Post-Baby Eating Tips For the New Mom: Teleclass Re-cap
This teleclass was facilitated by Danielle Shea Tan, a Certified Health Coach. Danielle focused on common nutritional deficiencies and post-partum health challenges; foods that can boost your strength, mood and vitality; simple ways to incorporate foods and lifestyle changes that support the post-partum mom; the link between nutrition to immunity and energy levels; and last but not least, strategies for maintaining your health when you’re sleep deprived.
In case you missed it, you can hear the recorded teleclass here.
Danielle also answered some very important questions during the teleclass to help guide new moms. The following are some highlights:
Can you briefly describe what mom’s body has gone through after having a baby?
Women’s bodies go through a lot of distress while pregnant and in labor and delivery. A few examples include: physical exhaustion, stress on the bones, blood loss from delivery/surgery, damage to muscle and tissue from natural or c-section birth, hormonal changes and exposure to toxins from antibiotics and pain medication.
Why is this information so important when considering how to eat after baby?
Acknowledging what a new mother’s body and mind has experienced after the birth of a child is a critical input for which food and lifestyle choices will best support her healing process. Moms who keep in mind that food is medicine and provide her body with the right nutrients to rebuild blood loss, heal torn muscle and tissue, eliminate toxins and boost immunity, are much more likely to heal rapidly.
Before we get into specific nutrition recommendations, can you explain the concept of primary and secondary foods?
Primary foods are the aspects of our life that we don’t consume: physical exercise, positive & strong relationships, a healthy home environment, a fulfilling career, spirituality and balanced financial health. Secondary foods are the nutrients, in the form of food/drink, we consume to keep our bodies functioning effectively. It’s important to distinguish between the two because many people, new moms included, use secondary foods to fill primary food voids (e.g., stress eating from not enough physical activity to reduce stress).
Let’s get into specific nutritional recommendations to support the physical experiences moms have experienced through pregnancy, labor and delivery. First, which foods are best to address the blood loss mom experiences after delivery?
Moms lose an average of 1 pint of blood in natural vaginal delivery and 2 pints of blood in a cesarean birth. To support the blood rebuilding process, new moms will want to eat foods both rich in iron plus foods high in vitamin C and lactic acid to ensure proper absorption. The best choices include both iron and vitamin C like spinach and kale. Other foods high in iron include: whole grains, cooked dried beans, blackstrap molasses, hemp seeds, dried apricots (sulfite free), organic red meat and wild fish. Serve these iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C such as red bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries or oranges or foods high in lactic acid such as sauerkraut or yogurt.
Are there foods that can help the body heal from soft tissue damage from both surgery and natural delivery?
- First, consume foods with anti-inflammatory properties including: Berries, Wild Salmon, Bok Choy (or any other cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower), and Ginger
- Second, eat foods containing high levels of quercetin, a phytonutrient known to reduce inflammation including: Apples, grapes, green tea
One major concern moms with c-sections have is possible infection. Are there foods we can eat to reduce our risk of infection?
Three simple ways to boost immune function through nutrition are to eat foods high in vitamin C, choose foods containing allicin, a natural antibacterial and antiviral phytonutrient, and include foods that promote healthy digestion.
- Foods high in Vitamin C: red bell peppers, kale, strawberries, oranges, kiwi
- Foods containing allicin: garlic and onions (preferably raw if possible so add to a salad or in guacamole)
- Foods promoting healthy digestion: Leafy greens cooked or raw, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir or miso
Is there really anything we can do nutritionally speaking to help with the pure physical exhaustion that comes with motherhood?
Rest is the #1 primary food your body needs to recover from physical exhaustion.
Focus on nutrient dense foods to build up your nutrient stores that have been depleted from creating a baby and that are being depleted as you nurse your baby, too.
- Foods that I love which are most nutrient dense on a calorie per calorie basis: kale, avocado, broccoli, sweet potato, hemp seeds, chia seeds, wild salmon
What are your favorite foods to boost strength in vitality in mom after baby joins the family? Why?
- Avocados – High in copper for red blood cell formation, anti-inflammatory due to high Vitamin C and E, carotenoids, selenium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids
- Kale and Spinach – Packed with iron for building blood, vitamin C and K for immunity, keeps moms digestion strong, high levels of magnesium for lower stress and better sleep
- Raw nuts and seeds – walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds – easily absorbable form of protein that includes many B vitamins, includes magnesium for restful sleep and muscle recovery
- Flaxseed – to support healthy digestion which leads to better immunity
- Chia seeds – high in B vitamins plus many others to boost energy
Are there any foods specific for keeping mom’s milk supply strong and high in nutrients for baby?
