Tips for Postpartum Nutrition - Ask a Nutritionist

April 11, 2024

Good postpartum nutrition is essential to feeling your best and healing your body as a brand new mom. But it can be hard to balance your own needs with those of your baby. These tips from nutritionist and parent Leah will help you get proper nutrition, boost your energy, and help prioritize your own health.

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LEAH: Hello and welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. My name is Leah Kleinschrodt and I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, and we're thrilled to be celebrating 20 years on air discussing the connection between what you eat and how you feel while sharing practical real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition.

Thank you for your support and listenership over the years and if you're enjoying the show, please let us know by leaving a rating or a review on your favorite podcast platform. Providing feedback helps others find these important real food messages. So on today's show I will be answering a question that we received from one of our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners.

This listener asks, “What advice can you give to new moms who are battling sleepless nights, low energy, breastfeeding, working a full time job, and trying to live a healthy life at the same time? It's hard to eat well or sleep well through these times in addition to losing those extra baby pounds; would love to hear more about this.”

All right, so I wanted to pick this question because this one absolutely hits home for me. I have a five and a half year old and I have a two year old at home. So those days of extreme sleep deprivation, constantly thinking about your boobs, breastfeeding hunger, losing all your pregnancy hair, trying to operate at even 60 percent capacity at your job; those days are still very fresh in my mind.

And I think I just want to start, first and foremost, I just want to offer some validation that these early postpartum months and even early postpartum years can be a really tough season and it's okay and it's very common to feel exhausted and in survival mode for a long time.

And even when we want to prioritize all the things that we know are good for our health: balanced eating and exercising, sleeping eight hours a night, drinking 80 ounces of water a day, meditating and all those great habits, sometimes these practices fluctuate and how consistent you're able to be. Or sometimes they're just not plain possible for the time being.

And I want to say that this is definitely a season, this time, and I don't know exactly where this new mom is in her postpartum journey, if we're a couple of weeks out or a couple of months out, or again, even a year or two postpartum at this time, but just know that you are in a very specific season of life.

It will shift in time. It does get easier. I know I still very much, again, at five and a half year old's and two years old, sometimes I still feel very much in the thick of things as well. And like, it's a juggling act that I just can't win. And it is helpful in my mind to remind myself that it is a season and remembering too that even as things change and shift over time, and it may not look the same as it did prior to baby, but you do find a new rhythm and a new cadence to life.

So it will look a little different, but there will be patterns and routines that will develop and emerge. And that eventually taking care of your own needs does get easier. So please remember that. Again, it's sometimes it is hard to hear or sometimes hard to remember when you are in the middle of the night feeding a baby and things like that. And you're so exhausted yourself, but it does get better in time.

What can be done to nourish the best you can postpartum?

So with that said, the question is, what can you do now to nourish yourself the best that you can while you have all these other factors going on and along with the desire to lose weight after pregnancy? So I will share some ideas and things to focus on or strategies to try that I've both used myself and with clients during that postpartum era.

You may only be able to choose one or two of those things right now and you have to leave the rest and that's okay. You kind of pick what is doable for you now and put the rest on the shelf for right now. So I think first and foremost, I want to pose the question of what kind of help do you have? Or where can you get help from? Do you have parents, siblings, good friends, coworkers nearby that could make a meal or two on occasion? Or, or make a certain recipe for you? You know, maybe a batch of a snack recipe like one of our protein ball recipes or one of the protein muffin recipes.

Check Out Some of Our Recipes

Would you be comfortable in letting somebody set up a meal train for you? Is your spouse or partner comfortable enough to get in the kitchen to pitch in or take over the cooking for a little bit? Would it be helpful to shop online for the groceries for a little while instead of bundling up and trying to get to the store at least once a week?

Would it take some angst off your plate to sign up for a meal delivery service for maybe a couple of weeks or maybe for a few months? There's lots of options out there nowadays that either will deliver the ingredients to you, and you assemble the meal yourself, you cook it yourself, or there are meals that are already cooked and assembled for you, and they arrive at your doorstep, and all you need to do is stick them in the oven, or put them in the microwave.

