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Postpartum diet is the diet that mother’s should have once the baby is out of their body.
The diet focuses on some of the nutrients that help the mother:
• To feed the baby with good nutrition– breastfeeding.
• To recover quicker from the changes the body has undergone during pregnancy and delivery.
• To manage the stress and hectic schedule better.
Good postpartum nutrition is important to provide adequate calories and good nutrients for the mother and the baby.
There are multiple reasons why it is important for you to have a good nutrition even after the baby is out of your body. These are some of the following reasons:
Breastfeeding is important for both the baby and the mother. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) advises to feed your babies exclusively with breast milk for the first 6 months. For the next 6 months, it advised to breastfeed while introducing other food items.
• To produce breast milk your body needs an extra 450 to 500 kilocalories every day. An average woman before pregnancy needs about 1800 kcal of energy every day. After delivering the child you may need about 2250-2300 kcal every day to maintain proper functioning.
• Moreover, you need to take care of what you consume such as medicines, alcohol, etc., as it can enter the baby’s body via your milk.
Mothers tend to undergo a lot of physical changes to return back to normal. This includes the blood loss during the delivery which also continues for several weeks, in the form of vaginal discharge called lochia. Moreover, there is reduced hormone production, loss of appetite, and much more.
• Increased blood loss can cause iron deficiency and thus regular iron intake is necessary.
• Loss of appetite can cause major nutritional deficiencies.
Maintaining a good diet allows you to recover from physical changes better and avoid complications for yourself and the baby.
Food can alter your mood. Consumption of high carbs food can cause a quick spike and drop in sugar levels often leaving you grumpy. On the other hand, a healthy and nutritious diet may uplift your mood and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Some food types that enhance mental health are mentioned below:
• Healthy fats from fish and olive oil may have anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent depression.
• Whole grains promote good gut bacteria.
• Fruits and vegetables help prevent cell damage.
• Fermented food like yogurt helps promote good bacteria in the stomach.
A list of contents mentioned by NCBI and their adequate quantities are written below for a better and easier understanding of what is needed.
|Vitamin A (µg/day)||700||1300||Orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, fruits, carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, and squash.|
|Vitamin D (µg/day)||5||15||Fish and cod liver oil, eggs, butter and cheese|
|Vitamin E (mg/day)||15||19||Vegetable oils (sunflower, corn and soybean oils), Nuts (almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts), sunflower seeds|
|Vitamin K (µg/day)||90||90||Kale, spinach,green leaf lettuce,Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage|
|Folate (µg/day)||400||500||Dark leafy green vegetables like spinach and broccoli, nuts, oranges, strawberries|
|Niacin (mg/day)||14||17||Fish, chicken, turkey, pork, mushrooms, brown rice, peanuts, avocados, green peas|
|Riboflavin (mg/day)||1.1||1.6||Eggs, lean meat, low fat milk, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, fortified cereals, grains|
|Thiamine (mg/day)||1.1||1.4||Fish, green peas, brown rice, seeds (sunflower, flax, sesame), moong|
|Vitamin B6 (mg/day)||1.3||2||Pork, chicken, turkey, milk, carrots, spinach, potato, banana, avocado|
|Vitamin B12 (µg/day)||2.4||2.8||Fish, meat, eggs, milk and milk products, fortified cereals|
|Vitamin C (mg/day)||75||120||Orange, lemon, broccoli, cauliflower, green and red peppers, cabbage, spinach, tomato, sweet potato|
|Calcium (mg/day)||1000||1000||Milk and milk products like yoghurt or cheese, kale and broccoli|
|Iron (mg/day)||18||9||Lean meat, fortified cereals, nuts like almond, vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli|
|Phosphorous(mg/day)||700||700||Chicken, turkey, seafood, dairy, pumpkin and sunflower seeds|
|Selenium (µg/day)||55||70||Eggs, fish, chicken, turkey, dairy products, whole grains|
|Zinc (mg/day)||8||12||Cashew, almonds, baked beans, chickpeas, chicken, red meat, milk products, whole grains, fortified cereals|
Note: Vegan and vegetarian mothers can face a shortage of Vitamin B-12 and the American Dietetic Association recommends the consumption of supplements.
Similar to a regular diet the major part of the lactation diet is formed by carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. However, during lactation, you need to take extra care of the amount and the quality of these nutrients.
These are called macronutrients as they form the bulk of your food.
Carbohydrates in food are the primary source of energy. A balanced diet contains a major proportion of carbohydrates.
As discussed breastfeeding needs an extra 450-500 Kcal of energy intake every day. The main energy is obtained from eating carbohydrates.
Daily intake: you should consume a balanced meal containing carbohydrate that provides 45-64% of energy need.
Sources: Whole grains should be a major part of the carb intake. Consuming items such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, etc are a better option. Avoid items made of refined wheat (maida)such as white bread, pizza, pasta, etc or sugary drinks.
Need: Healthy fats including DHA and omega-3 are important for the development of the brain and eye of the baby.
Daily intake: Total fat intake can be maintained at 20-35% of the total calorie intake.
• Vegetarians: People eating vegetarian can consume food rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) like flax seeds, walnuts, and canola oil.
• Non- vegetarians: Oily fishes like sardines, mackerel, salmon, eel, and yellow fish have high contents of Omega-3. Fishes like a golden thread, pacific saury, and pomfret have medium amounts of Omega-3.
• Supplements: DHA supplements are also available which can be consumed after consulting the doctor.
Need: Women face a serious issue of constipation during and post pregnancy and this can be avoided with extra fiber consumption.
