The body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy, of which weight is often one of the most common and observable. This is also known as the postpartum belly. Many mothers tend to compromise their postpartum diet in an eagerness to revert to their prenatal weight. However, eating well is important both during and after pregnancy, especially so if you are breastfeeding. Proper nourishment recovers not just the mother’s body but is also central to the baby’s development.
Eating the right foods that are nutritious will help you recover as fast as possible. After delivering a baby, your body requires good nutrition and diet to ensure faster recovery from childbirth. Additionally, if you are breastfeeding, mothers will require a higher calorie intake than normal, approximately 2,300 to 2,500 calories a day to produce high-quality breast milk. A low-calorie diet likely lacks important nutrients, resulting in fewer nutrients for you and your baby, which may lead to other side effects such as low energy levels.
This article will share how different nutrient groups assist in postpartum recovery and how to find them easily in everyday foods and what kind of food to avoid especially in the first few months of postpartum. We will also have a FAQs section at the end of this article for your viewing.
This article will also provide mommies with a basic nutritional understanding, and address concerns such as:
- What should I be consuming daily?
- How much should I be eating?
- Are there particular foods to avoid?
- How do different nutrient groups assist postpartum recovery?
- How will my diet affect my breast milk?
- What foods should I be sourcing my nutrients from?
- When can I expect to lose weight?
Take note that individual macronutrient and caloric requirements will differ based on factors such as activity level, BMI, existing health conditions (eg. Diabetes) etc. To optimize your diet and overall health, please discuss with your doctor or healthcare provider for a more accurate diet plan.
Macro and Micro Nutrients
Macronutrients (Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates) refer to the nutrients we need in large amounts to function. Micronutrients (Vitamins, Minerals) refer to the ones we need in smaller amounts.
But what should we be replenishing post-pregnancy, and are there certain foods that nourish us more efficiently and effectively?
Composed of amino acids, Protein is a complex substance with a vital role in cellular activities and binding. When lactating, the body requires approximately an additional 25g of protein a day. Examples of protein-rich foods include: eggs, lean meats, seafood, beans and legumes. Fishes such as Salmon also pack omega-3 fatty acids, which can be supportive to a baby’s brain development. It is also important to consume such proteins with moderate carbohydrate consumption to prevent the escalation of blood sugars which may overwhelm the pancreas as a result of insulin production. Protein is the most important for the first week of postpartum recovery as these will help speed up the process of recovery and repair for cells and tissue.
Our bodies require fat to absorb certain vitamins (A, D and E). Get fats from healthy sources such as nuts, seeds, avocadoes, extra virgin olive oil and certain fatty fish. Try to minimize the intake of saturated and trans fat, which can be found in foods such as butter, baked goods, fried foods, fatty cuts of certain meats and fast food.
Just like fats, there are certain carbohydrates that are better for the body, When eating, opt for whole grains and healthier options (eg. Brown rice, barley, whole-wheat breads and biscuits). There are also certain grains that pack more protein, such as quinoa and oats. Generally, try to minimize your intake of refined grains such as white flour, white rice and cereals.
Micronutrients refer to vitamins and minerals. For breastfeeding mothers, micronutrients can be categorized into two groups. The first group (eg. Vitamin B, D, A, Iodine) affects both the mother and baby, while the second group (eg. Calcium, Iron, Zinc) affects mostly only the mother. In the event that you are breastfeeding, it is important to consume foods high in Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, B12, D, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), choline and iodine which will help improve the quality of breastmilk. Additionally, doctors recommend that if you were initially consuming prenatal vitamins, you should continue consuming the same prenatal vitamin after childbirth as well as consume postnatal vitamins for the entire duration of breastfeeding and even after, if you do decide to have another baby.
For a list of the respective groups’ nutrients and sources, refer to the table below.
|Baby and Mother
|Concentration in breast milk
|Dependent on the availability in the mother’s body.
Consider taking supplements if you are deficient in any.
|Your breast milk will always contain enough Group 2 nutrients at any levels of availability in your own body.
If there are insufficient nutrients, they will be drawn from your bone and tissue stores. Therefore, it is vital that mommies replenish themselves through diet or supplements.
