Now that baby is here, the reality of postpartum life kicks in: When should you feed baby? What does it mean when he cries? Are you ever going to sleep again? And (let’s be real) how do you shed the extra pounds you packed on while baby was cooking? The truth is, there’s no magical way to snap back to your pre-pregnancy body: a new mom’s body needs certain nutrients to keep her and her child healthy. But with healthy eating habits and regular exercise (if you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal birth, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology says you can resume light physical activities a few days after birth), you can get back into shape and boost your energy while still caring for your little bundle. Here are 5 nutritional tips for a healthy postpartum slim down.
- Hardcore hydration. Water is an essential nutrient for our bodies. What’s more, there are so many physiological changes after pregnancy (night sweats, blood loss, constipation, swollen legs, and many more.), and drinking water — lots of it — has a therapeutic effect. It may even help you keep your energy up and curb unwanted binging. Drinking to thirst when breastfeeding will ensure that you stay hydrated and may even help increase your milk supply.
- Small, Frequent Meals. Waiting until you are “hangry” won’t do you any good: it may make it harder to soothe your little one, and you will be more likely to fuel up on unhealthy foods. Consuming 4 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day (and night!) is an excellent way to transition the body through a healthier weight loss process, as well as enable you to eat within portion. So stock your fridge and pantry with good food pairing and mini-meals. Protein-packed and fiber-rich foods, along with low-fat dairy products, are good staples to keep handy in your kitchen. For snacks, think hummus, peanut butter, whole-grain crackers and hardboiled eggs.
- Don’t drink too much caffeine. The coffee buzz is so much more exciting (and possibly more necessary) now that baby is here. But unlike common belief, caffeine does not suppress appetite, and too much of it can make you jittery, restless and anxious, which may even push you to crave additional calories. It can also cross into your breastmilk and affect baby’s sleep. So try and go easy by limiting your java intake to two 8-oz cups per day. Alternatively, you can opt for a cup of green tea, which is also known to fight inflammation.
- Incorporate healthy fats. Healthy fats, which you can find in nuts, nut butters, flaxseed fatty fish and avocados, are excellent additions to a well rounded meal. It provides taste and satiety, which will help prevent unwanted noshing. You’ll also see the benefits throughout the body – your skin, nails and even hair may look better! Omega-3 fatty acids are also known to decrease the incidence of postpartum depression and are great to boost a child’s brain growth.
- Don’t diet. You shouldn’t lose weight to the detriment of good nutrition — especially if you just had a baby. It’s not just that dieting may leave you hungry and more prone to cravings. It’s that, as a new mom, you have specific nutritional needs. Vitamins A, C and D, along with potassium, iron and protein, are all nutrients to pack in your meals. Plus, if you are breastfeeding, don’t forget that most experts agree that you need an extra 500 calories to keep both your energy and milk supply up. The key is to take it slow, allow your body to bounce back from labor and delivery, and balance your meals with a mix of grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and good fats.