You made it! Your beautiful baby has been born. After months of fussing over food labels, you are finally free!
But hold on. You will need plenty of energy and stamina over the coming months. Even if you don’t breastfeed you will still be eating for two in many ways. And that means loading up on the right nutrients and getting a well-balanced diet. If you’re breastfeeding, you only need to add 300 calories on top of your pre-pregnancy requirements. That isn’t much: A banana with peanut butter on it or a tuna salad sandwich will do the trick. Simply eating lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and some protein will be fine for most women’s post- pregnancy recovery needs.
If you want to lose pregnancy weight, it should be through a balanced diet and moderate activity such as your doctor allows, not a post-pregnancy crash-diet. If you are breastfeeding, aim to lose no more than a kilogram a month. If you are bottle-feeding, continue to eat a balanced diet. Talk to your doctor after six to eight weeks; once your energy levels are sustained it should be fine to start actively losing weight. The best way to shed pregnancy pounds is to walk at least 30 minutes a day and avoid trans-fats. When you stop breastfeeding, additional weight will drop off as your body returns to normal.
Many people will offer advice on what to eat following birth. These well-meaning recommendations are often cultural rather than factual. Some foods may indeed affect a baby or make the mother feel uncomfortable, but that varies for individuals. If you don’t have existing allergies or sensitivities, then most foods shouldn’t pose any problems when eaten in moderation as part of a varied diet.
Continue taking prenatal vitamins for about six months following birth or for as long as you breastfeed. This will provide critical nutrients such as vitamin D, iron and folic acid. Make sure your meals include foods high in calcium, folate, iron and protein. Even non-pregnant women often lack calcium and essential fatty acids, but these nutrients come from a sensible, well-planned diet. Supplements can also be used.
When my son was born, I was too tired and preoccupied to fuss with gourmet meals. Have dad stock the fridge with healthy, quick-fix meals like salad leaves, tubs of low-fat yogurt, and sliced fruits and vegetables. Roast meats can double as cold cuts for sandwiches or salad toppings. When you leave the house, take along some fruit, nuts, and pieces of cheese or other healthy snacks along. Include a fruit and vegetable at every meal.
Breastfeeding moms should also stay well-hydrated. Drink a glass of water at each breastfeeding in addition to your regular water
intake. If you have been up all night with a newborn, skip the coffee and sugar and try whole wheat toast with eggs. A handful of nuts is also a great source of protein and easy to eat with one hand while nursing.
Please refer to the original magazine article from some general guidelines on caloric requirements for mothers. Please consult with a physician, nutritionist or midwife on any diet plan. Your own calorie needs will be slightly different depending on your body and exercise habits.
Got a question? Singaporean Olivia Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org) has an MSc in nutrition and provides nutrition counseling.