Following a healthy diet is very important during pregnancy to ensure that you and your baby are getting all the nutrients you both need. It is also important for new mothers to eat healthy after the baby is born to keep up with the growing nutritional demands to help you recover from labor.
A good diet is especially important if you are breastfeeding to ensure that your baby gets all the important nutrients required for proper growth and development.
Lactation raises nutrient needs through both colostrum and breast milk. The nutrients present in breast milk come from the diet of the mother. The conversion of nutrients in food to nutrients in breast milk is not complete. To have a good nutritional status breastfeeding women have to increase their nutrient intake.
The length of time to breastfeed can vary. The American Association of Pediatrics suggests that babies be breastfed for a minimum of one year, while the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. But you can breastfeed as much and as long as you feel comfortable with!
Breastfeeding reduces your baby’s risk of developing asthma or allergies, respiratory illnesses, frequent ear infections, and other ailments. Plus, it will help you and your baby develop a bond.
To make sure that you and your baby get all the nutrients you both need, include some of these healthy foods in your diet during the postpartum period.
Nutritious Foods for New Mothers
Here are some healthy foods that every new mother needs to eat.
Eggs are an excellent source of good quality protein with the ideal balance of amino acids. This will provide you strength and stamina to take care of yourself as well as of your baby.
Egg yolks are also one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, an essential nutrient to keep your bones strong and help your baby’s bones grow. Plus, the choline in eggs is crucial for building the memory center of a baby’s brain. Vegetarians and vegans can get their choline from dark green leafy vegetables like asparagus, spinach and kale.
Deficiency of choline can lead to neural tube defects and possibly low brain function, which is why it’s so important to have it in your diet when you are pregnant. It’s also crucial for you and your baby post-delivery.
Eat one to two whole eggs daily. You can have them scrambled, hard-boiled or in an omelet.
Oatmeal is one of the most popular lactogenic foods. This natural whole-grain, high-fiber food is easily digestible. It is very useful for new mothers suffering from postnatal constipation, a very common condition.
Its high iron content helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia, also very common in new mothers. The research is split if oatmeal can actually boost supply or not. At the very least, however, it is a healthy addition to a diet.
Freshly cooked oatmeal can be topped off with a spoonful of raw honey, cardamom, saffron or some fresh fruits to increase its nutritional value. A warm bowl of oatmeal can also be a comfort food to help cope with stress.
Salmon is extremely good for new mothers due to its amazing nutritional value. It is a fatty fish containing a high amount of a fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA helps in the development of your newborn’s nervous system. Most people do not get enough fatty acids in their diet.
Salmon is also high in protein and vitamin D. Plus, salmon has been found to help prevent postpartum depression.
Enjoy two main servings of salmon per week. Opt for wild salmon when possible and fresh rather than frozen.
4. Brown Rice
Healthy, whole-grain carbohydrates like brown rice are something that all new mothers should include in their diet. Brown rice will help keep your energy level up and your blood sugar level consistent.
Plus, it has more fiber and other essential nutrients than white rice.
Whole grains, like brown rice, contain B vitamins, magnesium and fiber. Magnesium levels are often found to be low in pregnant women and new moms, so it’s important to eat magnesium-rich foods.
Before making brown rice, soak the grains for a few hours. This will make it easier to digest and more nutritious.
All new mothers should include blueberries in their diet. This antioxidant-rich fruit helps destroy free radicals and keep you and your baby healthy.
Also, blueberries have all the important vitamins and minerals that a nursing mother needs. The healthy dose of carbohydrates in blueberries is also great for boosting energy.
All berries are healthy, as they contain vitamin C, which can help your body better absorb iron. Berries are also low on the glycemic index, making them ideal for stabilizing blood sugar, which is great for your mood while meeting the demands of being a new mom.
Eat 1 serving a day of these juicy berries daily. They are great in smoothies or by themselves.
New moms should make avocados a part of their daily diet.
