Virtual Dietitian Tips for Postpartum Healing: Get Support with Telehealth Nutrition Therapy

Preparing for a new baby’s arrival can be overwhelming. While TV portrays it as a fairy tale of picking out cute clothes and blankets, parents-to-be may face struggles such as finances, job stress, and the challenge of welcoming a new person. And don’t even get us started on the constant deluge of opinions … especially when it comes to the post-partum diet.

Everyone is an expert. And everyone knows best, right?

As online registered dietitians (most of us are mothers, too), we have some energy-boosting, budget nutrition tips for new mothers. We promise they won’t take a lot of time to implement into your diet!

Also, with a postnatal diet plan, you can quicken postpartum healing. Here are nutrition recommendations for new mothers, whether they are breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or both:

  • Weight loss should not be the focus for new moms; think healthy. Eat three meals a day and have two to three high-energy, nutritional snacks.
  • Up the fluids. During labor, women lose an incredible amount of fluids and blood, so make drinking (preferably water) a priority. Drink at least 10 glasses of water per day. This will also help soften bowel movements and keep you hydrated for breastfeeding. Keep a glass of water next to you while breastfeeding.
  • Avoid or keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. If you are breastfeeding, wait 2-3 hours before feeding to ensure that the alcohol has left your body (12 ounces of 5% beer, 5 ounces of 11% wine, 1.5 ounces of 40% liquor, depending on your body weight). Pumping and dumping does not eliminate alcohol from your body; you still need to wait the required amount of time to ensure that the alcohol is out of your system before breastfeeding. Finally, alcohol decreases the body’s production of anti-diuretic hormone, causing more fluid loss. So, if you drink alcohol, up the fluids even more.
  • Keep caffeine consumption to a minimum (2-3 cups per day). Caffeine is a stimulant and can make a baby irritable and jumpy. Moreover, it acts similarly to alcohol in that an increase in caffeine can cause you to get dehydrated quicker.
  • Breastfeeding mothers need more calories. A woman breastfeeding a single baby needs on average about 2700 calories a day, and a woman breastfeeding twins needs about 3200. That’s about 500 calories more per day than normal for each baby. Do not try to lose weight while breastfeeding; focus on getting adequate calories to nourish your body and feed the baby/babies. If you eat appropriately and well, you might lose weight, but it should never be your goal.
  • Protein should make up 20-25% of total calories, fat 30% of total calories, and carbs the rest. All new mothers should consider this combination when preparing meals, focusing on eating foods that are rich in iron, protein, and calcium for energy and milk stimulation.
  • Go Popeye! The body needs to replenish the iron stores that were lost during pregnancy and childbirth. Iron is essential for the formation of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. During pregnancy, the body’s blood volume increases, which means more red blood cells and hemoglobin are needed to carry oxygen to the developing fetus. After childbirth, the body experiences a sudden drop in blood volume, and the excess blood cells and hemoglobin are eliminated. This process can deplete the body’s iron stores, leading to iron deficiency anemia. An adequate intake of iron through the diet can help prevent or treat iron deficiency anemia and support overall health and recovery after childbirth. Iron-rich foods include lentils, dark-leafy green vegetables, whole-grain products, and peas. Combine these foods with those high in vitamin C (like citrus fruits) for better iron absorption.
  • During pregnancy and breastfeeding, a woman’s body requires an increased amount of calcium to support the growth and development of the baby’s bones, teeth, and other tissues. If a woman does not consume enough calcium during this time, her body will take calcium from her bones to provide for the baby, which can lead to a loss of bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life. Additionally, calcium is important for muscle and nerve function, and maintaining a healthy heart rhythm. Therefore, it is essential for women to consume an adequate amount of calcium in their postpartum diet to support their own health and the health of their baby.Calcium is found in dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese), as well as leafy-green vegetables and calcium-fortified or enriched cereals, soy milk, soy yogurt, and more.
  • Vegan mothers need sources of protein like beans, tofu/soy, and fortified almond, rice, or soy milk for calcium and vitamin D. They will likely need a B12 supplement and possibly a Vitamin D supplement. For iron, combine vitamin C food sources with iron-rich vegetables to increase nutrient absorption. Cooking in cast iron pots can also increase iron intake.
  • If you have a sweet tooth, indulge in dark chocolate with sea salt, peppermint, or caramel. Look for 70% cocoa content. Treat yourself; you’ve earned it!

Getting the nutrients you need can feel IMPOSSIBLE.

Establishing an eating schedule and reminding yourself to eat can be a great way to prioritize your nutrition during the busy and overwhelming time of adjusting to life with a new baby. Stocking your fridge with easy, healthy snacks like trail mix, delicious cheeses, whole-grain breads, cut-up fruit, and yogurt can save you time and energy. Preparing and freezing hearty meals like lasagna, chili, and soups in individual-sized containers is another way to make sure you’re eating well without adding to your already full plate. Skipping meals can lead to emotional and physical stress, so it’s important to make eating a priority.

If you find that you’re struggling to eat and have to force yourself, it could be a sign of depression, and it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider for help. Remember that this time of life will settle, but for now, focusing on your health and nutrition can help make the transition smoother.