After delivery, the first thing many women start to think about is getting back to their body before pregnancy. Your body has just done one of the most remarkable things, grow another human being. After nine months of waiting, you are probably excited to finally be home with your new baby. Much of your focus and energy during the coming weeks and months will be on baby but remember that you also need to take care of yourself. Your delivery may have been complicated or easy, or you may have had a cesarean or vaginal delivery, or labored for a few hours or a few days. No matter what your delivery looked like, your body has been through a trauma just the same. It is going to need time to recover and nutrition will play a key role in that recovery.
Taking Care of Yourself After Birth
Your postpartum recovery won’t be just a few days. Fully recovering from pregnancy and childbirth can take months. While many women feel mostly recovered around six to eight weeks, it can vary for each woman. The postpartum period involves the mother progressing through many changes, both emotionally and physically, while learning how to deal with all the changes and adjustments required with becoming a new mother. The postpartum period also involves the parents learning how to care for their newborn and learning how to function as a changed family unit.
A mother needs to take good care of herself to rebuild her strength. The best thing you can do for your body is to rest, eat well, and give yourself a break. It took the better part of a year to grow and have a baby. Take comfort in knowing that, for the most part, you will begin to feel like yourself much sooner than that. In a few months, you should be well on your way to recovery. That is not to say that postpartum recovery won’t have its challenges. It is very common to feel as though your body is not healing as quickly as you’d like. Remember, the more you can rest your body and let it fully recover, while listening to its cues, the better you’ll be for it. Even if you can only manage to eat, sleep, and care for your baby, that is enough. During the first six weeks, pay attention to your body. You’ll be tired and focused on your baby, but try to notice changes with your own body. This is very important as you heal. As you begin to feel better, resist the temptation to do more. Overdoing things at this point can set you back in your recovery. Concentrate on nourishing your body with nutritious, energy dense foods, drinking plenty of water (especially if you are breastfeeding), and getting enough rest.
Weight Loss After Child Birth
You are not alone in wondering about losing weight. Many women are anxious to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight after childbirth. Try to remember that your pregnancy weight wasn’t gained overnight so it won’t disappear that quickly, either. The weight gained in pregnancy helps build stores for your recovery and for breastfeeding. The American Pregnancy Association breaks down the average pregnancy weight gain distribution. About 4 pounds of the weight gained is from fluid volume alone. Typically fluid weight is what is lost first postpartum. Another 4 pounds is usually gained during pregnancy due to increased blood volume, which will also decrease and go back to normal after delivery. Remember that you’ve come a long way. First off, take a moment to acknowledge what your body has just accomplished. It’s pretty incredible when you come to think about it. At this point, it’s imperative to know what to eat after having a baby, so you can feed your body in a way that sets you up for this next stage of your life, and if you are breastfeeding also affords your child optimal nutrition support.
It’s no secret that many women seek to lose the baby weight after giving birth. While getting to a place that you feel comfortable and healthy is an excellent goal, it’s important to take things slowly. A crash diet that eliminates some food groups may do more harm than good when it comes to weight loss after giving birth. With the changes of taking care of a newborn, some women struggle with weight loss due to lack of sleep and their hormones being out-of-whack, even despite how well they are eating. Breastfeeding can help with weight loss due to it causing the uterus to contract and help it return to normal size faster. During pregnancy, the uterus weighs about 2 pounds. Mothers who are breastfeeding will need about 300-500 extra calories a day to support lactation. Most doctors recommend not returning to exercise until six to eight weeks postpartum if baby was born via cesarean. Having a new baby at home and having your sleep interrupted can easily make it challenging to return to exercise. The best thing to do is to stick with healthy, balanced eating, listening to your internal hunger and fullness cues and to start moving your body in a way that makes you feel good when your doctor has cleared you to. Many mothers lose weight in the early months by following a well-balanced diet and eating intuitively by listening to hunger cues.
