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The Important Role Postpartum Nutrition Plays for Mothers and Infants



Your world has changed dramatically in the last year.


From learning, you’ll become a mother, to feeling your growing baby inside of you, to birthing your child.


The journey into motherhood has taught you so many wonderful new lessons.


Yet, it has also brought a disruptive schedule to your postpartum life. Your days are full of feeding demands, endless diapers, and changing sleep patterns.


You’re also getting to know your postpartum body and its needs.


Giving yourself the rest and recovery you know is important might feel awkward when you’re a new mother. Mixed emotions arise about decisions you’ve never faced, and you’re left overwhelmed.


As a mother, you desire to do what’s best for your baby in every way – including infant nutrition. Yet, you’re not sure where to start.


This is all completely understandable and common for postpartum mothers.


When you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding, your health and nutrition have a direct impact on your baby’s well-being. This means the first step in your infant's health is to attend to your nutritional needs as a mother.


Hence, being mindful of certain foods and vitamins that ease recovery and replenish your body is essential.


Let’s dive further into the mind and body nutrients needed for your postpartum recovery.


Why is Nutrition Important for Postpartum Recovery?



Similar to other physicallyl demanding feats, your body needs certain nutrients to replenish post-birth.


If you’re lactating, the demands for proper nutrition increase tenfold.

During lactation, your body will prioritize your infant's nutritional needs over your own when creating breastmilk.


One issue with this preferential treatment is it can leave a deficiency in your bone density and health.


Loss in bone mass during lactation time is both normal and common. In fact, studies have shown that mothers lose about 3-5% of bone mass when lactating. 1

However, this change isn’t permanent.


Pre-lactation bone mass is usually restored after weaning the infant from breast milk.


This is why it’s lactating mothers need to focus on their postpartum nutrition.


Becoming mindful and thoughtful in your body’s diet is vital for proper nourishment in the fourth trimester.


The following section explores the essential vitamins and food for moms' and infants' postpartum nutrition.


Bone Health

Incorporating low-fat yogurt, dark leafy greens, and milk support healthy bone growth and density. The National Academy of Science recommends 1,000 mg of calcium a day for anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding.2 That’s about one serving of broccoli or 2 slices of cheese.


Development

Iron and B12 levels directly affect many aspects of healthy infant development. Everything from thyroid function to red blood cell development, to energy levels,3 is impacted. These super nutrients are in salmon, red meat, fortified dairy, and green leafy vegetables. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan you can take both Iron and B12 in supplement form.


Brain Growth

Choline and DHA are both crucial nutrients for brain development in infants. They’re also connected to mental focus, reducing inflammation, and mood. The best foods to consume for Choline and DHA are eggs, salmon, organ meats, and dairy products.


The importance of nutrition on physical health and development is clear.


Yet, did you know that nutrition can affect postpartum mental health?


How to Prevent Postpartum Depression

Around 1 in 7, women get postpartum depression4. This number is most likely much higher due to a large percentage of women going undiagnosed.

There are different risk factors that determine your possibility of having postpartum depression.


One of these risks is vitamin and nutrient deficiency.


Various studies have shown links between postpartum depression and women who have low n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.5


What is an n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid? It’s fat molecules that have more than one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule.6


You might already be familiar with a popular omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. This is because it’s present in most prenatal vitamins and is essential for fetus and infant nutrition.


Yet, it’s also critical for mothers’ postpartum nutrition. Since levels of DHA don’t replenish until about 6 months after delivery.

Why do mothers need DHA?


A lack of DHA in mothers has been shown to increase the risk of postpartum depression.


Therefore, it’s vital for pregnant women and new mothers to have access to proper vitamins and nutrition.


One way to increase your levels of DHA is by eating foods rich in fatty acids. Consuming fish, vegetable oils, nuts, and leafy greens are all great choices to get this essential nutrient.


Depending on your needs, extra omega-3 and fatty acid supplements may be recommended.


Mindfulness for Mothers

When you become a parent, your infant and their needs can take up a large part of your brain.


This is completely expected and common with new parents.


Yet, it’s important to say that mindfulness is as necessary as taking a vitamin.


Our brains are powerful, with the ability to change and alter our behaviors. We don’t nourish our minds through food alone.


We replenish and care for our minds through mindfulness.


It’s an important and great daily practice I encourage all parents to try. Having the ability and time to reset your mental state will create a sense of balance and peace.


When you care for your needs, you and your baby will thrive.


The best way to achieve peace and grounding is by fulfilling yourself first. This can look like taking time to journal, meditating, a walk in nature, or a quiet hot meal.


Your baby needs you.


You need you.


The full, happy, and present you.


I understand the desire to want to push off mindfulness on disruptive days. Yet, I offer you this thought, you cannot draw water from an empty well.


Whatever your needs may be, speak to your partner to ensure they’re fulfilled.


A helpful tip is to start a mindfulness routine pre-baby.


Implementing a mindfulness practice before your baby arrives, gives you the ability to form a habit. This will make for a smoother transition once you’re in the postpartum period.


If you discover you need more support, ask your community for help or hire someone.


Parent and Baby Resources

Becoming a parent is a wonderful journey.


One that’s meant to be experienced with a village of support.


If you’re looking for a community of caregivers and tips on how to thrive during your fourth trimester, consider joining our Modern village email list.


Upon signing up you’ll receive your free ultimate 4th-trimester guide.


A step-by-step action plan to help you get through some of the most challenging weeks of parenthood.


You’ll also get insightful caregiving tips delivered right to your inbox to check out whenever you have a moment.


The Modern Collaborative community is waiting for you and just a click away.




PS. I can’t wait to welcome you and see your family flourish.


***The information in this article should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor if experiencing PPD, vitamin deficiency, or a medical emergency.




Endnotes

1. Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Bone Health, The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, 2018 https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/pregnancy#:~:text=Studies%20have%20shown%20that%20women,drawn%20from%20the%20mother's%20bones.

2. Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Bone Health, The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, 2018 https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/pregnancy#:~:text=Studies%20have%20shown%20that%20women,drawn%20from%20the%20mother's%20bones.

3. Monica Reinagel, Top 5 Nutrients for Postpartum Recovery, Scientific American, 2019

4. Mughal S, Azhar Y, Siddiqui W. Postpartum Depression. [Updated 2022 Oct 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519070/

5. Barrera C, Valenzuela R, Chamorro R, Bascuñán K, Sandoval J, Sabag N, Valenzuela F, Valencia MP, Puigrredon C, Valenzuela A. The Impact of Maternal Diet during Pregnancy and Lactation on the Fatty Acid Composition of Erythrocytes and Breast Milk of Chilean Women. Nutrients. 2018 Jun 28;10(7):839. doi: 10.3390/nu10070839. PMID: 29958393; PMCID: PMC6073898.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073898/

6. Editorial Staff, Polyunsaturated Fat, American Heart Association. 2015 https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/polyunsaturated-fats


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