Nutrition for Breastfeeding Mothers
Postpartum nutrition 101 + One simple trick to hydrate and nourish well when breastfeeding
Most people are surprised to find out that breastfeeding your newborn takes more energy than growing a baby in utero. The fact is that nursing requires more calories than pregnancy, even in the third trimester when the baby grows most.
The 4th trimester is a popular term attributed to the first 3 months postpartum. It is a phase of heightened vulnerability due to fluctuating hormones, erratic sleep routine and the intense physicality required to look after a baby that’s completely dependent on you (especially when exclusively breastfeeding!). Postpartum blues, therefore, can be a troublesome outcome of this sensitive time. Good nutrition can play a major role in helping mothers navigate this transition a tad more gracefully.
The 3 top nutrition priorities for the 4th trimester when exclusively breastfeeding:
Fluid demands naturally increase when lactating. Missing out on proper hydration can lead to headaches or even massive migraines which coupled with increased caffeine intake and poor sleep can really become debilitating. Inadequate hydration will also affect digestion and complicate bowel regularity.
Nutrient and energy dense foods
You will need extra nutrient dense foods because the caloric demands are high during this time. It’s best to focus on “bang for buck” foods that will give you lots of nutrients while also adding much needed calories for lactation. These nutrient and energy dense foods should make the bulk of your daily intake. While it is perfectly good and necessary to have energy dense foods that are less nutritious such as a donut, a cinnamon roll, fries or chips to keep your sanity while enjoying something tasty, all too often, when under the spell of the newborn haze, it is easy to fall into making these foods the normal and usual. Leaning on dense food with low nutrition will leave you feeling energy deprived and may affect your mood further- making postpartum blues more challenging to handle
High fiber diet
Ahigh fiber diet is highly recommended for postpartum as constipation can easily arise with lack of routine and increase hydration needs for lactation. Choosing whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables is the way to go. Prune juice and dates are top natural stool softeners. And of course high fiber diets need high fluid intake to be effective, so again don’t forget to drink galore!
While there are many different ways of meeting these top priorities one easy trick that tackles all three in one go is drinking smoothies.
Mix and match these ingredients to make great nutrient- dense whole food smoothies
- For hydration – add milk, yogurt, coconut water, nut milks, juices.
- For nutrient and energy density – add dates, nut butters, chia seeds, oats, nuts and seeds, cocoa powder, high fat milk or yogurt, coconut milk/oil, avocado.
- For high fiber– prune juice, dates, hemp hearts, flax meal, your favourite fruits (banana, berries, mango and more) and veggies like spinach or kale.
Looking for one of my favorite options to top up your energy and help beat postpartum blues? Try this tasty recipe for a blueberry cocoa smoothie.
Blueberry Cocoa Smoothie
Makes 24 oz (1-2 servings)
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 small banana
- 1 cup spinach/ swiss chard
- 1 large date
- 1 TBSP flax seeds
- 1 TBSP pumpkin seeds
- 1 TBSP cocoa powder
- Blend all ingredients. Serve and enjoy!
- If you have other kids to feed other than your newborn, double the recipe and share, they will love it!
Looking for more simple meal planning tips and healthy recipes for a healthier lifestyle? Sign up for our weekly newsletter for a healthy recipe of the week (and nutrition articles and videos with a balanced living philosophy to help encourage healthy habits but still save room for your favorites). Our nutrition newsletter is written by the Online / Calgary Nutritionists on our team who each hold a professional Registered Dietitian license to ensure you are getting credible advice.
Daniela O’Brien is known for her contagious smile, warm approachability and collaborative approach to nutrition counselling for individuals and families. Her non-judgemental, calm demeaner mixed with confidence and clear direction is especially helpful when families are struggling with meal planning challenges, picky eating, health issues and complex eating disorders. Daniela specializes in Disordered Eating, Emotional Eating, Weight Concerns, Pre/Post-natal, Infant/Kids/Family Nutrition and offers services in both English and Spanish.