You did it! You just carried and nourished a precious little life for 9 months and were victorious in delivery. Your body has truly done something marvelous! Your heart may be full of joy, but in reality your body may not feel so marvelous, however with good nutrition and as much self-care as you’re able, you can help your body heal in the days, weeks, and months to come.
Photography Credit: Paige Rankin, Fifth of June
The Importance of Nutrition
“There are so many things to focus on as a mama! Nutrition is last on my list!”
Here’s why you should strive to make it a priority:
- Healing your body – You have truly accomplished a marvelous task and due to the extensive demands on your body there is definitely time needed to heal. This includes as much rest as you’re able and flooding your body with foods highest in nutrients is going to give your body all the fuel it needs to recover properly.
- Nutrient depletion – Nine months of fueling the development of a human being, the physical demands of labor and delivery, and sleepless nights early on can contribute to depletion of key nutrients your body needs to restore and recover. Not focusing on replenishing these key nutrients during and after pregnancy can lead to various health complications, including adrenal fatigue, common among many mamas. Adrenal glands that function below necessary levels affect every organ and system in your body. Providing your body with proper nutrition will allow it to heal and replenish these key nutrients enabling you to function better overall.
- Breastfeeding – The demand on your body doesn’t end after delivery. As with pregnancy, your baby gets his or her nutrients from what you eat. The foundation of a baby’s gut health is established in the womb and while breastfeeding. In this post I discuss the benefits of breastfeeding on your baby’s microbiome.
- Milk supply – If you’re breastfeeding excellent nutrition can not only provide the best nutrition for your baby but also help ensure your milk supply remains adequate.
Whole Foods for Optimal Healing
The postpartum period can be quite uncomfortable as you gaze upon a body quite different than ever before. While many new mamas want to lose weight quickly, I would strongly recommend shifting your focus to nourishment and healing rather than weight loss. Your body will thank you in the long run if you take the time to heal properly now rather than giving undue attention to a number on the scale. By focusing on nourishing your body with whole foods you’ll not only promote optimal healing but also enable natural weight loss at an appropriate and healthful pace. Adopting a diet focused on whole foods now (or better yet, during pregnancy!) will allow for it to become natural and enable you to promote healthful eating in your family as well.
By focusing on the majority of your diet on vegetables, fruits, beans, healthy fats, and gluten-free whole grains, you will receive the nutrients necessary for your body to function at its prime while being able to lose weight naturally. These foods contain the most nutrients per calorie and provide your body with immense amounts of micronutrients needed for healing.
Special Nutritional Needs
Whole food nutrition is optimal for everyone, but mamas need to pay special attention to a few extra items.
- Folate – As during pregnancy, folate is essential for normal growth of cells including blood and nerve tissues. Your levels may be lower after the demands of pregnancy and delivery so it is important to replenish yourself and have an adequate amount for the transfer in your breast milk to your infant. Green plant foods are among some of the richest forms of folate. Excellent sources include: asparagus, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, bok choy and parsley. Additional sources of folate include beans and legumes, Brussels sprouts, green peas, papaya, and eggs to name a few.
- Iron – Depending on the amount of blood lost during delivery you may have lower iron levels, which is also a challenge for many during pregnancy since they’re sharing with their little buddy inside. Replenishing iron levels is important to regain strength and energy in these demanding days. Some particularly nutrient-dense iron rich foods are spirulina (blue-green algae that can easily be blended into smoothies), beans (especially kidney beans), blackstrap molasses (drizzle some on pumpkin oatmeal), dark leafy greens, dried fruit (such as raisins and apricots), whole grains (such as brown rice and rolled oats), nuts and seeds (especially pistachios), grass-fed beef, and dark chocolate (yes! It’s true!). You can enhance your absorption by eating Vitamin C rich foods at the same time (strawberries and spinach blended into your smoothie). If an iron supplement is necessary Floradix is an excellent, non-constipating option.
- Vitamin B12 – Helps maintain nerve and brain health and is responsible for the creation of red blood cells. Additionally, the health of your digestive tract is vital for maintaining proper B12 levels because your digestive tract is able to produce small amounts of this vitamin on it’s own. Consuming probiotic rich foods and taking a high-quality probiotic aids in maintaining proper levels. Animal sources are most abundant in Vitamin B12. This includes eggs, salmon, and tuna. Vitamin B12 is made by microorganisms and also found in the soil. In the past it would have been possible to be obtained from plants, however because our produce is washed and often transported long distances before we eat it most individuals are unable to obtain it from plant sources alone, therefore those following a vegetarian or vegan diet should certainly consider supplementing.
- Collagen – Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and the main structural protein found in skin and connective tissue. A special emphasis needs to be given to collagen and elastin recovery to aid in the healing of the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. Bone broth and collagen peptides are excellent ways to obtain this nutrient in a highly bioavailable and digestible manner. Adding Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides to a smoothie or glass of water is one great option.
- Copper, Magnesium, and Zinc – These three minerals in particular aid in collagen being utilized efficiently and effectively in the body and further promote healing of tissue. Additionally, magnesium is an excellent natural means for keeping your bowels regular. Foods that contain superior levels of these three minerals are dark leafy greens, sesame seeds, cashews, mushrooms, beans, and bananas.
- Vitamin C and Vitamin D – Important for tissue healing. Vitamin C is abundant in vegetables and fruits and good sources of Vitamin D include mushrooms, eggs, and certain types of fish (mackerel, salmon, whitefish, sardines).
While a list of must-needed nutrients can feel overwhelming you can see that there is much overlap in foods. So many of these foods can be blended into smoothies or quickly tossed in a salad bowl to give your body loads of nourishment for healing, strength and energy! I’m passionate about working with individuals to fuel themselves well for long-term health easily and efficiently so they can focus on others areas of life. If you’re pre- or postnatal and looking to nourish yourself well it would be my joy to work alongside you!
**As always, the recommendations made in this post, whether dietary or regarding supplements, are provided for informational purposes only. They should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your professional healthcare providers before beginning any new treatment.