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin):
Fish, pork, seeds, nuts, beans
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin):
Cheese, nuts, red meat, oily fish, eggs
Chickpeas, nuts, fish, poultry, potatoes, bananas, dried fruit
Shellfish, liver, yogurt, oily fish, nutritional yeast, eggs
Eggs, beef liver, chicken liver, fish, peanuts
Sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, organ meats, eggs
Cod liver oil, oily fish, some mushrooms, fortified foods
Brazil nuts, seafood, turkey, whole wheat, seeds
Dried seaweed, cod, milk, iodized salt
Beans, lentils, leafy greens, asparagus, avocados
Milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens, legumes
Red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, green vegetables, dried fruit
Shellfish, Whole grains, nuts, beans, organ meats, potatoes
Oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, dairy
Foods to Avoid
To ensure the health of mothers and babies, there are some food choices to steer clear of and limit in consumption.
Although okay in small amounts, consuming too much while breastfeeding can disturb your baby’s mood and sleep patterns. Doctors recommend limiting your daily caffeine intake to less than 300 milligrams (about 2 cups of coffee).
Alcohol interferes with breast milk output and has also been linked to disrupted sleep and cognitive delays. Should you wish to drink, do so after your baby is past 3 months old and has an established feeding routine. Even then, drink moderately and at least 4 hours before breastfeeding.
Highly processed foods
Not only are they low in nutritional value, but processed foods may also skew your baby’s taste towards unhealthier choices, leading to later problems.
Foods with a high level of mercury
Foods that have a high level of mercury (eg. swordfish, tuna, king mackerel) will negatively affect a baby’s central nervous system, resulting in slowed or impaired growth. It has been linked to poorer development in cognitive and motor skills, speech/language ability and visual-spatial awareness.
What should postpartum weight loss look like?
Breastfeeding mothers should be eating approximately 400 to 500 more calories a day. Because of this, expect weight loss to be slower during the first three months. An approximate 1 pound (~0.45kg) per week or 4 pounds (~1.81kg) per month would be an ideal pace. Due to breast milk being drawn from the lower body’s maternal fat stores, you may also observe a more pronounced increase in hips or legs size. This is normal and will likely shrink as the body slows down on lactation. You can expect to start your weight-loss journey 3 months postpartum.
To manage your weight healthily, consider:
- Eating more frequently but in smaller portions.
- Some mothers find it helpful to have five to six small meals a day with snacks in between. Whichever you choose, DO NOT skip meals!
- Doing some light exercises.
- It is important to not stress your body too much, especially if you are suffering from an abdominal split (read more about Diastasis Recti here). Some safe and healthy options include walking, swimming, and yoga.
Healthy Eating Tips
The postpartum diet that you intend to take should generally allow you to have well-balanced meals and snacks consistently throughout the day to ensure that your body has the necessary nutrients to heal tissues and cells and ultimately feed your hunger pangs as well.
It is important to consume real whole foods and limit your consumption on the aforementioned foods to avoid. You can try some healthy recipes which include: soups, stews, cooked starches/grains (carbohydrates), cooked vegetables (fibre) and foods rich in Omega 3 (salmon, nuts etc.) and herbal teas. It is also essential to stay well hydrated, and aim for 6-10 glasses of water every day.
Make sure you are getting enough nutrients from the above-mentioned variety of sources especially if you are breastfeeding and do monitor your baby’s reactions to your diet and modify accordingly. Ultimately, regardless of the type of birth and whether you are breastfeeding or not, a postpartum weight loss plan should not be prioritized over your health and your baby’s health and it is good to allow your body to rejuvenate after childbirth. It is understandable that the weight gain may be distressing at times but it is important to think about your health in the long run. These essential nutrients from the postpartum diet will help speed up your process of healing after childbirth.
There are specialized centers that help with postnatal care in Singapore such as Orchard Clinic. We offer treatment concepts and unique methods that provide high-quality conservative solutions for women’s postnatal and postpartum recovery as well as help in the recovery of many postpartum-related conditions.
Click here to find out more about our treatment plans at Orchard Clinic.
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