's Press, 2002).

    Murkoff, Heidi, Eisenberg, Arlene, and Hathaway, Sandee. "What to Expect When You're Expecting." (Workman Publishing, 2002).

    photo credit: Word Ridden



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