Learn the essential postpartum nutrients for new moms, and how to ensure you are getting enough of these nutrients.
As a new mom, it can be so easy to put the needs of your baby before yourself. After more than 9 months of creating your child, you are in full caregiving mode. So much of your attention is focused on your beautiful baby that it’s easy to put yourself on the back burner.
But mama, it's so important that you take care of yourself, especially during the postpartum period. Your body can easily become depleted of essential nutrients as it works to ensure that your baby’s needs are adequately met. In order to fully heal and recover, while also having the energy you need to show up fully to your baby and family, you need to make sure you are getting the essential postpartum nutrients.
If you’re wondering what the essential postpartum nutrients for new moms are, and how to ensure you’re getting enough, then this post is for you!
What is postnatal depletion?
Before we dive into the essential postpartum nutrients, it’s important to understand postnatal depletion.
Postnatal depletion first occurs as a result of having a baby. According to Dr. Serrallach, mothers are often deficient in or lacking in “iron, vitamin B12, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium, and copper.” This can take a toll on you as a mom and leave you with unwanted consequences for seven years (or longer!)
Nutrient depletion at this time can result in:
- Excess hair loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Hormone imbalances
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Emotional instability or mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Low libido
After more than 9 months of growing your baby, plus the strain of labor and delivery, your body needs proper nutrition. In order to avoid these consequences, support postpartum healing, and breastfeeding, a woman needs a variety of balanced meals and snacks that offer nutrient-dense foods.
The first step in avoiding postnatal depletion is to eat a postpartum recovery diet which has a good balance of fiber-rich carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats at each meal.
Fiber-Rich Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are full of antioxidants and B-vitamins you need to sustain energy and promote healing. Fiber is also extremely important for digestion and stabilizing blood sugar.
Protein: A necessity for rebuilding tissues and muscles. Protein also helps keep you satisfied.
Good Fats: Fats help the body absorb nutrients for energy storage and hormone regulation. They also make meals more satisfying.
Aside from a good balance of fiber-rich carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, your focus should be on the essential postpartum nutrients your body needs to function optimally at this time.
Top 5 Essential Postpartum Nutrients
Your body can easily become depleted of essential nutrients in the postpartum period. If breastfeeding, the need for essential nutrients is even greater. Of all the nutrients a woman needs postpartum, the top 5 essential postpartum nutrients include:
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3s
Folate is crucial during the pregnancy, but is equally as important postpartum. Postpartum, folate is important for renewing cells and heart health. If you are breastfeeding, folate assists in healthy brain development in your newborn.
You may be wondering if folic acid and folate are the same, and no, they are not. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. The L-methyfolate is the active version of folate, rather than the non-active version, folic acid. Studies have shown 30-40% of women are unable to process folic acid.
Foods rich in folate: Lentils, beans, beets, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, nuts and seeds, avocado, and papaya.
Iron is essential postpartum because of the amount of blood loss while giving birth. This, along with the blood loss that happens for weeks after delivery, severely lowers your iron levels. Low iron also contributes to fatigue and dry, brittle nails and hair.
Breastfeeding also requires mamas to get more iron daily, since breast milk is low in iron. While infant iron levels are believed to be adequate enough to support your baby for the first four months of life, it is necessary to ensure both you and your baby are getting enough.
Foods rich in iron - lentils, beans, liver, beef, whole grains, spinach, and molasses.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is easiest to get from sunshine. Since new moms aren’t usually spending time in the sunshine daily with their newborn, it is easy to become low in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, low energy, weak bones, and weight gain.
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s important to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D to support both you and your baby. Vitamin D is essential for bone development and absorption of calcium.
Best sources of vitamin D: unprotected sunshine for at least 20 minutes per day (moms residing in northern cities may need more), egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon, fortified dairy.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are healthy fats that have anti-inflammatory properties. This is so important for helping new moms' bodies recover from all the stress of birth. Omega-3s are also needed to support optimal brain, skin and immune system function.
It is suspected that a deficiency in omega-3 may contribute to increased feelings of postnatal depression. While many factors contribute to postpartum depression, making sure you are getting enough omega-3s is an easy way to help reduce the risk.
If you are breastfeeding, omega-3s, especially DHA, are vital for healthy brain development in your newborn. To ensure both you and your baby have enough, it is recommended to take a DHA supplement or eat omega-3-rich foods daily.
Foods rich in omega-3s - salmon, cod, walnuts, chia seeds. hemp seeds, flax seeds.
Getting enough calcium is essential to preventing long-term bone loss and osteoporosis. Since pregnancy and breastfeeding deplete the mom’s calcium store to provide for her baby, it’s essential to ensure you are getting enough daily.
It’s estimated that a mom loses 3-5% of her bone density during the early stages of breastfeeding. Bone loss restores after weaning, but it is important to maintain calcium levels while nursing. For nursing moms, it’s recommended to have a daily intake of 1000 mg of calcium.
Foods rich in calcium - salmon, sardines, dark leafy greens, fortified tofu, almonds, sesame seeds, tahini, dairy, and fortified non-dairy milk.
We understand it can be overwhelming to make sure you are getting all the essential postpartum nutrients daily. That’s why it’s recommended to take a postnatal vitamin.
Majka’s Nourishing Lactation Protein Powder supplies all the needed vitamins and nutrients postpartum, contains wholesome, natural ingredients, and is safe to take while breastfeeding. It also promotes increased lactation.
When it comes to motherhood, nothing is necessarily easy. But we want to make nutrition as easy as possible for you.
Majka is excited to partner with Ready. Set. Food! Just for Ready. Set. Food! moms, use the code readysetfood for 15% off your first order of Majka.
About the Author: Jessica Bippen, MS, RD is the Registered Dietitian at Majka. She is also the founder of Nourished by Nutrition, where she shares delicious healthy recipes, science-based nutrition information, and lifestyle wellness. She's made it her mission to help women uncover their forever wellness by focusing on valuing the journey of your life and knowing that a one-size-fits-all method won’t fit every season of life.
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