Did you know my Bestie is a Registered Dietitian? Check out her practical tips for eating well in the postpartum period. To learn more about Claire & her practice please visit – www.clairehibbert.com
You’ve spent months eating as well as possible to make sure that your baby is receiving all the nutrients it needs to grow and develop during pregnancy. With your new arrival finally in your arms, what can you do to make sure that nutrition continues to support your family’s health during the postpartum period?
First of all, this question depends on many different variables such as whether you choose to breastfeed, your individual food preferences/traditions, finances, chronic health issues, and so on. In order to figure out that’s right for you, seek advice from a Registered Dietitian (RD). RDs are the only regulated nutrition professionals in Canada, meaning that they are qualified to give individualized, science-based nutrition advice.
If possible, consult a nutrition professional early on in your pregnancy journey to figure out what works best for you and establish lasting habits. Good nutrition doesn’t just happen overnight – it’s a long-term project that succeeds with lots of support and practice.
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:
The golden rule of healthy eating is to ‘make the healthy choice the easy choice.’ Prepare for this exhausting time beforehand by having meals in the freezer ready to heat up, asking your support network to provide healthy options, and relying on healthier convenience foods such as pre washed and cut fruit and veggie trays. Don’t aim for perfection, and keep in mind that even less healthy options such as pizza can be modified into a reasonably healthy meal, for example by passing on the meat toppings that are high in saturated fat and sodium, and including a pre-washed salad or frozen mixed vegetables.
While caring for a new baby and possibly your older children as well, it goes without saying that your time will be limited and sleeping patterns unpredictable. Instead of sitting down for structured meals, aim to eat every few hours and include a source of protein each time such as meat, eggs, nuts, or milk products.
To promote healing after delivery, you’ll want to avoid straining when having a bowel movement. Focus on fibre and fluids by including water, whole grains, legumes, fruit, and vegetables. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before using laxative products.
Whether you decide to breastfeed or not has a significant impact on your nutrition requirements. It takes up to 600 extra calories per day for your body to make breast milk, which are derived from fat stores and your diet. Multivitamin supplements containing folic acid and Vitamin D are usually required to support lactation. Vitamin B12 and possibly calcium supplements may also be important for vegans and some vegetarians. There are many other important considerations such as what type of fish to eat to avoid mercury, and avoiding substances that can pass into breast milk such as trans fats and herbal/natural health products.
Easier said than done, but ignore whatever pressure you may feel to lose “baby weight.” Women often feel unrealistic expectations to lose weight quickly and return to their pre-pregnancy body. This can lead to dieting practices that cause real, lasting damage both physically and psychologically. Now is a time to focus on eating healthy food, resting, healing, and bonding with your baby. Be kind to yourself and recognize that wise lifestyle choices will cause your body to settle at its ideal size and shape over time. Be wary of fad diets, anecdotal stories, and anything that promises a quick fix – remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is! An RD can provide tailored advice regarding healthy weight that doesn’t compromise you or your baby’s health if necessary.