Figuring out what to eat for your best physical and mental health is tricky in general, let alone when you’ve just grown a human inside your body. Such a major life change requires some dietary changes—so we tapped registered dietitian Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, to answer some of our top questions about postnatal nutrition in the latest episode of Well+Good’s YouTube series You Versus Food.
“Just because you’ve experienced the wonderful miracle of childbirth doesn’t mean the road stops here,” Beckerman says. “You still need to get proper nutrition during the postpartum period, otherwise known as the fourth trimester, to help repair the wear and tear that you experienced during pregnancy and childbirth.” After childbirth, Beckerman says, your body goes into “wound repairing mode,” which means it needs more protein to be able to repair muscles and tissues that were damaged. She says that’s why it’s a good idea to eat an extra serving of protein per day as part of your postnatal nutrition.
Also, if you choose to breastfeed, “the foods you consume affect the quality of your milk, as well as milk production, which in turn impacts your little one,” Beckerman says. Eating a variety of foods will also change the flavor of your breastmilk, thus exposing your child to different flavors which may help them be more open to new flavors down the road, she adds.
Unlike pregnancy, there are generally very few foods that everyone needs to avoid during the postnatal period (yes, even if you’re breastfeeding). However, Beckerman does have some recommendations of foods that you should try to include in your postnatal diet to help repair your body and manage your stress levels. “While there’s no perfect food to eat after childbirth, salmon comes close to it,” she says. “Salmon is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation. That’s so important for mothers who are healing after childbirth, and can even help quell stressed nerves.” It’s also a good source of protein, which again goes a long way to helping repair damaged muscles and tissues. Beckerman also recommends new parents load up on lentils because they are packed with fiber, protein, and iron—all important nutrients for the postpartum period.
Curious about her other recommendations? Watch the video to find out more and get the full list.
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