By Erin Wyatt a Recent ASU Nutrition Student
During pregnancy, a woman tries her hardest to be the healthiest vessel for her growing child. She forces giant prenatal vitamins down every day, avoids delicious foods like sushi, unpasteurized cheeses, and wine, and tries to waddle through workouts, all to provide a safe haven for her little one.
Once the child is brought into the world, all of the focus goes into growing and nurturing this new precious being. All of that special attention that went to keeping the mother healthy, disappears. While the baby should absolutely be the priority, mothers need to make sure they continue to nourish and care for themselves during this important adjustment period. This can be done by consuming specific nutrients, staying active, and having support.
Key Nutrients for New Moms
Many women immediately focus on losing the weight that they gained during pregnancy. However, this should not be a priority for a while. As a new mom myself, I expected the weight to fall right off as soon as my baby was born. This does not happen. It takes time and that is ok. Slashing calories too quickly to get back to pre-pregnancy weight can actually have negative effects, including reducing milk production if breastfeeding. In fact, breastfeeding mothers need an additional 500 calories a day to keep up with milk production.1
Certain nutrients need to be replenished after pregnancy. Those include calcium, Vitamin B6, and folate.1 These can be found in dairy, poultry, and leafy greens. Some women continue taking their prenatal or switch to a regular multivitamin during this time, as it is hard to get these nutrients from diet alone when you barely have time to shower. Another important item for mothers to consume is water. Hydration will keep everything moving along, as in digestion, at a time when you need it to most. Water, along with a variety of nutritious foods will help give the stamina needed when running on fumes from sleepless nights.
It may not sound appealing after giving birth, but physical activity is an important part of postpartum care. No one can run a marathon in the days after having a child, but it is amazing how quickly the body recovers. Personally, I could only make it to the mailbox at first, then down the block, and eventually around the neighborhood. After getting the green light to exercise again from my doctor, I started attending “mommy & me” activities, taking long park walks with the stroller, and at-home workout videos. I am nowhere near the fitness level that I was before my baby was born, but I do notice a difference in my health and mood after incorporating physical activity into my busy day. In fact, research shows that postpartum exercise can actually reduce fatigue improve mental clarity.2
Becoming a mom is a remarkable and amazing feeling, but it can also be overwhelming and scary at times. Women need support during the postpartum period. Some are lucky enough to have family around, others may live far away from their loved ones. Enter mom friends. Sometimes you just need to know that you are not going through this alone and your baby’s cries are perfectly normal. Reaching out to other mothers in your area can be done through community centers, the internet, or even at the park. It may seem a bit awkward at first, striking up a conversation with a stranger, but fast friends are created when commiserating over lack of sleep.
Postpartum health is often overlooked, but very important for new mothers. One way to achieve this goal is to load up on a variety of nutritious foods, focusing on calcium, Vitamin B6, and folate. Another way is to include any type of physical activity, large or small. Lastly, finding a support system within the community will provide new moms with the comfort and encouragement to navigate this new time in their lives. The postpartum stage should not only be a time to focus on nurturing the baby, but also the mother. A happy and healthy mom equals a happy and healthy baby.
Looking for more articles to help boost your healthy living? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some recipes that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the recipe section on our website.
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Nutritional Status During Pregnancy and Lactation. Nutrition Services in Perinatal Care: Second Edition. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1992. 2, Nutritional Concerns of Women in the Preconceptional, Prenatal, and Postpartum Periods. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235913/
- Roy, B. A. (2014). Postpartum Exercise. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 18(6), 3–4. doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000071.