Health benefits: Fibre helps maintain the feeling of fullness and allows for the better formation of stools. It also helps to maintain a healthy digestive system and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Sources: Good sources of fiber include whole grains, legumes, and lentils, high fiber cereals, fruits like blueberries, raspberries and peaches, vegetables like corn and peas.
Need: every structure in the body is made of proteins. It is thus called the building block of the body.
Health effects: Inadequate protein content can lead to less birth weight, fetal development problems and loss of maternal tissue.
Daily intake: During breastfeeding the mother should consume an additional 21 grams of protein per day for the first 6 months. If breastfeeding continues for the next 6 months then additional 14 grams per day is needed. The daily requirement for an average female before pregnancy is 47-48 grams per day.
• Vegetarian sources include milk, cheese, and yogurt.
• Vegan sources include beans, pulses and lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds, soya mince, soya milk, soya cheese, soy yogurt, and textured vegetable protein.
• Non-vegetarian sources include eggs, fish, chicken, lamb, pork, etc.
Increased water intake: Breastfeeding increases the requirement of water in mothers by 12-16%. This means that if enough water is not consumed, there is a risk of dehydration.
Advantages: Increased intake of water improves metabolism which maximizes the energy expenditure and helps promote weight loss. Consuming two liters of water every day can result in additional energy use of 400 kJ.
Daily recommended intake: Breastfeeding mothers are therefore advised to consume about 2-3 liters of water with bare minimum 6-8 glasses of water daily (about 1.4 to 1.6 liters per day).
If you are breastfeeding your meal should provide about 2000kcal to 2300 kcal. It should be balanced by including all important nutrients as discussed earlier. You can achieve this by adding a good amount of fruits, vegetables, and dry fruits to your diet.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has recommended portions of the various components needed in the daily meal.
• Fruits: Preferably whole fruits; 2 cups
• Vegetables: Include all varieties from dark green to orange, red, yellow, legumes, etc.; 2 ½ cups
• Dairy: Try consuming low-fat or fat-free dairy including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy milk products; 3 cups
• Grains: Preferably whole grains; 6 ounces or 170 grams
• Protein: From a variety of sources including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products and nuts and seeds; 5 ½ ounces or 156 grams
• Oils: Canola or olive oil or foods sourced from oils like nuts and avocado; 5 teaspoons
Whole wheat porridge or Oats/cereal with fruits
• Whole wheat and oats are good sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Fibers prevent constipation after delivery.
• Fruits provide additional fiber, sugars for energy, minerals, and vitamins.
• You can also opt for cereals available in the market which are fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Eggs are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. DHA fortified eggs are even better and provide the good fats needed for both the mother and the baby.
Like other fruits, they are a good source of fibre, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants and provide the necessary energy with the ease of packing.
Another fruit rich in fibre and nutrients. They are also a good source of Vitamin C and can be easily placed in a bag.
Other major sources of food that need to be consumed on a regular basis postpartum include:
Fish is a great lean source or protein and provide a supply of the essential fatty acid. Limit fish intake to not more than 8 to 12 ounces or 226 grams to 340 grams per week to prevent deposition of mercury.
Low mercury fish include:
• Canned light tuna
Lean non vegetarian: High in protein, Vitamin B-12 and iron with low trans fat.
Legumes& pluses: Good source of vegetarian protein and fibre.
Blueberries: Full of vitamins and minerals.
Certain foods in extra quantities can cause complications later in life and they should be avoided.
• Daily intake: Limit the intake of saturated and trans-fat to less than 10% of the total calorie intake and try to limit trans-fat to a minimum.
• Health effects: High trans-fat can cause cardiovascular diseases, excess weight gain and increased risk of diabetes.
• Daily intake: Limit the consumption of added sugars to less than 10% of the daily calorie intake.
• Health effects: Increased sugar can lead to weight gain and obesity, type II diabetes and heart disease.
• Daily intake: Consume not more than 2300 milligrams each day.
• Health effects: High sodium intake can cause increased blood pressure or hypertension. This in turn can lead to several health issues later in life such as stroke, heart condition, etc.
Health effects: Increased caffeine during breastfeeding can cause the child to be irritable, fussy, jittery and have poor sleeping patterns.
Remedy: Limit the caffeine intake to 300 milligrams per day.
Health effects: Alcohol consumption is not safe for the baby as it can transfer through breast milk.The babies are unable to process alcohol at the same rate as adult do.
Remedy: Avoid alcohol altogether or consume not more than 1 drink a day. You should breastfeed before alcohol consumption or wait for 2-3 hours after consuming the drink.
Myth: It is a myth and there is no proven evidence that avoiding milk, peanuts, seafood and other potential food allergens prevent the baby from developing eczema or other allergic diseases.
Fact: Avoiding food groups that are a good source of nutrients can cause poor weight gain in the mother and increases the risk of deficiency in the mother and the child.
Myth: It is a myth and the swelling is because of the increased water retention due to a rise in the levels of female sex hormone.It is not related to the amount of water or salt consumed.
Fact: Pregnant women need more water and there is no need to restrict water, however, sodium can cause other problems and should be limited in the meals.
Maintaining a healthy diet throughout the pregnancy and breastfeeding phase is important for the growth of the baby without any nutritional deficiencies and for the mother to reach back to the pre-pregnancy state safely.
Myth: it is a myth and there is no effect of dieting or exercising on the quantity and the energy value of the milk production.
Fact: however, dietary deficiency of some nutrients can cause nutritional deficiencies in mothers or the breast milk. Stress, anxiety and smoking can cause reduction in milk production.
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