Nearly every culture uses specific foods and herbs to support mothers who are breastfeeding. Galactagogues stimulate the production or flow of breast milk in lactating women. Moms who are breastfeeding may want to include the following foods that are known galactagogues in their diet:
- Raw nuts (almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts)
- Grains and legumes (oats, millet, barley, rice, chickpeas and lentils)
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale and chard)
- Reddish-colored root vegetables (carrot, beets and yams)
- Breastfeeding moms can also cook with garlic, ginger and turmeric, three herbs that are known galactagogues.
Which primary foods are most important to support mom post-baby?
Three primary foods that are most critical to support a healthy mom after baby is born include: a strong, healthy home environment, physical activity and positive relationships. New moms who ask and accept support from friends or family will shorten the physical healing time and promote mental well-being, both of which benefit your new baby! Getting this type of support can be as simple as asking visitors to pick-up some groceries (choose simple, nutrient-dense foods we discussed today) or doing a load of laundry. If that doesn’t feel right to you, spend a little money to get food delivered through a service like Peapod or drop off laundry at a wash/fold center for a small fee. These small investments of $20 or less make a HUGE difference in the health of you and your family.
What are a few lifestyle strategies you recommend a new mom adopt to improve her health and happiness?
- Stock your pantry, car, even your bedside table with healthy snacks. Making these snacks readily available will ensure are well nourished all the time. Some favorites include: nuts, seeds, grab-n-go fruit like apples, clementines, nut butters, dried fruit (in small quantities)
- Have a delicious and healthy foods readily available or easy to assemble
- Add in smoothies where you can pack in raw frozen spinach & berries
- Make roasted vegetables in big batches so you always have access to them in the fridge
- Buy pre-made hummus and bean dip for filling snacks
- Select a few nutrient-dense AND super easy recipes like veggie tacos that your partner or family/friends can make you.
- Make soups in crockpots so you can drop in the veggies and stock, set it and forget it
- Adopt a positive sleep routine
- Turn the tv, phone or computer off at least 45 minutes before you need to fall asleep
- Invest in some high quality lavender oil to promote sleep
- Take a bath
- Do some yoga nidra before falling asleep
We’re all sleep deprived, how does this impact the body?
Did you know sleep deprivation is a form of torture? Sleep is a time for the body to rest and heal itself. If we are sleep deprived, our minds and bodies do not function effectively. When a new mom doesn’t take the time to catch up on sleep, she increases her risk of post partum depression and compromises her immune systems leaving her more likely to get a cold or virus. Plus, lack of sleep reduces our ability to handle stressful situations like a new baby crying multiple hours per day! Finally, lack of sleep will have new moms craving foods and drinks that are high in sugar or caffeine which further compromise the immune system and increase anxiety. New moms will benefit from being gentle with themselves and giving themselves permission to hunker down and focus on baby, family and her own health.
Are there foods moms can eat to support sleep deprivation?
- Yes! To promote positive sleep, reduce anxiety and lower stress, moms can choose foods high in magnesium including: spinach, quinoa, brown rice, kidney beans, oatmeal, brazil nuts & bananas. Many of these foods will support blood rebuilding and milk production.
- Moms who need a boost of energy can add chia seeds to their oatmeal or any whole grain dish (be sure not to eat them too late at night though). Instead of coffee, moms will want to choose green tea to get a healthy dose of antioxidants and caffeine that won’t interfere with nighttime sleep.
What is the biggest issue negatively impacting mom’s health post-baby?
Moms who’ve delivered a baby in the last year have experienced dramatic changes to their bodies and their lives. One of the biggest issues impacting both mom and baby’s health after delivery is when mom is not consuming adequate nutrients. Post partum moms need a nourishing diet to:
- Heal properly
- Produce nutritious milk for baby
- Think rationally
- Boost metabolism
- Keep blood sugar stable
- Function at peak levels
How can mom be sure she is getting enough nutrients?
- Consume 7-10 diverse servings of fruit and veggies per day.
- Eat at least one serving of dark leafy greens per day. Try alternative between raw and cooked greens.
- Eat at least one serving of raw nuts or seeds per day.
- Drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day to help rebuilding blood and keep your body hydrated for nursing.
- Eat enough calories, especially while breastfeeding. Add in 1-2 snacks or a small meal per day to replace the calories and nutrients lost through breastfeeding.
Danielle Shea Tan is the Founder of Healthy Mamas for Happy Families. Danielle is a Busy Mama. Nutrition & Wellness Coach wife, friend, daughter, yogi, foodie, bleeding heart, world traveler…yes busy! She is also a Certified Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (2012). She started Healthy Mamas for Happy Families with the goal to help mamas become healthy role models for their families.