Postpartum Nutrition

It’s been two weeks since we welcomed Sadie earth side.  Two weeks of juggling two girls, double the washing, sleepless nights but also two weeks of watching our two girls bond, having double the love, and getting to know our precious Sadie……all while recovering from labor.

Traditionally many cultures have a period of total rest and bonding for mother and baby.  In our fast-past world of 2019 this is often incredibly hard for many of us to achieve this however there is still a lot we can do to look after ourselves and our health.  One of those using nutrient-dense food to support, nourish, repair and fuel our bodies.

Recent research has confirmed how important this time is and has looked at nutrient depletion during pregnancy, breastfeeding and postpartum depression.  A link was shown between nutrient depletion and key mood regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin and also that lower levels of folate, vitamin D, iron, selenium, zinc, fats, and fatty acids have all been associated with a higher risk of post-partum depression.

 

So here are some ways I am currently nourishing my body:

 

  1. Fluids – Not only because of this crazy heat but water and hydration is also required for rebuilding and regenerating and it is essential to produce breast milk.I have never been as thirsty as I have when I am breast feeding!  Plus, labor itself can leave many women dehydrated which happened to me while in labor with Maisie so I made sure this time around we kept on top of my fluids from the start.  Soups are naturally very nourishing and are a great way to load lots of different vegetables and nutrients in, and while in the middle of summer it is not something we often feel like I have been ensuring I have a cup of Bone Broth each day as it contains collagen which is great for rebuilding tissues and gut health.

 

  1. Protein – Protein is necessary to build and repair tissue, for synthesizing hormones, enzymes and antibodies and for many other bodily functions. As well as helping to keep us full for longer.So, I am adding pea protein and hemp seeds to my smoothies, snacking on natural nuts and roasted chickpeas, having eggs and salmon for breakfast, and using smoked salmon (I’m making up for the last 9 months!), or left overs for lunch such as quinoa, chicken, lamb or beef.

 

  1. Carbohydrates – Carbohydrate requirement increases during breastfeeding to provide the energy for the synthesis of milk (2) and continue to fuel us through these busy days. Carbohydrates that are easy to prepare and quick to cook can still be nourishing, wholegrain and plant based such as adding oats to smoothies or an oat based muesli, sourdough or seed bread for toast or sandwiches, a ‘microwaved’ baked kumara, wholemeal or legume pasta, soba noodles, using leftover roast vegetables to make a salad for lunch the next day, and wholemeal couscous which requires no cooking and is ready in 5min.

 

  1. Fats – Fat is a concentrated source of energy, it provides the mechanism for absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and carries flavour. Usually, just over half the energy content of breast milk is fat. The fatty acids in breast milk are sourced from maternal diet or maternal fat stores, or synthesised by the breast.  Think avocado on toast, coconut cream in smoothies and chia puddings, poached eggs and salmon, homemade nut and seed slice.

 

  1. Variety – Eating a colorful variety of fresh produce and foods will provide a range of nutrients such as Vitamin D, B12, Iron, folate, iodine, selenium and magnesium so I am making the most of the seasonal summer vegetables and fruits that are currently available and at their best.

 

References:

T Sparling, R Nesbitt, N Henshke, S Gabrysch (2017). Nutrients and perinatal depression: a systematic review. Journal of Nutritional Science 20:6:e61

Ministry of Health Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women: A background paper

Riordan J. 2005. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation. (4th ed). Toronto, Canada: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Lonnerdal B. 1986. Effects of maternal dietary intake on human milk composition. Journal of Nutrition 116(4): 499–513.