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A Dietitian's guide to postpartum nutrition

To my beautiful followers:

I cannot tell you how excited I am about this blog post! I recently put a call out to hear from experts on all things pregnancy, postpartum, parenting, and babies. One of the first to respond was the amazing Erin Murane from Balance and Bite Please check out her website, it is full of really amazing information, recipes, and you can book in a session with Erin to talk about your own individual needs. You can also follow her on instagram here. Check out what Erin has written for us below!

Bringing a baby home from the hospital can be one of the most rewarding moments of any new mum's life, and it can also be one of the most exhausting. As you prioritise feeding, changing and bathing your new bub finding time to eat and look after yourself quickly goes to the bottom of your to-do list. But even though the pregnancy's over, it's just as essential to ensure you're meeting your nutrition requirements postpartum. Not only to support your healing and recovery but to replenish any nutrient losses from postpartum depletion, which can lead to brain fog, tiredness and depression. Follow this Dietitian's guide to postpartum nutrition as you adjust to motherhood. Learn which foods provide the best nutrients to feel more energised, alert and healthy.

Why postpartum nutrition is important

Deciding what to eat after giving birth isn't about dropping the "baby weight" or changing our appearance. It's about honouring our health, meeting increased nutrition requirements (especially if we're breastfeeding) and finding quick, easy, nutrient-dense foods to eat. Too often, we see unhelpful messages about postpartum nutrition for weight loss, which should never be the focus. The main goals of postpartum nutrition are to regulate hormones, promote healing, support mental health and provide sustained energy.

Healing foods

Regardless of your birth delivery, your body will take time to heal. You can support the healing process by choosing foods rich in protein, zinc and vitamins A, C and E, such as pumpkin seeds, oysters, liver, vegetables, eggs and meat. These foods are responsible for cell repair, growth, and immune function and play an essential role in wound healing. Try making chicken and vegetable soup or buying hearty veggie-packed stews that can be quickly frozen and reheated to save time.

Mood-boosting foods

It's estimated that 16% of women experience postpartum depression. While several factors contribute to depression after birth, including genetic predisposition and environmental factors, what you eat is also believed to play an important role. A diet rich in folic acid, zinc, and magnesium can support cognitive function and mood. Recent research also suggests that eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish, can help to protect against postnatal depression.

Sustained energy

Eating enough food during this postpartum period is essential. Even if you're not breastfeeding, you may be hungrier than usual as your body needs extra energy. Make sure you include a variety of protein, fat and carbohydrate foods throughout the day. Try adding butter, oils, and avocado to meals for an energy boost or keeping snacks readily available. While choosing lower GI carbohydrates like whole grain bread, pasta and rice will give you a slow release of energy, sometimes you'll feel like chocolate, and that's ok! Don't be scared of higher fat or sugar foods during this time, as research shows restricting foods only makes you crave them more, making you more likely to overeat them.

To feel energised as a new mum, it's a good idea to check your iron, folate, and B-vitamin levels and eat foods rich in these nutrients. And don't forget about water and fluids, especially if you're breastfeeding. Milk or fortified milk alternatives are an excellent way to meet your fluid, calcium and energy requirements. Try making a fruit smoothie, having a hot chocolate or a bowl of cereal with milk.

Tips for meeting postpartum nutrition requirements

  • Cook simple recipes with a mix of carbs, fats and protein

  • Utilise ready meals and frozen meals

  • Have snacks available, e.g. tinned soups, baked beans, chia pods and muesli bars

  • Keep a water bottle handy

  • Have realistic expectations and do the best you can

Best foods to eat postpartum

  • Chicken

  • Meat

  • Oily fish (canned, frozen or fresh)

  • Oysters

  • Eggs

  • Legumes

  • Tofu

  • Nuts/Nut butter

  • Wholegrain bread

  • Any & All vegetables

  • Fruit (fresh or frozen)

  • Dairy products (or alternatives)

  • Lactation cookies

About Erin:

Erin is an accredited practising dietitian and certified intuitive eating counsellor who helps women heal their relationship with food, find food freedom and accept their here-and-now bodies. She's worked with countless new mums to help them feel healthy after pregnancy and meet their postpartum nutrition needs.

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