Dietitian Shares: 8 Postpartum Nutrition Focus For a Smooth Recovery

Food ingredients to help recovery

If you search the internet, you will find many recommendations on what is best to eat during postpartum. Some are based on personal experience, while many are based on traditional beliefs that are tightly rooted in our cultural backgrounds. Depending on your background, there are specific recommendations on how to take care of oneself and what to eat during this vulnerable time. Today, I want to provide you with evidence-based nutritional advice on what is essential to support a smooth postpartum recovery. 

The main bread and butter of good nutrition is a balanced diet. Let’s not forget that. Everyone should be practising the Singapore Healthy Plate recommendation by the Singapore Health Promotion Board which uses the “quarter, quarter, half” method. This means a quarter of your plate is filled with proteins, a quarter of your plate is filled with whole grains and the remaining half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Here are a few other things to take note of during this period of recovery

1. Hydration is Key

When you’re overwhelmed with things, it can be really easy to put hydration as the last thing on your mind. Actually, due to the fluid and blood loss from childbirth, many mothers are actually more prone to constipation during the first week of postpartum. Therefore, it is really important to keep yourself hydrated, especially during labour. The aim is to have at least about 2 litres of fluids per day. Incorporating hydrating foods like soups and fruits can also be an additional way to keep yourself hydrated.

2. Protein for Healing

The next part of postpartum nutrition that should be looked at is adequate lean protein intake. During postpartum adequate protein intake helps to support wound healing and recovery. It helps the body to rebuild tissues and produce collagen. Thus, having slightly more than a quarter of your plate filled with lean protein which is equivalent to about 1 palm size of protein, do have one and a half palm size of protein instead during meal times. Some of the lean protein sources you can include in your diet frequently include chicken, turkey, fish, beans, lentils and many more. 

3. Iron to Combat Fatigue

There will be some blood loss after childbirth. C Section deliveries will result in more blood loss than vaginal deliveries. The average blood loss is 500ml for vaginal delivery and 1000ml for cesarean section. However, if you have tears from giving birth vaginally, there can be more blood loss too. Therefore supporting the body in blood replenishment is important. One of the key nutrients needed in building new red blood cells is iron. Thus, consuming iron-rich foods is important during this time. Some examples of iron-rich foods are lean red meat, poultry, fortified cereals and green leafy vegetables. It would also be beneficial to combine some vitamin C-rich foods with your iron-rich foods as vitamin C helps to increase iron absorption in the intestine. Some examples of vitamin C-rich foods that can be easily used to pair with the food mentioned above are cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, red dates and citrus fruits.

4. Fibre for Digestive Health

It is common to experience constipation, especially during the first week of postpartum.  One of the ways to combat constipation apart from adequate hydration is adequate fibre intake. Beyond the function of relieving constipation, it also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut which will then support a more optimal functioning immune system. It is recommended by the Singapore Health Promotion Board to have at least 2 servings of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables every day. We are also encouraged to have wholegrains regularly too for that additional boost in fibre!  Some of the examples of wholegrains we can easily incorporate into our meals are quinoa, wholewheat bread, brown rice, barley, oats and buckwheat. Beans and legumes can also be great sources of fibre too! 

5. Calcium for Bone Strength

Although the calcium in breast milk is not dependent on our dietary calcium intake, calcium in breast milk is made from our calcium stores, the bones! Thus, it is important we have adequate calcium intake to replenish and maintain bone health. Recommended calcium intake is 1000mg of calcium per day which is equivalent to about 2 to 3 servings of calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt. Other non-dairy calcium-rich sources that can be included in your diet are calcium-fortified soy, calcium-fortified oat milk, tofu, tempeh, anchovies, sardines and green leafy vegetables. 

Happy mummy eating a proper meal

6. Healthy Fats for Hormone Balance

This may be a shocker to some, but it’s not necessarily about having a low-fat meal all the time. What is important is reducing and swapping saturated fats with unsaturated fats. This means if you tend to eat deep-fried food often, it’s time you reduce it to a maximum of 2 times per week. 

If you were initially using palm oil for regular pan frying daily, try swapping it with healthier vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil and mixed vegetable oil. Unsaturated fats are healthier for heart health. They are known to be cholesterol-lowering and heart-health-friendly.

One type of fat, Omega 3-DHA, is linked with a lower risk of postpartum depression when consumed in adequate amounts. This fat is found richest in fatty fish like salmon, skipjack tuna, sardines, and mackerel. To obtain adequate Omega 3-DHA, it is recommended to have 2 to 3 servings of these fish per week. 

7. Vitamins and Minerals for Overall Health

It may be surprising to you but continuing your prenatal supplements may be the way to go. It does not mean you can forgo your plans to continue having a healthy and balanced meal. 

This is to help you ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional needs. Some of the nutrition in concern that may be easily overlooked in your diet are Omega 3-DHA, folate, vitamin Bs, vitamin D and choline.

8. Antioxidants for Immune Support

What many traditional confinement food recipe previously encouraged was to avoid any vegetable intake. This is due to the traditional belief that vegetables are cold in nature and may delay or affect the recovery process negatively. Mothers need to maintain warmth through the types of food they eat in order to recover smoothly. This is untrue. Vegetables are not cold in nature. Vegetables can be cooked and can be safe to eat. Vegetables and fruit carry a variety of vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals which are essential to boost your immune system. They are also rich in fibre which is important for healthy bowel movement too.

Conclusion

By focusing on these key areas of nutrition, new mothers can support their bodies during the postpartum period, promoting faster recovery and overall well-being. Remember, a balanced diet tailored to your specific needs can make a significant difference in your postpartum journey.