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Home > Learn > Postpartum > >Postpartum Food Recommendations: What to Eat After Giving Birth

Postpartum Food Recommendations: What to Eat After Giving Birth

May 23, 24 8 min

By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN

There is a lot of talk about what to eat during pregnancy. But, it’s also important to know postpartum food recommendations—what to eat after giving birth.

Understanding Postpartum Nutritional Needs

Postpartum nutrition is essential to help your body heal and recover after giving birth to your little one.

The Role of Nutrition in Postpartum Recovery

Eating a balanced diet during postpartum recovery will help support your overall physical and mental health. If you are breastfeeding, your diet also plays a significant role in your baby’s nutrition, growth, and development.[1]

Nutrients Essential for Breastfeeding Mothers

Nursing mothers require about 500 additional calories per day to help produce breast milk.[1] The amount of vitamins and minerals in your breast milk is directly linked to your dietary intake

It is important to eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K.[2] You can continue to take your prenatal vitamins to help ensure you get the necessary nutrients.

The Postpartum Essentials Bundle from Natalist will provide you with all the vitamins you need to support your postpartum health as well as your growing baby's development if you're nursing.

Postpartum Foods to Eat After Giving Birth

Recommended postpartum foods include [3]:

  • Complex carbohydrates: Brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread
  • Proteins: Meats, nuts, seeds, beans
  • Fruits: Apples, pears, bananas, berries
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, carrots, beets, zucchini
  • Healthy fats: Avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters

The Importance of Hydration

It is important to stay hydrated so your body can produce breast milk, which is about 80% water.[2] Drink at least 64 ounces (eight glasses) of water each day.[3]

Foods to Limit or Avoid After Giving Birth

Avoid alcohol and excess caffeine, which can affect sleep and mood and may pass to the baby.[3] It’s also best to avoid fish known for high mercury levels, as mercury is toxic to the brain and nervous system.[4]

You may find that you need to give up certain foods like garlic, which can affect the flavor of your breast milk.[5]

Meal Planning and Preparation

Try this simple 3-day meal plan which incorporates all of the postpartum food recommendations.

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: Avocado toast, w/ egg white, spinach, and tomato
  • Snack: Grapes, almonds, and pepper jack cheese
  • Lunch: Chickpea wrap (chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, greek yogurt, lemon, dill) on whole grain tortilla
  • Snack: Carrots and almond butter
  • Dinner: Salmon, brown rice, sweet potato, broccoli

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with apples, cinnamon, and almonds
  • Snack: Protein drink, peanut butter, banana
  • Lunch: Chicken salad sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Snack: Hummus with carrots, bell peppers, and celery
  • Dinner: Bean and rice burrito with fajita veggies and guacamole

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Green smoothie and tofu scramble
  • Snack: Pears, goat cheese, and whole grain crackers
  • Lunch: Black bean quinoa salad with corn, pico de gallo, avocados, cilantro, lime, and peppers
  • Snack: Dried fruit, cashews, protein bar
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken salad on romaine with cucumbers, tomatoes, and Caesar dressing. Serve with whole-grain bread or your favorite soup

Tips for Meal Prep and Snacking

It can be challenging to take care of your nutrition while also caring for a newborn. You can make healthy eating easier by meal prepping, batch cooking, and making easy healthy snacks like energy balls (oats, nut butter, chocolate chips, and flax seed).

Supplements and Vitamins

It’s important to continue taking prenatal vitamins or switch to postnatal vitamins to ensure you get all the necessary nutrients to keep you and your baby healthy.

Additionally, your body will need more iodine and choline when you are breastfeeding. You can find iodine in seafood, dairy, eggs, and iodized salt. Choline is in meat, dairy, seafood, beans, lentils, and peas.

Vegans may need to supplement omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins, which are found in meat, seafood, and dairy.

Most prenatal vitamins will contain enough iodine and choline to meet your nutritional needs as a breastfeeding mom.[6]

Special Considerations

Here are a few situations for which you may need special consideration.

Dietary Adjustments for Common Postpartum Conditions

If you have diabetes, thyroid issues, or other postpartum conditions, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about the right nutrition plan, vitamins, and supplements for you.

Alcohol and Caffeine Intake

The American Pregnancy Association recommends postpartum mothers avoid alcohol which can pass through to the baby through breast milk. If you choose to drink alcohol, you should do so after feeding or pumping, not right before. Alcohol can also impair your judgment, mood, and sleep and slow down your recovery process. It isn’t safe to care for a baby while intoxicated.[3,4]

Postpartum moms don’t necessarily have to give up their cup of coffee though. Less than 1% of the coffee you drink will end up in your breast milk.[4] If you drink less than 3 cups per day, very little will reach your baby. However, if you notice your baby seems fussy or doesn’t sleep well after your coffee, you may want to cut back.

Supporting Your Health Beyond Diet

You can take additional steps to support your health postpartum.

The Importance of Physical Activity

You need to take it easy the first several weeks after birth, particularly if you had a C-section. However, it is still important to get some exercise, as physical activity speeds up the recovery process by improving circulation and muscle tone.[3] You can start by taking walks with your baby. Bonus points if it’s outside in the sunshine and you can get some extra vitamin D.

Mental Health and Nutrition

Estrogen levels naturally drop after birth which can lead to postpartum depression (PPD).[3] You can fight off the baby blues by eating a healthy diet. Research has shown that moms who eat a diet high in sugar are at higher risk for PPD while those who eat diets high in fruits and vegetables are at lower risk for PPD.[7]

Discover Postpartum Essentials from Natalist

Shop Postpartum Essentials from Natalist to find the right postpartum vitamins and supplements to meet your unique nutritional needs.

 


Dr. Kenosha Gleaton is board-certified in gynecology and obstetrics and is the Medical Advisor of Natalist. She received her MD from MUSC and completed her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.

Dr. Gleaton is passionate about women, youth, and mentoring. She is a Scrubs Camp instructor, a program to increase student entry in healthcare, and serves as a Compassion International adoptive parent. She is also a member of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Association of Professional Women.  


References:

  1. Nutrition and Sleep PostPartum: New Mom Services at UPMC Magee-Womens in Central PA. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Accessed February 14, 2024. https://www.upmc.com/services/south-central-pa/women/services/pregnancy-childbirth/new-moms/after-birth/nutrition-sleep-postpartum.
  2. What’s in Breastmilk? American Pregnancy Association. Accessed February 14, 2024. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/first-year-of-life/whats-in-breastmilk.
  3. Postpartum Recovery. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed February 9, 2024. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/first-year-of-life/postpartum-recovery.
  4. Alcohol and Breast Milk. American Academy of Pediatrics, July 7, 2020. Accessed February 9, 2024. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Alcohol-Breast-Milk.aspx.
  5. Hausner, H., Bredie, WL., Molgaard, C., Peterson, MA., & Moller, P. Differential transfer of dietary flavour compounds into human breast milk. Physiology and Breast Milk. 2008; 95(1-2):118-24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18571209/.
  6. Maternal Diet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 17, 2022. Accessed February 14, 2024. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html.
  7. Fish-Williamson, A. & Hahn-Holbrook, J. Nutritional factors and cross-national postpartum depression prevalence: an updated meta-analysis and meta-regression of 412 studies from 46 countries. Frontier Psychiatry, 2023. Volume 14. https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychiatry/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2023.1193490/full.

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