Mother's Diet After Birth
Eating right after delivery isn't that complex. Just continue eating a good-quality diet just as you did during pregnancy. If you are not breast-feeding, your nutrient and calorie needs are the same as they were before you became pregnant. If you are breast-feeding, or if you are anemic or recovering from a cesarean delivery, you require special nutritional management.
Keep It Simple
Take a creative approach to nutrition, choosing foods that require little or no preparation. Quick, nutritious foods include fresh fruit, raw vegetables, melted cheese on toast, cottage cheese, and yogurt with raisins, sunflower seeds, nugget-type cereal, or low-fat granola. Broiled meats and fish are faster to prepare than casseroles.
Let friends and family help you by providing nutritious meals during the early months after childbirth. Meals you can freeze are especially helpful because you can pull them out of the freezer for use on those occasional difficult days.
Nurture yourself by taking time to sit to eat your meals. Eating on the run or standing to eat makes you feel you have not had a meal; this habit contributes to fatigue and may even contribute to overeating. It's also not very good for your digestion. Place your baby in a swing or in an infant seat so your hands are free. If your baby needs to be close to you, an infant backpack or sling is helpful. Or you may wait to eat until your baby's quiet time or when she is asleep.
Constipation is a common and unpleasant post-partum complaint. The following advice can help relieve it:
- Get some form of daily exercise, such as walking.
- Make sure you have adequate dietary fiber. Bran muffins, high-fiber cereals, and lots of fruits and vegetables are good fiber choices. (Be sure to increase your fluid intake as you increase your fiber intake.)
- Drink to fulfill your fluid needs. Two to three quarts of fluids a day is generally recommended-drink even more if you breast-feed.
- Drink four ounces of prune juice on an empty stomach followed by several cups of hot water, decaffeinated tea, or other hot beverage.
- Avoid the regular use of laxatives. If you use a laxative more often than every third or fourth day, you may have problems moving your bowels without the use of the laxative.
- Try fiber-containing stool softeners such as Meta-mucil, Fiberall, and Fibercon. They can help relieve constipation without the problems associated with laxative use.
Dealing With Fatigue
No foods actually relieve fatigue. A good-quality diet helps you to feel well but is not a substitute for rest and sleep.
Most new mothers find themselves feeling tired from time to time. Getting adequate rest is important for your recovery from birth, for making milk, and for enjoying your baby.
How do you get rest? Take time to rest every time your baby rests or sleeps instead of using the time to clean house or wash clothes. During your rest times, take the phone off the hook so you are not disturbed. Let your family and friends help you by doing laundry and other household chores. Avoid caffeine to improve your rest and sleep.
Restoring Your Iron Reserves
Some women learn they are anemic after childbirth. This means they have fewer red blood cells than is ideal to adequately supply their body with oxygen. Postpartum anemia may result from having been anemic during pregnancy, from blood loss during childbirth, or from giving birth to more than one baby.
Your doctor evaluates your blood during the post-partum period. If laboratory tests confirm you are anemic, treatment begins immediately. If blood loss was heavy during childbirth, you may have received a blood transfusion. Otherwise, treatment aims at restoring iron levels through diet and supplements.
If your doctor prescribes an iron supplement, you need to help your body absorb it. To do this, eat a meal that includes a food rich in vitamin C when you take your iron supplement. Excellent sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, baked potatoes, and steamed broccoli. It also helps to include a food that contains iron.
Food sources of iron include lean red meats, organ meats, spinach, egg yolks (limit to three to four a week), and cream of wheat. Avoid taking your iron supplement with any significant source of calcium because calcium interferes with iron absorption. Calcium sources include milk, yogurt, cheese, and antacids. Since low-fat dairy products are of significant nutritional importance, don't cut these out altogether; include them in meals other than the ones that accompany your iron supplements.
Recovering From a Cesarean Delivery
Undergoing a cesarean section temporarily upsets the passage of food through the digestive tract, resulting in gas production and constipation. Both of these early discomforts can be treated by walking, which increases bowel activity and aids you in passing gas. Be sure to eat, too. There is a temptation not to eat when you feel so bloated, but consumption of food helps restore normal bowel action, thereby relieving constipation and gas.
If you are anemic after delivery, treating the anemia with the recommendations for restoring your iron reserves helps speed your recovery from surgery.
Nutritional management after surgery includes increasing the vitamin C and protein in your diet. Vitamin C contributes to wound healing, and protein helps your body repair itself.
While nutrition should be the most important concern, many new mothers are worried about losing the weight they gained during their pregnancy. We'll look at realistic expectations for this goal in our next section.
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