When you are pregnant, your body goes through a series of changes that occur gradually over a nine-month period. After childbirth your body goes through another series of changes that occur much more rapidly. Proper nutrition is helpful in easing some of the typical postpartum discomforts during the recovery period. Dietary fiber in the form of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables is helpful with the dreaded first bowel movement. Complex carbohydrates and protein are helpful with providing long lasting energy when fatigue sets in. Iron is essential to prevent anemia, especially in the face of postpartum blood loss. Adequate calcium intake is necessary to prevent maternal bone loss while breastfeeding. Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, oils such as olive oil or flax seed oil, and oily fish ensure proper provision of healthy fats in the breastmilk. Most important of all is adequate calorie and protein intake, which is needed for your own physical healing as well as breastmilk production.
The following are six nutrition tips for the postpartum recovery period:
Tip #1. Eat plenty of fiber. The first bowel movement after having a baby can be a frightening ordeal. Making sure you have had plenty of fiber during those first few days really helps things go a little more smoothly. Have oatmeal for breakfast, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids, and you should be able to get through that first BM without a problem.
Tip #2. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. It is important to stay well hydrated for your recovery as well as for establishing your breastmilk supply. Try to get in 8-12 glasses of water daily. Since most newborns feed 8-12 times over a 24 hour period, a good way to ensure adequate fluid intake is to drink 8 ounces of water each time you nurse your baby.
Tip #3. Keep healthy snacks handy. The best snacks are a combination of complex carbs with some protein. This provides you with a longer lasting source of energy than carbohydrate alone. Some examples would be whole grain crackers with cheese, nuts with dried fruit, crudité with hummus, and a piece of fruit with peanut butter. Prep your snacks when you have a few free minutes. For example, cut up carrots and celery sticks, portion out cheese and crackers, put handfuls of nuts and raisins in baggies. When it is time to nurse your baby grab one of your prepped snacks and 8 ounces of water. Think of it as a chance to nourish yourself while you nourish your baby.
Tip #4. Accept help from others. If family or friends plan to visit you and your new baby and ask if you need anything, tell them you would be so grateful for a meal so you don’t have to worry about preparing one that night. Most people are quite happy to do this, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Tip #5. Take a multivitamin. Alternatively, you could continue taking a prenatal vitamin, especially if you are breastfeeding. Making sure you get enough vitamins and minerals to prevent nutrient deficiencies is important during recovery and for optimal breastmilk composition.
Tip #6. Limit caffeine and alcohol. Some moms rely on caffeine to get them through the day, but too much caffeine can have a crash-and-burn effect, so limit it to 1-2 cups a day at the most. Alcohol is thought by some to have a beneficial effect on breastmilk production, but this has not been proven and since alcohol can wind up in the breastmilk and also can interfere with the quality of your sleep, it’s better to limit your intake or avoid it altogether.
Here are 10 healthy meal recipes and 10 healthy snack ideas that incorporate these nutrients that your support person can make during those early postpartum recovery days. Prepping as much food as you can during your last days of pregnancy and enlisting the help of your support person can help to ensure that you will be able to eat properly for physical healing and the establishment of lactation after your baby is born.
Meal #1: Oatmeal with Fruit and Nuts
Ingredients: 1 cup water, ½ cup old fashioned oats, ½ cup berries – fresh or frozen, ½ tsp cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. chopped nuts, ½ cup your choice of milk. 2 tsp. maple syrup or other natural sweetener.
Directions: Bring water to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add oats and cinnamon; cook, stirring frequently for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat. Combine oatmeal, berries, and nuts in a medium bowl; mix well. Top with milk and maple syrup. Makes 1 serving.
Meal #2: Grilled Chicken Salad
Ingredients: 3 cups mixed salad greens, 3 oz. grilled chicken breast – cut into bite sized pieces, ½ medium apple – cored and chopped, 4 tsp chopped walnuts, ½ medium cucumber, sliced, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.
Directions: Place greens in large bowl. Top with chicken, apple, walnuts, and cucumber. Combine lemon juice and olive oil and drizzle over salad; toss gently to blend. Makes 1 serving.
Meal #3: Minestrone
Ingredients: Olive oil, 2 chopped small red onions, 2 chopped carrots, 2 ribs celery – chopped, ½ head fennel chopped, 3 cloves garlic – chopped, 32 oz. can whole tomatoes, ½ cup red wine, 2 quartered and sliced zucchini, 8 oz. fresh baby spinach, 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed, 20 oz. chicken or vegetable stock, 2 oz dried whole wheat spaghetti – broken, freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Directions: Heat olive oil in large saucepan and add onions, carrots, celery, fennel and garlic. Cook on low heat 15-20 minutes. Add tomatoes, zucchini and red wine and simmer 15 minutes. Add spinach, stock, beans, and pasta pieces. Simmer until pasta is cooked. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and drizzle olive oil on top. Makes 4-6 servings.
