Postpartum nutrition advice from the experts: Eating well, getting enough fluids impacts you and your baby

March 16, 2015
When you've just had a baby, there's a lot on your plate. Eating well and getting enough fluids are essential to help you nurture your newborn and recover from childbirth.
healthy mother
Breastfeeding and surviving on less sleep have a physical and emotional effect on your body.  We asked the experts - the registered dietitians at BC Women's - to answer some of the questions that women frequently ask about postpartum nutrition.
What is the best advice that you can offer to women coping with feeding and caring for a newborn?

Remember to eat and drink! This is a busy period in your life. Eat well, stay active and be yourself - focus on motherhood and being the best possible you.

Do I need to pay special attention to what I eat and drink?

Pay attention to your postpartum nutrition needs whether you are breastfeeding or not.  However, women who are breastfeeding require an extra 200 calories a day. To get those extra calories, make healthy choices from two different food groups in Canada’s Food Guide, such as a cup of milk and an apple. Reaching for a chocolate bar or a bag of chips is not the best way to add extra calories to your diet.

How much fluid do I need?

Try to get a minimum of eight cups of fluid every day, especially if you are breastfeeding. But all fluids are not equal! Water, milk, fortified soy or almond beverages, and lower sodium (salt) soups are good choices. Limit the amount of juice you drink because of the calorie count. Also limit your caffeine to 300 mg a day - about two (eight ounce) cups of coffee. Alcohol is not a recommended source of fluid. If you choose to drink alcohol, discuss it with your doctor.

I'm breastfeeding, is there something that I can drink to help me produce more breast milk?

Unfortunately, there is no magic fluid that has been proven to boost milk production. Drink enough healthy fluids to quench your thirst as discussed above. 

Should I continue to take a multi-vitamin supplement while I am breastfeeding?

If you are breastfeeding, we recommend that you continue to take your supplement. It's fine to continue your prenatal supplement until you use it up. After that, switch to a one-a-day multivitamin for adults. If you are planning to get pregnant again very soon, it's especially important to keep taking a supplement to ensure that you are getting enough folic acid.

I want to get back to my pre-baby weight. What's the best way to go about it?

Take a healthy, gradual approach. After the first six weeks, aim to lose half to one pound each week. Remember that it took 40 weeks to gain your pregnancy weight, and it's going to take some time to get back to where you were before.

Fad diets are definitely not recommended. During the first six months after you give birth, be sure to avoid any diet that can leave you protein or calorie deficient.  Instead, be sure to eat to hunger and focus on foods that are high in fibre, but have moderate fat or sugar content. Get your nutrition from all the food groups in Canada’s Food Guide, and consume two to three tablespoons of healthy fats every day (e.g. olive or canola oil).

Finally, resist that extra serving of dessert just because you are breastfeeding! If you're not hungry, that piece of cake is just extra calories that will hamper your body's efforts to lose weight naturally and gradually.

I had an episiotomy, should I be extra-careful with my diet?

You need to eat a balanced and varied diet and be sure you get enough fibre and fluids to avoid constipation.

I had gestational diabetes. What should I do about diet and exercise now the baby is born?

After your baby is born, you don't have to follow the structured diet and exercise regimen that you had when you were pregnant, but please don't forget what you learned!

Remember the advice about boosting your fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as making exercise part of your routine. Follow your caregiver's advice on weight loss.  When you have had gestational diabetes with one pregnancy, there's a 30 to 80 per cent chance you will develop it in future pregnancies, and you are also at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in your lifetime. It's especially important for you to lose your "baby" weight. Have your Glucose Tolerance Test done between six weeks to six months after giving birth. Also, we recommend that you have your blood sugar checked when you are planning to have another baby, or as soon as you find out you're pregnant again.

How can I find a dietitian to give me advice?

The BC government's HealthLink BC provides phone or email access to dietitians. This service can also help you to find a dietitian in your own community.  If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and live in the Lower Mainland, you or your health care provider can make an appointment with the dietitian at BC Women's.

What services are provided at by the dietitians at BC Women's?

We provide specialized nutrition counseling for pregnant women. Our goal is to help each woman and her baby to meet their nutritional needs.  We are experts at translating diet and supplement recommendations into practical strategies for healthy eating. Some of the women who may need extra help have chronic health problems, dietary restrictions or other special concerns that impact their ability to eat and absorb enough nutrition during pregnancy, e.g. if you are pregnant with twins or you are  breastfeeding a child during your pregnancy.

We also provide nutrition counseling to women who are planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding and have nutrition concerns or questions.

Resources

HealthLink BC (This service can help you access a dietitian for telephone or email advice. The phone number is 811.)
Nutrition counselling services at BC Women's
Health Canada’s website for nutrition information and Canada’s Food Guide
Dietitians of Canada
 

This article was written by Anne McLaughlin with information provided by the BC Women's team of registered dietitians and reviewed by Rema Sanghera & Anne Wheeler RD.

 


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