The Importance of Postpartum Nutrition
For nine months, the food you ate fueled you and your baby. But after you give birth, your diet is just as important. It helps your body recover and gives you the energy you need to care for your little one.When navigating nutrition post-pregnancy and if choosing to breastfeed, it’s worth bearing in mind that you will need to slightly increase your calorie consumption to maintain energy levels as well as up your protein, calcium and iron intake. Protein serves as your body’s building blocks. It’s the foundation for all your enzymes, hormones, and body tissue. After supporting your baby’s growth for nine months, it’s necessary to replenish your own reserve. While pregnant, a woman may change her diet in order to support the new nutritional needs of her body and her growing baby. After giving birth, it’s important to continue to maintain those good nutritional habits in order to support healing. The goal of nutrition immediately after childbirth should not necessarily be to lose weight, but rather to support the caloric needs of a new mother who is caring for herself, a newborn, and any older children she may have. The good news is that most of the foods women are advised to avoid during pregnancy can safely go back into the new mother’s diet. Soft cheeses, deli meats, fish, sushi, and tuna can once again be eaten without concern for how they will affect a developing fetus. Caffeine and alcohol are still best taken only in moderation, especially for mothers who are breastfeeding.
Focus on Nutrient Dense foods
It’s recommended that new mothers nourish their bodies with foods that provide lasting energy and are dense with nutrients to help aid in recovery. In the first hectic days after giving birth, it may be tempting to turn to convenience foods which are often lacking in nutrient density. These foods include refined carbohydrate-based food and drink such as pastries, cookies and muffins, colas and other sugary drinks that do not provide lasting energy and dense nutrition. Some examples of nutrient dense foods that are also convenient include carrots and hummus, pre-cut fruits and vegetables, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, granola bars, cheese, grapes, bananas, raisins, nuts, and whole-wheat bread and whole grain cereal
Eating More Frequently Postpartum
Eating smaller meals on a more frequent basis can be helpful to maintain energy levels during the day. Heavier meals require more energy to digest, which only takes more energy away from the needs of a sleep-deprived new mother. Smaller, more frequent meals can keep blood sugar at a more even level, which helps avoid the peaks and dips that can lead to fatigue. A small meal or snack should still be balanced enough to contain some protein. Hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter and celery, or cheese and apple slices are quick and nutrient dense snacks.
Delivering a baby causes massive fluid loss, and replacing those fluids is important to avoid dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, which is not helpful to a new mother. Drinking enough water every day will help avoid fatigue that could be caused by dehydration. Staying hydrated is important for mothers who are also breastfeeding, because while breastfeeding does not contribute to dehydration, being severely dehydrated could reduce milk production and affect the composition of the milk. Nursing mothers should aim to take in a little extra fluid to replace what is lost. A good rule of thumb is to drink some water a few minutes before sitting down to nurse, or to keep a bottle of water next to you wherever you are nursing.
Every new parent soon learns that babies have different time clocks than adults. A typical newborn awakens about every three hours and needs to be fed, changed, and comforted. Especially if this is their first baby, parents can become overwhelmed by exhaustion. Although a solid eight hours of sleep for you may not happen again for several months, the following suggestions may be helpful in finding ways to get more rest now.
- In the first few weeks, a mother needs to be relieved of all responsibilities other than feeding the baby and taking care of herself.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps. This may be only a few minutes of rest several times a day, but these minutes can add up.
- Save steps and time. Have your baby’s bed near yours for feedings at night.
- Many new parents enjoy visits from friends and family, but new mothers should not feel obligated to entertain. Feel free to excuse yourself for a nap or to feed your baby.
- Get outside for a few minutes each day. You can begin walking and doing postpartum exercises, as advised by your healthcare provider.
The postpartum period is exciting, life-changing and overwhelming. Postpartum nutrition is important for healing and the body knows what it needs to do and can return to pre-pregnancy weight by eating intuitively, including nutrient dense foods for breastfeeding and healing, adding in joyful movement and having overall body kindness by getting rest and breaks when able. By following these tips, doing your best to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of your baby, and being patient, you’ll get through it and recover fully in time. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy this special stage with your new baby. It will go faster than you think!