So, basically, is there any avenue that is accessible to you that could take some part of the meal planning process or the cooking process off your plate? This is the time it is difficult, I know, for many of us to ask for help or to even accept help, even if it is offered, but I would strongly recommend or just encourage to, to check some of those thoughts and feelings around getting help. And is there any way that you can supplement in something that makes your life a little bit easier right now?

Another recommendation that I would have is, and this, I mean this is goes for, I'd say, pretty much everybody, not just necessarily postpartum, but, so maybe more of a reminder, but cook once and eat multiple times. So on that note, it is helpful if you're open to some repetition in meals during the week, but this makes it easier where even if you can't cook dinner every day, can you make a double or triple portions of a certain recipe so that you have meals ready to go later?

Here in Minnesota, I'm recording this in early April. Some of us grill year round, but we're starting to look into grill season at this point. So grilling a variety of meats on one day a week, so maybe it's some steak and get some salmon on there, get some fish on there, some shrimp or anything like that, where you can get some cooked protein then into the fridge as leftovers to be used at other meals.

And that can mean either, like, you're using these proteins in different recipes during the week, or it is something that you're at least able to slap on your plate, warm up some frozen vegetables and maybe put a little rice on the side and call that your balanced meal; top it all off with some butter or some olive oil for that great fat.

And again, like, this would be a great example of a time where keeping it simple and basic and very as minimal as you can would be probably a helpful strategy. So before I continue on, I'm going to pause here and take a quick break. When we return, I will be sharing more tips about how to navigate and nourish your body in that postpartum period. So we'll be right back.


WELCOME: Welcome back. Before we went to break, I was going through some ideas or some tips on especially doing some meal planning and prepping and getting some meat into the refrigerator, some things that are cooked and ready to go for your week. So I want to continue on that train of thought.

Protein importance in postpartum period

I think protein is a really important aspect to that postpartum period for a lot of different reasons. So I think anchoring ourselves with some kind of protein at every meal and every snack is really crucial, especially in postpartum when our tissues are healing and repairing postpartum, but it also helps us feel satiated and full for longer after a meal and between meals.

So again, if you're breastfeeding, a lot of times, all the time, you have higher nutrient needs, even than you did at the end of pregnancy. And you might really have some very fluctuating blood sugars, and you might also just be hungry a lot more. So anchoring yourself with a good amount of protein pretty much every time you're eating would be a great strategy.

And eating protein throughout the day helps to reduce cravings for some of those more processed carbohydrates. When we're over tired or we're exhausted, it is easy to reach for more of those processed carbohydrates or more refined types of foods.

When we eat protein, it gives our metabolism a bump each time you eat it. So that begs the question then, what, how does a busy mom get in protein? One simple way to do it is maybe you're drinking at least one or maybe two protein shakes during the day. If you get a good whey protein powder or a Paleo Protein Powder.

Maybe add a little bonus and do some collagen powder in there also. That would be a great way to just get in some easy and well digested protein in there. And you can pack a ton of nutrients into one smoothie. It's also nice that you can, again, once the smoothie is made, you can drink it with one hand. So whether you're in the car or you're in a meeting or you're holding a baby or you're nursing, it's something that you can be sipping on or just kind of have nearby and in a way that you can nourish yourself, even if you're already busy doing something.

Some people like to get out the big blender and make three or four protein smoothies at a time. So you get the blender dirty once, and then you have a couple ready to go; and they can stay in the fridge for a little while for maybe for a day or so you might have to shake them up a little bit. Or you can put them into the freezer and just take them out as you need them. And again, this could be something too if you gave either your partner or you gave a friend or a coworker a recipe, could they make some of these for you and again, just arrive with some mason jars on your doorstep and they're ready to go.

Another idea that I always found helpful was to do a sheet pan or two of meatballs or our turkey breakfast sausage recipe. I love these because they keep well in the freezer and you can do two or three meatballs for a snack or maybe you're doing four or five for a meal. So you can customize based on how much you want to eat at that given time.