Meal #4: Veggie Omelet
Ingredients: 2 large eggs, 2 large egg whites, olive or coconut oil, 2 Tbsp. sliced mushrooms, 2 Tbsp. red bell pepper, 2 Tbsp. chopped onion, 2 Tbsp. grated cheddar cheese.
Directions: Combine eggs and egg whites in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper-mix well and set aside. Heat medium nonstick skillet with 1 Tbsp. oil over medium high heat. Add mushrooms, bell pepper and onion; cook, stirring frequently 3-4 minutes or until onion is soft. Remove from skillet. Place eggs in skillet; cook over medium low heat. Do not stir. As eggs set, lift edges, letting uncooked portion flow underneath. When eggs are almost set, add vegetable mixture and cheese. Cook 1-2 minutes until heated through. Gently fold in half. Serve with 1 cup fresh fruit and a slice of whole grain toast. Makes 1 serving.
Meal #5: Tuna Salad Wrap
Ingredients: 1 (5 oz.) can solid white tuna, packed in water, drained; 1 medium celery stalk-chopped, 1/3 medium red onion – chopped; 1 tbsp plain greek yogurt, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 whole grain wrap, ½ cup baby spinach leaves.
Directions: Combine tuna, celery, onion, yogurt, and mustard in medium bowl; mix well. Place in the wrap with spinach leaves and roll up. Serve with 1 cup fresh fruit. Makes 1 serving.
Meal #6: Honey Dijon Chicken with Brown Rice and Steamed Broccoli
Ingredients: two 6-oz. chicken breast halves, 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard, 1.5 Tbsp. honey, fresh parsley, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, 2 cups broccoli, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 clove fresh garlic – sliced.
Directions: Mix Dijon with honey. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and coat in the honey mustard mixture. Cook on the grill or in a sauté pan for about 7 minutes each side. Serve with cooked rice and steamed broccoli. Makes 2 servings.
Meal #7: Breakfast Quinoa
Ingredients: ½ cup dried quinoa, 1 cup your choice of milk, 1 cup berries (can use a variety), 2 Tbsp. chopped or sliced nuts, 2 tsp. honey.
Directions: Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Heat milk in small saucepan over medium heat until warm. Divide quinoa evenly among two bowls, pour warm milk over. Top with berries, nuts, and honey. Makes 2 servings.
Meal #8: Healthy Cobb Salad
Ingredients: 2 cups mixed greens, 1 hard boiled egg – sliced, ¼ avocado – cut into chunks, ½ medium tomato – chopped, ¼ small red onion – chopped, 2 cups cooked cubed chicken, 1 ounce of cheese, cubed. Dressing ingredients: 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Directions: Combine dressing ingredients. Toss salad ingredients together with dressing. Serve with whole grain roll. Makes 1 serving.
Meal #9: Steak with Sweet Potato and Roasted Asparagus
Ingredients: 6 oz. flank steak (or filet mignon or lean sirloin), sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, 1 large sweet potato-baked, 2 cups asparagus, coconut oil.
Directions: Preheat grill or broiler to high. Season steak with salt and pepper (and any other fresh or dried herb seasonings you desire). Grill or broil steak for 5-7 minutes on each side or until meat reaches desired degree of doneness. . Roast the asparagus at 425 F with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and the sliced garlic for 8-10 minutes. Serve with baked sweet potato topped with 1 tsp. coconut oil. Makes 2 servings.
Meal #10: Rosemary Pork Chop with Peas and Brown Rice
Ingredients: two 4 oz. lean boneless pork loin chops, 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 cloves garlic-crushed, 1 cup peas, 1/3 cup brown rice, cooked according to package directions. Marinate the pork chops in the rosemary, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper for an hour. Broil or grill the pork (about 4-5 minutes on each side). Serve with cooked rice and steamed peas. Makes 2 servings.
10 Healthy Snack Options
1: ½ cup cottage cheese with ¼ cup berries
2: 1 apple, sliced with 1 Tbsp. nut butter
3: ½ cup low-fat yogurt with 2 Tbsp. high fiber cereal or granola
4: 1 orange or 2 clementines with 12 almonds
5: ½ whole grain English muffin topped with 1 slice of tomato and a slice of natural cheese such as cheddar
6: 1 hard boiled egg with 10 baby carrots
7: 1 brown rice cake topped with 1 Tbsp. nut butter
8: 1 cup carrot and/or celery sticks with ¼ cup hummus
9: 1 oz. peanuts with 1 oz. raisins or other dried fruit
10: 5 whole grain crackers with 1 oz. natural cheese such as cheddar
I hope this information helps and inspires you! Have a great week!