Your body is recovering from childbirth and needs a steady supply of vitamins and minerals to heal. What’s more, with a new baby in the house, you’re undoubtedly fatigued, and you need healthful foods to refuel your body. And if you’re breastfeeding, your baby is relying on you for crucial nutrients.
The eating patterns you set in the first six months after having a baby can help you lay a foundation of healthful eating for the rest of your life, says Eileen Behan, R.D., a dietitian in Portsmouth, N.H., who specializes in weight management for individuals and families.
We asked Behan and other experts for their top nutrition and weight-loss tips for new moms. Start following them now and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier, trimmer you—from your baby’s toddler to teen years … and beyond.
1. Know your nutrient needs
Here are guidelines to the calories and other nutrients you need daily for safe weight loss and good nutrition. (Calorie needs vary depending on age, metabolism and activity level.)
If You’re Breastfeeding:
- Calories: 2,200–2,400
- Calcium: 1,000–1,300 mg
- Folate: 280 mcg
- Iron: 15 mg
- Protein: 65 g
- Vitamin C: 95 mg
If You're Not Breastfeeding:
- Calories: 1,900–2,200
- Calcium: 1,300 mg
- Folate: 180 mcg
- Iron: 15 mg
- Protein: 44–50 g
- Vitamin C: 60 mg
"All these nutrients are vitally important if you’ve just had a baby," Behan says. "Folate is important for future pregnancies; vitamin D and calcium are vital for bone health; iron will help with anemia; vitamin C is necessary for iron absorption; and protein is crucial for building and repairing your tissues. You need even more of these nutrients during lactation for milk production and because they leave your body with the milk."
2. Stock up on healthful fast foods
Why? If they’re around, you’ll eat them! When you’re tired, short on time and hungry, it’s tempting to grab a bag of chips and a soda—if they’re handy. "But you want to be able to open the refrigerator door and grab something healthful that’s ready to go," Behan says.
Some suggestions: low-fat and fat-free yogurt; low-fat deli meats; low-fat or fat-free pudding made with milk or containing 30 percent calcium (especially good for quelling chocolate cravings!); part-skim cheese sticks; prepackaged sliced fruits and vegetables; ready-made salads; cooked whole grains such as brown rice; whole-grain cereals, breads and pastas.
With healthful foods readily accessible, you’ll snack less on chips, candy or white-flour-based, highly processed munchies, such as cookies and cakes. "They’re usually high in salt and low in fiber," Behan says. "They’re also irresistible, and it’s easy to eat an enormous amount." So do not keep too many of these foods in your larder.