And again, easy finger food. So not anything that requires a utensil necessarily. And you can rotate different kinds of meat just for some variety within that one recipe. So you could use ground beef, you can use ground pork or ground turkey or ground chicken, or even ground lamb. And to make it even easier, there definitely are premade meatballs or burger patties that you can buy and just throw on a sheet pan or into a toaster oven or into the air fryer and heat it up.

I would just double check the ingredients that are on there. Sometimes some iffy ingredients can slide in there, but again, in the name of ease and just getting some nourishment in there, those, even some of those premade frozen options can be great.

Precooked and peeled hard boiled eggs: another nice easy one. Most stores these days carry like a two pack of hard-boiled eggs that have already been peeled and cooked and maybe give them a little rinse, and they're good to go from there.

And nitrate free meat sticks or beef jerky is another option that you can maybe keep at work or in your purse, something that's a little more shelf stable that would give you a great source for some protein. Keep it in a purse or a lunchbox or something along those lines. So those are some ideas to get protein in.

The importance of adequate hydration

Another piece to the puzzle, especially when you're breastfeeding, you may already know, that breastfeeding takes drinking water to the next level. I personally was not prepared for this during my postpartum experience. And the thing that I found easiest, especially the first go around with my first baby, was that just keeping a stash of water bottles all throughout the house so that there was like likely at least something within arm's reach in case I got trapped by a nap or a trapped nursing somewhere that I could still get that water in and still stay hydrated.

So I would keep some maybe on the end table on the couch or I had a little cart that would sit by the rocking chair in the nursery or maybe you keep some in the basement, again, wherever you might feel like you get trapped somewhere.

And adding in some electrolytes is another piece that can be helpful. Again, maybe add in some electrolytes once or twice a day. That can boost the hydration factor of what you're drinking, and just lend itself so that, again, you're not so waterlogged necessarily all the time. I believe it was Britni who did an episode on electrolytes, oh, maybe a couple of weeks ago, maybe a few months ago, an hour or so. So if you're just looking for some more information on electrolytes, she did a great show on that.

Importance of taking a good quality prenatal vitamin

And then I will also say, hopefully you're doing this already, but I would also just remind you to continue taking your prenatal while you're breastfeeding. It's a nice insurance policy to make sure you're keeping up with your elevated nutrient needs during this time.

Again, when you are more sleep deprived and the stress is just running a little bit higher and again, sometimes you're just having to cobble things together in terms of your food. So hopefully some of those ideas were helpful. I want to point out just a few more resources before I close out the show.

More resources for postpartum nutrition

I did write an article on this topic for our website back in the summer of 2022. And at that point, I was coming off my second postpartum period. I was just coming back to work after having my second baby. So again, still in the thick of it at that point. If you haven't found that article yet, there is a little bit more in depth information there than what I covered here in the show. So that's a good read.

And I also highly recommend if you're on social media at all, give a follow to Lily Nichols. Her last name is spelled N I C H O L S. She is a registered dietitian and a mom, and she's become a leading expert in the world of real food nutrition in the prenatal and postpartum, arena.

I've always found her content to be relatable and practical, but she also keeps it backed up with a critical eye on the science. So again, you, get the best of both worlds there.

Noting a few possible imbalances to watch out for postpartum

I just want to throw out there too, is that it's important to remember too that in postpartum and all of its glorious hormone shifts that come around that time, this is a common time for thyroid issues to appear because there's already a lot of hormone shifts going around, and thyroid hormones are just another hormone where now we can see either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

And the postpartum time is, it's a time where you can easily just slip into some low levels of iron or low levels of vitamin D. Both of those which can impact your energy level and just how well you feel like your brain is functioning. Easier said than done sometimes, but don't forget to check in on yourself too and ask for some lab work if things feel really off or you just have a gut feeling about some of your symptoms.

So I hope that was helpful. Thank you so much for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition’s “Ask a Nutritionist”. And if you found this episode helpful, be sure to leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app. And if you have a nutrition question you would like us to answer, we have two options for you. You can join our private Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook community by joining Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook.

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Or you can call our voicemail box: (952) 641-5233 and leave your question in that voicemail box. So if you have a question, please don't be shy. Let us know and we look forward to hearing from you.

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