Avocados are actually a fruit, but different from other fruits because they contain healthy monounsaturated fats. Avocados are high in folic acid along with fiber, B vitamins, vitamin K, copper, vitamin E and vitamin C.
It’s often difficult to keep up with the hunger demands of breastfeeding. Avocados are nearly 80 percent (healthy) fat and help maintain a feeling of fullness in addition to providing your body with heart-healthy fats.
Avocados are great in a salad or even a smoothie. If you’re not the biggest fan of avocados, then try making avocado chocolate pudding, you won’t even taste the avocado! Just add avocado, cocoa powder and honey together in a blender and refrigerate covered for at least an hour.
Almonds provide a wide range of nutrients like vitamin E and essential fats that are important for the health of your body as well as your baby’s. The essential fatty acids including omega-3 fatty acids in almonds can help ensure your baby is getting adequate fatty acids through your breast milk during breastfeeding as well.
These healthy nuts also provide protein and calcium for your bones and teeth.
Almonds are also a great snack in between meals to keep your blood sugar stable and prevent you from overeating.
Enjoy a few dry roasted almonds as a daily snack. To increase breast milk, soak four to six almonds in water overnight and eat them the next morning.
Fenugreek contains phytoestrogens that help increase breast milk production. It is also rich in iron, fiber, calcium and various vitamins and minerals. Plus, it contains choline and saponins that are required to ensure good development of newborn babies.
Some mothers see an increase in breast milk production within 24-72 hours after they start taking the herb.
Fenugreek also helps alleviate digestive troubles like constipation and flatulence that are common among new mothers.
Both the seeds and leaves must be included in a nursing mother’s diet. One good option is to soak 1 tablespoon of fenugreek seeds in 1 cup of water overnight. The next morning, boil the water along with the seeds for several minutes. Strain and drink it every morning.
Fennel is another excellent food for new mothers as it helps to increase lactation and also aids digestion. It can also help prevent colic.
One good way to include fennel in your diet is to drink fennel water.
- Boil 1 or 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds in 4 cups of water.
- Let it simmer for another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Optionally add one-half ½ teaspoon of sugar or honey for taste.
- Strain and drink this fennel water throughout the day.
You can also chew 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds after meals. In addition to increasing lactation and promoting digestion, it will also work as a natural mouth freshener.
While typically reported as safe, be sure to consult your doctor or health care practitioner before using herbs.
Along with these nutritious foods, new mothers need to drink plenty of water. This is very essential as breastfeeding mothers are at higher risk for energy-draining dehydration.
To keep your energy level and milk production up, make sure you stay well hydrated by drinking water and if losing a lot of sweat, coconut water. Stay away from caffeinated and alcoholic beverages that can be dehydrating.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Ms. Stacy Roberts-Davis (Registered Dietitian)
What are the best fruits to eat while breastfeeding?
Avocados, berries, watermelon, melon, carrots, they are all good for a breastfeeding mother.
What foods should a new breastfeeding mother avoid?
I would like to say eat what you want. Depending on your baby, limiting coffee, tea, and chocolate, could help if your baby isn’t sleeping well due to the caffeine. Limit gaseous foods if the baby is irritable and gassy.
What vitamins and minerals are the most needed by a new mother?
Moms should continue taking multivitamins. Calcium, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, and phosphorus are all important.
Is there any truth to the advice ‘drinking ample amount of water increases breast milk production’?
Yes! Drink water as much as you can.
Please provide some important tips for new mothers to take care of their baby and themselves.
Take care of yourself. Relax and don’t stress if your body cannot produce enough breast milk. Stress can slow down the production. Meditate, massage, or exercise- whatever makes you feel good.
About Ms. Stacy Roberts-Davis: Stacy has been a Registered Dietitian and Culinary Expert for more than a decade. She graduated from the University of Delaware with a Bachelors of Science degree in Nutrition.
She holds a Culinary certificate from the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale, a Weight Management Certificate from Commission of Dietetic Registration. She is also working on completing a certificate for Functional Medicine. Her passion for cooking shows in her hands on approach and unique way to heal her patients with food.
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