Recently, I was asked by post-partum fitness trainer at Activcore in Cherry Creek, what do women need to do about their nutrition when they are post partum? Well, as you can guess I had a lot to say. You can read it all right here.
1. In general, what are the most important nutritional considerations for a postpartum mom? Breastfeeding mom?
First and foremost, you’ll want to ensure that you are eating to support the healing your body is doing after birth. Foods high in omega-3’s help to reduce inflammation which is occurring in your vaginal region and your swelling breasts. Some examples of high omega 3 foods are; wild caught salmon, sardines and including a lot of seeds (chia, flax, hemp) in your diet will help. You can add seeds to your morning oatmeal or smoothie. Second, eat food high in iron, we all lose blood during birth, some of us lose a lot. Steamed spinach is a great side to dinner, it packs a lot of iron. Grass fed and finished beef is another way to increase your iron intake after birth, as animal based iron is easier for our bodies to absorb. Third, make sure that you are drinking enough water. You’ll want to aim for half your body weight in ounces of water. Say you weight 150 lbs, you’ll want to drink 75 oz of water per day. Prioritize this water intake before any other beverage. I always tell people it took you 9 months to get to this place, give yourself 9 months grace now. 9 months up and 9 months down. When you properly fuel yourself during these 9 months often your body will get there on it’s own. It is important to know that if you are breastfeeding your body needs the right fuel to support both your needs as well as a growing baby. One thing to consider is to make sure that you are eating enough healthy fats. Healthy fats incudes; grass-fed butter, Kerry gold brand for example, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, seeds (chia, flax, hemp) and nuts (cashews, pistachios, walnuts and pecans). I am not a proponent for counting calories or macros.
2. In regards to returning to fitness, what in addition to the general considerations is recommended?
You’ll want to make sure that you’ve been cleared to begin working out. Second, you’ll want to be gentle with yourself. Your body just went through a lot! Third, you’ll want to make sure that you’re eating to support your body’s healing and the added component and demands that working out/exercise brings. Too many mothers are quick to want to loose the weight, often not understanding that your body will keep some on, up to 10 pounds, as an insurance to make sure that your baby has enough food. Your body can utilize these extra pounds to make milk if it needs. Your body doesn’t care that you have other goals, like running a 5 K or wanting to hit the pool in a bikini. Use this time to strengthen your muscles and tone them. Then as the weight drops you’ll have a strong body underneath. Yoga is a great place to start. Many new mothers do not consume enough food when adding in exercise, which causes them to feel drained, low energy and they may notice lower milk supply.
3. Would your recommendations be different for a runner vs crossfit / HIIT style athlete?
Yes, as these work out styles can increase the energy demands on the body. When you are nursing your body needs more additional calories per day then it did when you were pregnant. If you are adding in a demanding workout on top of that it is critical that you are fueling your body with the right foods and water. If you find that you are ravenous, always hungry, craving sugar or carbs these are signs from your body that you need more fuel for energy. When you feel this way reach for a high protein and healthy fat snack or meal. Prepping foods once or twice per week will help you stick to a healthy eating regime. When you are hungry allowing to reach for the right healthy foods for your body. I find when mamas are reaching for packaged food snacks and bars they are not losing their baby weight like they want to. Real foods are your friends, prep them to have them ready for you.
4. Does exercising affect milk supply?
Yes and no. Exercising, per say, doesn’t affect your milk supply, in the sense it’s not like riding an exercise bike overtly affects your milk supply. However, indirectly it has a large impact. A postpartum mother adding in exercise is placing an increased demand on an already hard working body. If the mother is not eating well the body has to work extra hard to provide nutrient dense milk for baby and the mother is left more and more deficient in critical nutrients. Also I’ve seen with many mothers who are not eating enough healthy fats their milk almost becomes more like skim milk. The body will always prioritize making milk for the baby, yet when the mother doesn’t consume enough healthy fats eventually the milk will be affected too. What could this mean for mama if down the road she’d like to have another baby or for her future brain health( 10-15 years later)? Our bodies need healthy fats to sustain these and many more items.
5. What are some good / easy snacks you recommend to support return to fitness for postpartum & breastfeeding?
It’s always a great idea to choose real organic whole foods over packaged foods. Real foods are packed with nutrients and don’t have all the excess chemicals and preservatives that can negatively affect you and baby’s health. As a new mother time is critical and scheduling prep time will set you up for success, building in time to prepare healthy snacks so when you are hungry or even hangry you don’t just grab anything. Some great snacks to support and fuel your body are:
· A baked sweet potato, topped with coconut oil and sea salt. Prep tip- you can bake 8 at the same time and keep these in your fridge to pull out eat day. Eating these cold will expose your body to R4 starch which can even help support weight loss.
· Turkey & Avocado rolls: take clean turkey deli meat and wrap around sliced avocados.
· Unsweetened Non-dairy yogurt & homemade granola. Non-dairy yogurt is important as many newborns have issue with dairy in the mothers diet. Reflux, colic, constipation, and even skin rashes are often associated with mother’s intake of dairy. Also check ingredient labels way to much sugar is added to yogurt! Opt for unsweetened and add a touch of raw honey for natural sweetness.
Also make your own granola because store bought granola is loaded with too much sugar. Check out my blog post for a great recipe: Best Granola You’ve Ever Had