Food is among many mothers’ big concerns after giving birth, and rightfully so. After giving birth, you may not have enough energy to cook proper food that can aid your postnatal recovery. Hence, planning way before your delivery is highly encouraged. What do you need to consider when planning your diet? First, consider the fact that you are recovering from blood loss and you may have wounds or stitches that need constant care. Your body has undergone many changes during pregnancy and birth, so you may want to take that into account as well. For example, if the swellings caused by water retention are pretty severe, you can practise low sodium diet to not worsen it.
You need to follow a healthy and balanced diet so that you can stay active and be able to care for your baby. Unfortunately, if you are like many others, you may get so busy or tired that food often gets forgotten and neglected. This should not be how it is. In fact, food should be among your top priorities. We have heard a lot of ‘case studies’ and experiences of people whose body condition goes through major (positive) changes simply because they change their diet. Hence, put more focus on your daily foods and you may be pleasantly surprised at how much improvement you can see from it.
Where do you begin? Unlike a certain garment, there is no diet that is ‘one-size-fits-all’ for new mothers. You have to identify what your concerns are and which aspects do you think could improve the most if you add this and that into your diet. Hence, this article is not meant to create the diet for you, but rather to provide you with a guide that you could refer to. If this guide sounds like exactly what you need, then you may follow. If your concerns are not similar to the ones mentioned below, you are free to tweak the diet as you like.
For instance, one aspect of our recommendation may discuss how to increase milk supply. Surely, if you are producing too much milk, you would want to reduce the food mentioned. As stated before, tweak accordingly. On that note, here are several types of food that you should pile up your plate with every day throughout your postnatal life!
- Fruits & vegetables
- Iron & Vitamin C
Eat the whole grains rather than refined ones. Whole grains are packed with nutrients like protein, fibre, antioxidants, and others that are great for reducing the risk of heart diseases. Avoid refined grains like white rice, white flour, and white pasta – basically anything white – because they have generally been stripped of their nutrient value hence containing pretty much zero vitamins, minerals, or fats to speak of. Therefore, stick with whole grains like whole-wheat bread and whole-grain pasta, brown rice, corn, and quinoa. Some grains like breads, rice, and pasta are great source of carbs that can fuel your energy to recover from childbirth and nurse your baby. A lot of healthier carbs substitutes for the plain white rice are high in fibre, protein, and have a low glycemic index (able to reduce your blood sugar levels). Pick the ones that will take longer to digest so you can feel full longer.
Fruits & vegetables
It goes without saying that fruit and vegetables will do wonders for your body. The content of vitamins and minerals in them are aplenty. They are an excellent source of dietary fibre that helps maintain a healthy gut and prevent constipation and other digestion problems. It lowers the blood cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of diabetes. Simply by loading your plate with these two, you can see the impressive results such as improved skin condition and reduced body pains. See, there is a solid reason why we used to be constantly nagged by our mothers to ‘finish the greens’, just as our mothers used to be nagged by theirs.
Piling up on protein is important to repair and build tissues, which a new mother that has gone through childbirth will desperately need. Due to contraction and labour, you may have torn some tissues. If you want to be cautious, you can always go for lean meats to ensure you will not be adding extra fats into your meals. Plus, your breastfeed baby requires a lot of protein to grow as well, so keep their needs in mind when planning your diet. Eat high-quality sources of protein like fish and chicken, unsweetened dairy products, and eggs. Dairy products are also high in calcium – you just have to choose ones that are fat-free or at least low in fat. In comparison to others, protein is possibly one type of nutrient that you will never get tired of the sources because there are so many options available. Hence, have fun with it and vary your protein routine. You do not have to pick meat every single day. Try switching things up every once in a while and add more nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
Iron and Vitamin C
These two need to be lumped together because they work for quite similar purposes. Iron carries oxygen-carrying blood cells throughout your body. Vitamin C helps to make sure these can be absorbed from all the parts that need these oxygen-carrying blood cells. To put it simply, iron and vitamin C are both essential elements that will help in blood production and blood absorption respectively.
The body cannot make iron on its own, but it sure needs a lot of it, so you get them from foods. It is not uncommon for a new mother to be diagnosed with iron deficiency, and that is when doctors would suggest that you eat more iron-rich food. Luckily, iron can be found in various foods. Some animal-based ones are meat, fish, and poultry. Others that are plant-based can be green vegetables, nuts and beans, and dried fruit. Compared to the plant-based ones, the animal-based ones are easier to be absorbed by the body. If you breastfeed, that is all the more reason to fill your body with iron-rich food. Usually, for the first six months of their life, a newborn only receives iron from the mother’s breast milk. So, do not deprive yourself of iron so you will not have to consume any iron supplement.
Meanwhile, for vitamin C, there is a lot of sweet fruits and vegetables to help you with increasing the iron levels. Citrus fruit is not recommended yet in case it can potentially irritate your stomach. If you are certain you will be fine, you may then proceed with. If your diet includes enough serving of fruits and vegetables every day, taking a vitamin C supplement may not be necessary. There are several signs of vitamin C deficiency like slow-healing wounds, painful joints, and dry, rough skin which indicate that you may have to take the supplement anyway. Of course, it is best to leave it to your doctor to help you with that decision. Some of the best (i.e. tastiest) vitamin C foods include papaya, tomatoes, and broccoli.
Galactagogues are substances that naturally promote breast milk production. Often taken in supplement form or teas, you can also consume them as deliciously-prepared foods as well. If you do not face this problem, or you, in fact, face the opposite of this, as in producing an abundance of milk, you may want to avoid the items mentioned here. Some of the best lactation-boosting foods are oatmeal, garlic, barley, and papaya.
Shaping your diet carefully is crucial, but so is taking other steps on the side to recover properly and not just depend on what you eat or drink. During confinement, stay away from weight loss diets and calorie counting. You can still opt for low-carb dishes, but make sure to load your plate with other nutrient-dense food as well. Reduce sugar to not worsen water retention, if you still experience it at this point. The key is to stock up on healthy foods so you will never run out of things to eat. When you crave something when you are hungry, your head is filled with sweet foods that may be unhealthy for you, especially at this time.
Going back to possibly your main concern, there may be no one around that can plan your daily meals or even prepare all foods for you. After you give birth, these two are nowhere near what you should be doing. The best way to go about it is to leave it to the professionals like a confinement meal provider or confinement nanny who can set up a confinement food menu and prepare your food at any time you prefer. If you wonder what else they can do for you, feel free to talk to us at PEM to learn more!