Coming home from with a new baby is mental isn’t it? And it doesn’t matter if it’s your first, or 20th baby, welcoming a new family member is an enormous physical and emotional shift. These are a few topics I find myself talking about regularly in clinic with my postnatal families.
1. Not considering subsequent pregnancies
I know, I know (don’t come at me), I almost didn’t include this one because I was gobsmacked (and annoyed) when asked if I was planning my next baby -while the stitches from my first were still healing.
But closely-timed pregnancies are occurring more often, so it is a health milestone to consider. Pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, sleepless nights and so forth can deplete the delicate balance of physiological nutrient stores. Dietary requirements increase substantially in this period and it can be hard to keep up. I regularly see low serum (blood) iron, folate and vitamin D, and after a dietary analysis I find inadequate dietary iodine, calcium, zinc, omega-3s and so forth amongst my postnatal clients. Some people fall pregnant while breastfeeding, which is totally fine! but needs to be factored in when looking at diet quality and intake.
Getting on top of deficiencies early by finding nutrient gaps can aid fertility success and pregnancy health for the next baby. Plus, you will feel about a million times better if you fill nutrient gaps, more babies planned – or not!
Not eating enough food is a BIG one I see regularly. Side-note: the perception that dietitians aim only to reduce dietary intake is highly false. Too regularly, I am educating my clients against the rhetoric that “losing the baby (or any) weight” is life’s purpose.
I just want to repeat that, losing baby weight is NOT your life’s purpose.
Weight is a nuanced topic and too big to dig-into here, suffice to say at a time when the body is recovering after creating life, the priority should be ensuring adequacy of healthful foods, not an influencer’s low-calorie meal plan. A good balance of healthy fats, protein and carbs is shown time and time to improve perinatal physical and mental health.
3. Thinking postnatal nutrition is not as important as pregnancy nutrition
Yay, baby is here and the hard part is done, right? You can eat raw sashimi and blue cheese and uncooked eggs again. But what and how you eat postnatally is just as important as it was the prior 9 months+ because:
1) the body needs quality protein and fat to recover and repair itself after birth. It needs complex carbohydrates for energy and if breastfeeding, to support milk supply. The body needs fibre for happy bowels and a thriving microbiome.
2) parental nutrition is a strong predictor of their children’s nutrition. In other words, what parents eat is a role model for their kids’ future diets.
Postpartum is a period to nourish the body with whole grains, fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, legumes, quality protein including lots of plant protein, herbs and spices, healthy fats and water. Focus on including more nutrient dense foods, not excluding any food groups for no good reason.
Julia (that’s me!) is an accredited practising dietitian, further certified fertility and prenatal dietitian. Click below to work with me.