Guest Post by Anastasia den Blanken
Author: Anastasia den Blanken, BBA (hons), MIB, Dip.HC, Dip.NA, mANP
Postpartum period, or as it has been also called “fourth trimester”, is known to be challenging. You are adjusting to a new member of the family, getting used to your new routine and all the responsibilities that follow. Quite often women tend to neglect their own health and wellbeing, focusing more on other’s needs. Keeping the household in order, all the washing and ironing, and caring for little one can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, eating well is important in these early weeks after birth. In this post, we will have a look at:
- why nutrition is important during breastfeeding
- what can be done to meet nutrient requirements
- top-5 nutrients for breastfeeding mamas
- how a health coaching can help you with staying on track with nutrition during breastfeeding.
Lets get into it!
Why nutrition is important during breastfeeding
Lets talk about postpartum first. What is it? Postpartum is the period after birth of the baby. According to official medical sources postpartum period lasts six weeks after birth. However, most of the time this period can last for up to six months. It is important to keep in mind that postpartum period is when your body is recovering after not only birth itself, but also from nine months of pregnancy. Creating, growing, and birthing a human being requires a lot of energy and nutrients. It is easy to become deficient in some nutrients during these times. If a woman chooses to breastfeed her baby, then her body will also be working very hard to make milk tailored to her little one’s needs. It is important to note that women’s body will do all possible to ensure milk is well nourished for the baby. For example, it is scientifically proven that if mom is deficient in calcium, her body would take this mineral from the bone to ensure milk is not deficient in it. Hence, eating well and ensuring your own daily requirements for vitamins and minerals is met on the daily basis is crucial.
What can you do to meet your daily nutrient requirements?
In order to achieve your daily requirements for essential nutrients (that our bodies cannot produce on their own) a balanced diet has to be maintained. We all know what this means: eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, avoid processed foods and added sugars, to not overconsume carbonated drinks as well as caffeine. Nevertheless, what else can you do to improve your nutrient absorption?
As a nutritionist I would advise on the following two elements to begin with:
- Improve digestion: create a calm environment when you are eating food avoiding distractions (watching TV while eating, reading news or scrolling social media). I know it might sound easier to say than do (I am a mom of three after all) but think about it this way – if you take time to eat and focus on the process you are taking care of yourself and your body. Make it a “me time” and enjoy the food without any distraction to support your body’s natural way of “rest and digest”.
- Improve absorption: the most important area in this part is to work on your gut health. If this area is disturbed absorption of nutrients will be compromised and in the long term without intervention may lead to deficiencies. Eating probiotic and prebiotic foods on daily basis can help with supporting your gut health. I will talk more about probiotics in the next section of this post. Prebiotic foods are predominantly vegetables, so this comes back to the importance of a balanced diet.
Top-5 nutrients for breastfeeding mamas
Now that we know what can be done to improve nutrient absorption, lets talk about the top-5 nutrients that are a must for breastfeeding mamas.
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How can health coach help you with your health goals during breastfeeding?
To demonstrate what health coach can help with, lets imagine that you came to the session with me and would like to improve your diet during breastfeeding. After a talk about your current diet and discussion around your needs we assigned three actions to take this week:
- During first week ensure you drink 2L+ of water every day à get water bottle to motivate you to drink more (also easier to carry around when you are busy with newborn);
- Add 3 portions of fish (salmon, cod, sea bass or sardines) – Monday, Wednesday and Thursday for dinner; buy wild fish and organic when possible.
Program does not need to be very complex – one step at the time! Main aim of health coaching is to encourage you to explore yourself. Most of the time we know what to do, it is just the matter of having the right mindset and motivation to get into action.
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Note: It is not always easy to cook from scratch, while you are breastfeeding and taking care of the newborn in the early weeks. What to do? Plan, prepare and organize. For instance, you can ask for help from friends and family, or you can batch cook and freeze some food. During postpartum all attention usually goes to the baby, but moms also need to be cuddled and taken care of. Ensure you pay attention to your own health too!
Disclaimer: always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider if you believe you have a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this post, and Anastasia would always recommend that all probable or possible information written in this post need to be discussed and confirmed with a qualified medical practitioner and/or your GP. This post is intended as general advice only. Each person is different, so consult your GP or nutrition professional if you need specific advice tailored to your own requirements.
Romano, M., Cacciatore, A., Giordano, R. et al. (2010). Postpartum period: three distinct but continuous phases. Journal of Prenatal Medicine, 15(73), pp. 22-25.
Singh, R. K. Chang, H.W., Yan, D. et al. (2017). Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. Journal of Translational Medicine, 4(2), pp. 1-17.
UpToDate.com (2022). Patient education: Health and nutrition during breastfeeding (Beyond the Basics). [Online]. Available at: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/health-and-nutrition-during-breastfeeding-beyond-the-basics (Accessed 10 September 2022).